Disable the Internal Screen on a MacBook Pro or Air in OS X Yosemite & Mavericks

Sep 14, 2011 - 61 Comments

MacBook Pro with internal display disabled

Some MacBook Pro or Air users may want to disable their internal screen when the laptop is connected to an external display, this is generally achieved in two ways but ever since Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8, and 10.9, OS X 10.10 Yosemite, and OS X 10.11 El Capitan, the internal screen is more persistent and wants to stay on.

That display behavior can be modified with a terminal trick to allow for disabling the built-in screen on a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, but it’s somewhat advanced and thus should only be used by users who have a comfort level with modifying OS X at a system level. Always back up your Mac before making modifications to the core system functionality.

Disable the internal screen for OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and OS X Mavericks based Mac laptops

Launch the Terminal and enter the following command:

sudo nvram boot-args="iog=0x0"

You’ll need to reboot for changes to take effect, and the internal display will then be completely disabled regardless of whether the Mac is open or closed.

To undo this, you can go back to the Terminal and enter:

sudo nvram -d boot-args

Then reboot again, or you can just zap PRAM by holding down Command+Option+P+R during reboot, which clears out the boot-args as well. If you were to disconnect the MacBook Pro from an external video source, zapping the PRAM would be how you’d want to reenable the internal display.

Disable the Internal Laptop Display in OS X Yosemite & OS X El Capitan

For OS X Yosemite (10.10) and OS X El Capitan 10.11, the solution is similar but using slight variations on the aforementioned terminal command.

To turn the feature on and allow for the internal screen to be

sudo nvram boot-args="niog=1"

After executing the terminal command, reboot and close the lid immediately. Keep the lid closed during boot up, and once logged in to a user account in OS X, open the lid. The MacBook Pro (or Air) internal built-in display will now be off.

**Note: If in sleep mode, just close the lid before waking the MacBook Pro and open the lid once again after logging back in.

To undo and return to normal display behavior:

sudo nvram -d boot-args

Similar to prior versions of OS X, resetting the PRAM can also disable the setting. Thanks to Keefe for the tip specific to OS X Yosemite.

This is the opposite of “clamshell mode” – where the Mac laptop is closed and the screen is still turned on. Clamshell can look nice, but without adequate air flow the Mac may overheat, thus running the computer with the display open is recommended. If you’re going to do this, be sure to set the primary display so that the menubar, Dock, and alert windows go to the proper screen.

Thanks to Marcus for the tip via a thread on Apple Discussions


Related articles:

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


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  1. Vincent says:

    Sorry, man. I mean you have to boot into Recovery Mode by pressing Command-R, not Command-S. Here is the command to enable SIP again in Recovery Mode: curutil enable.

  2. Vincent says:

    Sorry, man. I mean you have to boot into Recovery Mode by pressing Command-R, not Command-S. Here is the command to re-enable SIP in Recovery Mode: curutil enable.

  3. Vincent says:

    You have to disable SIP in macOS Sierra by booting into Recovery Mode with pressing Command-S and type the following command in Terminal: csrutil disable

    It’s strongly recommended to re-enable SIP again once you completed your settings.

    • Vincent says:

      Thanks. It works :)
      Awesome tips for macOS Sierra.
      1) Restart Command+R
      2) csrutil disable; restart
      3) sudo nvram boot-args=”niog=1″
      4) Restart Command+R
      5) csrutil enaable; restart

  4. Vincent says:

    Can’t apply the same method in mac sierra.
    Get this error message: “nvram: Error setting variable – ‘boot-args’: (iokit/common) general error”

  5. Yen says:

    It works on my macbookpro2014, el capitan. Helps me a lot! Thanks!

  6. Orphicpixel says:

    Wow a hidden gem. Works great.

    Can you do an article also on how to disable the external display without unplugging from the thunderbolt.

