Stop the MacBook Pro and MacBook Screen from Dimming

May 15, 2010 - 19 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.

How to Stop the MacBook & MacBook Pro Screen from Dimming

The 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. Here is how to disable these features:

  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.

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


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  1. Shaw Summa says:

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

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!

  4. 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

  5. […] 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 […]

  6. 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.

  7. sb says:

    It also works in Mountain Lion!! :D

  8. Marcelo says:

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

  9. Caroline says:

    THANK YOU!!!!!!

  10. Robert says:

    Thank you!

  11. Brian M says:

    Thank-you! This has been driving me crazy!

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. 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?

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

  15. cory says:

    Or download free menu bar utility Caffeine.

  16. 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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