Stop the MacBook Pro and MacBook Screen from Dimming

May 15, 2010 - 26 Comments

MacBook Pro with dimmed screen

The MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro screen backlighting is set to automatically dim and adjust in different situations. For the MacBook, it will adjust based on the power source and based on how long the computer is not in use. For the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, the same is also true, in addition to the screen adjusting it’s brightness level based upon ambient light differences and power source changes.

If you’re not happy with these automatic brightness adjustments, here is how to disable auto-brightness features on Mac to stop the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro screens from dimming themselves without user input.

This is a two stage process based covering a few different settings, first you’ll stop the brightness changes from dimming based on power sources, and then you’ll prevent the Mac from changing the screen brightness based upon lighting conditions.

The MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro will both automatically dim the screen if running on battery, or if the computer is left alone for a period of time

How to Stop the MacBook Air & MacBook Pro Screen from Dimming (macOS Big Sur and newer)

Disabling auto-dimming in modern macOS versions is done as follows:

  1. Open “System Preferences” from the Apple menu
  2. Choose “Battery”, then select the “Battery” option from the left side
  3. Unselect the check box next to “Slightly dim the display when using this power source”
  4. Next, go back to System Preferences and choose the “Displays” system preference panel
  5. Unselect the checkbox for “Automatically adjust brightness”
  6. Close System Preferences

How to Stop the MacBook & MacBook Pro Screen from Dimming

Disabling auto-screen dimming in older MacOS and Mac OS X versions is done as follows:

  1. Open “System Preferences” from the Apple menu
  2. Click on “Energy Saver”, then go under “Battery” tab first
  3. Unselect the check box next to “Slightly dim the display when using this power source”
  4. Unselect the checkbox next to “Automatically reduce brightness before display goes to sleep”
  5. Repeat the same settings adjustments under the “Power Adapter” tab if desired
  6. Close System Preferences

macbook screen dimming

Now you’ll want to move along to the next stage, which stops the MacBook screens from dimming themselves based upon lighting conditions in the area the Mac is being used in.

How to Stop the MacBook Pro / Air Screen from Dimming with Ambient Light

Now if you have a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and your screen is still dimming, it is because of the ambient light sensor. You can prevent the auto-dimming by turning off automatic adjustments:

  • Stay in System Preferences, otherwise open it again from the Apple  menu
  • Click on “Displays” then look under the “Display” tab
  • Unselect the checkbox next to “Automatically adjust brightness as ambient light changes”
  • Close System Preferences

Mac auto brightness setting

The language may vary slightly from versions of Mac OS X and from Macbook to Mac, and newer versions of Mac OS X label this setting more simply as “Automatically adjust brightness” – the setting has the same effect though.

macbook pro screen dimming

Changes to both of these take effect immediately.

Note that if you are running on battery and you disable the screen dimming features that you will lose some length in battery life. The only exception to that would be if you are particularly good at maintaining brightness levels yourself by tapping the brightness buttons on the keyboard.

As is always applicable with any gadgets, be them Macs, smartphones, whatever, battery life is better with a lower brightness setting on any display, so always try to find the best balance between lower brightness levels and battery life for your needs.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in How to, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Mudim Inyang says:

    My MacBook13 screen turned black but still on, the keypad lights are on too. My screen is so dark that I have to use my phone light to see what’s on the screen. I have tried all you said yet no result. I’m running on a macOS Mojave. Could that be the problem? There’s an update message on my systemto upgrade to macOS catalina. Would that solve the problem? Pls help

  2. JAMES L. Rubart says:

    Thank you! Was driving me nuts.

  3. Vincent says:

    Does not work

    In dark environment the display brightness goes back to the max every time I manually reduce it. This despite disabling every possible setting for auto brightness adjustments.

    The day Apple products were intuitive and easy to use are long gone.

    • browns says:

      Of course it works, do you think it’s a placebo feature?

      Once you’d disable automatic dimming, you have to set the screen brightness yourself because it no longer automatically dims. Thus if your Mac screen is set to max brightness and you go into a dark room, it will stay on max brightness. That’s how it works.

      So disable the setting, but then set it yourself, you will have to adjust it frequently.

    • j512 says:

      this is the most annoying feature. It’s supposed to help but it wastes energy as it tries to make it impossible to see sometimes and way to bright other times. Another great example of being DUMB while trying to be SMART.

    • jack says:

      I just solved this problem.

      You probably haven’t tried Every possible setting.

      Try going into System Preferences>Battery>and then uncheck “slightly dim the display while on battery power”

      It worked for me, hopefully it will for you too.

  4. Gary says:

    Yep, same for me, it does NOT work. I’ve been trying for a YEAR to resolve this. No matter what settings I make, it auto-dims and every single day I have to adjust the brightness up even though I have auto bright adjust unchecked and other energy saving settings correctly set. There is some sticky setting somewhere and it is super annoying and frustrating.

  5. Shaw Summa says:

    Thank you for this helpful hint. I am new to macOS. and have sensitive eyes.

  6. Mette says:

    Wow, thanks so much for this!! I’m in the final stages of my PhD, was prevented from concentrating due to brightness changes of my screen and was about to go mad!!

  7. Marlene says:

    Thank you for the detailed instructions on how to stop the automatic dimming on my MacBook Air, it was driving me around the bend! I love how easy it is to problem solve compared to a PC. Thanks again!

  8. wendy says:

    I desperately need help on my macpro pls. Its totally dead and i cant startup the computer and deem light on charger. Pls advice whats happening. Pls email advice thx

  9. […] from screen brightness levels, to settings in Energy Saver for how the Mac handles things like auto-dimming based on lighting and power sources, screen sleep behavior, sleep when idle, etc. Thus you will […]

  10. CC says:

    Unfortunately, this does not work for me. OS X 10.7.5. Do you have any advice for someone who has done everything you have suggested and also has installed Caffeine, yet it still keeps dimming? It dims immediately after I click off of the display brightness screen. I’ve even seen the ball hauntingly move on its own toward the left right after I’d dragged it to the right. It’s scary, and annoying because I cannot work on a dark computer. Any advice would be appreciated.

  11. sb says:

    It also works in Mountain Lion!! :D

  12. Marcelo says:

    THANK U!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I was desperate

  13. Caroline says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

  14. Robert says:

    Thank you!

  15. Brian M says:

    Thank-you! This has been driving me crazy!

  16. […] my Mac dims itself and I can control brightness on my own Sure, most MacBook Pro’s automatically adjust brightness based on ambient lighting, and you can also precisely adjust the displays brightness yourself, but […]

  17. wk says:

    My Macbook pro backlit keyboard isn’t working automatically for no reasons. (even I in a dark room)
    It forced me to use a third party software (labtick) to light it up.

    Is it caused ambient light sensor problem?

  18. […] you’d like, you can stop the MacBook Pro screen from dimming by adjusting various System […]

  19. cory says:

    Or download free menu bar utility Caffeine.

  20. John says:

    What I would love to know is how I can set mains power to be full brightness and power to be 50% brightness so I don’t have to change it each time. Any tips out there?

    • Will says:

      You can set specific dim brightness/adjustment controls to the power source, so just disable the automatic adjustments for Power Adapter and keep them enabled on Battery. If you combine this with disabling the automatic brightness adjustments based on ambient lighting, you can have relatively decent controls over the brightness level.

      I wish Apple made it easier to just have a brightness slider depending on the power source, but for now they don’t other than just hitting the F1 and F2 keys yourself in conjunction with the above options.

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