  7. Nakul says:

    worked perfect on my macbookpro 2011 with yosemite. I only had to put the computer to sleep then close the lid and press a key or the mouse and now only external display is on, just like before. thanks a ton! :)

  8. joe says:

    This no longer works on OS X 10.10 Yosemite. Anyone know the new workaround to turn off the internal display for the Macbook Pro while using an external monitor?

  9. George says:

    It works, but try putting it to sleep, and then come out of sleep. Doesn’t work any more. You need to restart AGAIN!

  10. tom says:

    Got it! First do the command trick and then reboot. While the internal screen is grey, apple logo showing, close the lid. Activate the external screen with external mouse or bluetooth keyboard. I’m running os x 10.8.2 mid 2007 MBP.

  11. Ervan says:

    Not working on mac os x 10.8.2…

  12. fax brox says:

    Amazing! a $2500 macbook pro and a $1000 apple display, and can’t choose to disable the built in monitor.
    This trick is no longer working for me on ML 10.8.2. Not even doing the sudo nvram once againg after the update.

  13. Stopped working with Mountain Lion 10.8.2
    Any suggestions?

    • Os says:

      ML 10.8.2 includes a firmware update so you have to open terminal and enter “sudo nvram boot-args=”iog=0×0” once again.

      • fax brox says:

        Didn’t work with ML 10.8.2… Actually, I close the macbook pro and the thunderbolt display continues on… doesn’t go to sleep mode. What can I do?

  14. Eric says:

    Marco’s protocol works perfectly for me. Thanks a lot!

  15. Marco says:

    I found out what the “sudo nvram boot-args=”iog=0x0” command actually does: it prevents the screen from turning back on once you re-open it. It means that after you type the command in and reboot (with the lid open) both screen will be still on. After the reboot is done, close the lid and wake up the computer with an external keyboard/mouse. This will wake up the main screen. Now you can open the laptop lid, and the internal monitor won’t turn back on. (At least that’s what happened for me on a macbook air)

  16. Vaclav Fous says:

    Hey Man, thanks to you again!
    (it worked with Lion one year ago and now with Mountain Lion also)

  17. […] quick Google search pointed me to an OSXDaily post, which eventually pointed me to an Apple Discussions thread, regarding this issue. Turns out, […]

  18. Doc Holliday says:

    The above works with Mountain Lion, too.

  19. Doc Holliday says:

    I have been using a MBP 13.3″, purchased in June 2011, for about a year with an external monitor (20″ or 32″ HDTV) only w/10.7.x

    Here’s how:

    Attach monitor to computer: I use Rocketfish DVI-D or HDMI Thunderbolt adapters.

    Make sure your Mac is plugged into to external power. (WON’T WORK WITH YOUR MBP ON BATTERY).

    Start your MBP w/display open.

    It boots normally, to the gray/password screen*

    Close MBP

    At this point, everything transfers to appear on ext. monitor/TV.

    Your mouse (the only mouse I’ve ever used is a Magic Mouse bluetooth device, I just got a bluetooth trackpad and it works fine, too) and your keyboard (I’ve used both a Apple extended USB keyboard and the Apple bluetooth keyboard) will not work normally at this point.

    In a few moments, the screen will go entirely blue.

    Momentarily it will return you to your normal screen.

    After your screen returns, you can use your bluetooth/USB devices normally.

    If you sleep your Mac, when it wakes up, you will get the PW screen, you don’t have to go through the whole return.

    The ONLY time I’ve had problems with is when I didn’t plug my MBP into external power.

    If it doesn’t work, the first thin you should do is make sure your MBP is attached to external power.

    *If you don’t use a password to protect your Mac, I’d strongly suggest using one. And FileVaulting your Mac. For security reasons and so that ‘Find My iPhone” will work, but the scum who stole your MBP can’t get to the data and you can still wipe it remotely.

  20. Patrick says:

    I had this working on my 13″ Macbook Pro (early 2011) but it hasn’t been working for a little while now. Is it possible that 10.7.4 broke it?

