Screen Saver Stuck on Mac? How to Fix It

Aug 17, 2019 - 6 Comments

Mac stuck on screen saver

Ever had your Mac get stuck on the screen saver? This can happen sometimes and when it does the Mac is unusable since the screen saver is quite literally stuck activated.

The most obvious symptom of this problem is just as it sounds; the screen saver is enabled and active, but the Mac won’t respond to anything and you can’t get the Mac to prompt the screen saver unlock or wake. Sometimes the screen saver can get stuck but it’s not active or moving at all too. In either case, the troubleshooting steps below should help to fix the stuck screensaver problem on a Mac.

If the Screen Saver is stuck but active on the Mac (and you can move the mouse)

If the Screen Saver is stuck but it’s still moving and active, and you can continue to move the Mac cursor and the keyboard responds to volume up/down and brightness adjustments, then you can usually fix the problem by putting the Mac to sleep, or trying to initiate the lock screen.

On a Mac laptop you can put the Mac to sleep easily by simply closing the lid of the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or MacBook. Wait about a minute, then open the lid of the Mac laptop again to wake the Mac from sleep. This should prompt the regular login or wake process, and the Mac will be usable again.

On Mac desktops like iMac, Mac mini, and Mac Pro, you can try the Lock Screen keyboard shortcut (Control + Command + Q) or the Log Out Shortcut (Command + Shift + Q), but both of those don’t always work and you may have to turn the Mac off and back on again. Since there is no lid to close to sleep the Mac, the solution in this case is a reboot of the Mac, which we’ll discuss next.

If the Mac is stuck on Screen Saver and totally unresponsive (mouse cursor does not move, keyboard doesn’t respond)

If the mouse cursor is not moving at all, and the screen brightness / dimming and sound up / down buttons are not working on the keyboard, then the Mac is probably frozen and must be force rebooted.

On most Macs you can force a reboot by holding down the Power button until the Mac turns off, then waiting a few moments and then pressing the Power button again to turn the Mac back on again. You can learn more about force rebooting a frozen Mac here.

It’s important to note that a screen saver is a moving visual image, moving text, or some other moving element visible on the screen, and not simply a blank screen. Thus this is a different problem from when a Mac is stuck booting to a black screen or if a Mac is waking from sleep to a black screen, both of which are not screen saver specific issues.

If you’ve found another solution for the (rare) issue of a screen saver getting stuck on a Mac, share it in the comments below!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

6 Comments

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  1. NotarySojac says:

    If you have another computer or iPhone on the same network, couldn’t you ssh in and kill the Screen Saver process?

  2. Avinash says:

    I ve been facing “mac getting stuck on screensaver (unresponsive)” issue, installed “caffeinated” and set to disable screensaver in its settings and configured the caffeinated app to activate at login. with caffeinated, mac doesnt go to sleep and screensaver will be prevented, hence no more mac getting unresponsive on screensaver

  3. Randel Conner says:

    Please put all your tip in book form for us to buy.

  4. Mike witt says:

    Why do people need them go into settings make it go off when you want it, disable the screen saver it’s unnecessary.

    • Paul says:

      Many people use the screen saver as a way to lock the screen with a password for when they’re away from the computer. Aside from that, many modern displays can still get screen burn like the OLED and older LCDs.

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