    Before, when the computer was asleep with the lid closed I would click the mouse to wake it up and only use the external monitor. Now, when I click to wake it up, the monitor comes on for one second then returns to sleep.

    I’ve tried undoing it, flashing the pram, and then re-doing the terminal command but it hasn’t helped.

  21. Jay says:

    If you’re using an external mouse and keyboard, simply closing the lid will do the trick!

    • Ryan says:

      My wifi speed more than quadrouples when I leave my Macbook Pro open, but powering 2 displays takes a lot out of the graphics card and makes gaming impossible. So this little trick can be necessary.

  22. Jack says:

    thanks Richard. the method works

  23. […] on a MacBook Pro/Air while keeping the laptops lid open and the computer turned on, ranging from a command line approach, dimming brightness or using sleep, and even a silly magnet trick, but for whatever reason there […]

  24. […] you how to disable the internal display of a Mac laptop running OS X Lion or later with sleep or with the help of a command line trick, those are the recommended approaches but not everyone has gotten them to work on their Macs. An […]

  25. Anton says:

    haha this magnet trick is just the best of all.
    the internal screen is off, my wifi-signal doesn’t drop and there isn’t a problem with overheating.
    a simple magnet beats the software.
    thanks Richard.

    • Aaron West says:

      I agree! (Upvote!, if this site supported it.)

      My situation: Completely broken retina 15″ screen, hesitant to pay ~$400+ to fix. Wifi works badly if closed. Connected to two monitors, and mirroring mirrors all three displays. (I mirrored when connected to just one external display.)

      Tiny powerful magnets did the trick! (Testing now, just one worked, but these are so tiny that I am using a small pile so it doesn’t get lost.)

  26. Cole says:

    If the internal screen is not active, then theoretically you should be able to have 3 daisy-chained thunderbolt cinema displays active at the same time. (Normally since the graphics card only supports a maximum of 3 monitors this means 2 thunderbolt displays + 1 internal display max, but if you disable the internal monitor you should be able to have your three maximum monitors all be external.)

    Has anyone tried this?

  27. Rudy says:

    This sucks sucks sucks sucks sucks.

    “Clamshell mode” used to work but now when I close my macbook air and dock it with my external monitor, keyboard, and power the damn internal screen stays on!!!! Sometimes when I succeed in shutting the backlight off the screen is stil available to the OS and it still pops windows up there, forcing me to open the screen and drag the window onto my primary external display. This behavior is TOTALLY BROKEN!!!!

    It just stuns me that apple continues to break stuff like this, forcing us to tromp down to the apple store so “genius” can lie to our faces and tell us it’s a “feature not a bug”.

    This iog=”0x0″ setting does nothing either by the way.

    • Richard says:

      I have an early 2011 Macbook Pro 13″ and the Terminal command does not work for me either running Lion but here is what does.

      Assumed you have plugged in your external monitor and keyboard…
      1) take a small fridge magnet (small thin one so that if you accidentally close the screen, you don’t damage it)
      2) place it over the left-shift and fn area on the laptop
      you’ll know you found the right spot when the Macbook goes to sleep. press the external keyboard/mouse to wake it up
      3. the external display should now be default and the macbook display is asleep but the macbook keyboard and trackpad are both useable.

      Sometimes I lose this after a sleep but just repeat the steps. It’s a little annoying but workable.



      • gozulin says:

        This didn’t quite work for me. (Late 2011 macbook pro/ Apple Cinema Display / Lion 10.7.4)

        When I put the magnet on, the macbook internal display turns off but the macbook never goes to sleep.

        That wouldn’t be a problem, except I cannot use the internal keyboard and trackpad, only external will work.

        I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong. The external Cinema Display is plugged in, along with power and usb cable.

        I don’t have a keyboard plugged in, only a bluetooth magic mouse.

        Any ideas?

      • Ben says:

        My late 2011 13″ MBP [MD314LL/A- OSX10.7.4 Lion] was unresponsive to the sudo nvram=”iiog=0x0″ trick and the flat junk mail magnet, however I used a .5″x.125″ round craft magnet (very weak, but stronger than the flat junk mail version) over the headphone port and the display dimmed immediately. Don’t be alarmed when you remove the magnet, however my MBP took about 40 sec to flash blue and turn off the external then return to dual monitors functional. As a side note, external is a Dell U2412M

        Thanks OSX Daily for the info and help.



  28. foxfoobar says:

    lol, i just place a little magnet on the macbook’s right speaker side to disable the internal screen. cheers!

    • Jason says:

      THIS! ^ It’s a hilarious hack, but it’s easier than opening terminal and typing to just have a magnet handy on your desk >.<

  29. Blake says:

    I am a long time PC user. Decided to try Mac, largely based on the marketing testimonials implying that it is much easier to use. I just spent $3500 at the apple shop getting a new macbook air and thunderbolt display, etc… but I keep running into very frustrating things like this, only to find our that there are no reasonable work-around. Ten years ago I could toggle internal, external, or both screens on any PC notebook. Does seem like a basic function. So far, I must admit being a bit disappointed in Mac software. I do, however, fully appreciate the beautiful hardware.

  30. Chevy says:

    This is not a solution to the problem but an opinion addressed to Apple – do not read if you are just looking for a solution to this problem.

    I am a relatively recent Mac user. I have heard before that Macs have their quirks and making the switch from Windows holds potential for frustration. I like the relative stability of the system but – quite frankly – there are many functionality issues for which there should be an easy standard solution (such as e.g. the one discussed here) but does not exist or can only be achieved by people with advanced Mac skills. I would have expected that the system would allow more user-friendly solutions to such basic problems.

  31. Jonatas says:

    It doesn’t work for me. I tried several times! Is there any hidden trick? Thanks a lot!

  32. angelo says:

    i got it.. after executing the terminal commands and a reboot.

    1. connect the external display
    2. close the lid for it to sleep (sending it to clamshell mode)
    3. wake it using your wired/bluetooth devices (mouse,keyboard)
    The external display should be your primary display now.
    4. Open the lid. :D

  33. Fabiano Coelho says:

    Worked for me
    Lion 10.7.2 / macbook pro 13″

  34. Art says:

    Does this work on a new (summer 2011) Macbook Air? I did the following:

    1) Opened Terminal

    2) Entered:
    sudo nvram boot-args=”iog=0x0″

    3) Was prompted for my admin password; entered it

    4) Restarted the computer

    But then the laptop and external monitor (an Apple Thunderbolt display) both still came on. Anyone have any experience with the Macbook Air? Anything I am doing wrong? Thanks!

  35. Light says:

    I tried this method but it doesnt work for me can some help, i have an early 2007 macbook white 13 inch with lion 10.7.1

  36. Testdude says:

    Fantastic tip… Was looking for this for a long time….

  37. Mark says:

    All you have to do is close your macbook, connect the video displays, then grab a pen and open the lid of the macbook ever so slightly and whack a few keys .. the computer will wake up and only use the external displays. you can then open the macbook and use the keyboard and trackpad

    to undo, close and open again.

  38. Eric says:

    The Mac OS cant dont this without resorting to terminal???

    Not a very enlightened OS is it.

  39. khsing says:

    It does not work on my MBP 15′. I have updated all software to latest.

  40. TimA says:

    If all you need is the screen off why not just hit Shift+Control+Eject?

    (although the screen will activate if you use the keyboard in this case)

    • Abramelin says:

      God, I can’t believe I have never come across this before. I’ve been using macs for years and never knew this! That’s SO useful! Thanks! :-)

    • Alberto says:

      We are speaking about to use an external monitor *on* while the internal monitor is *off*, not about how to put the Mac in stop……

  41. ungraphic says:

    If turning down the brightness is supposed to be a workaround, but doesnt actually turn off the screen completely, why not get apple to make it so that the screen DOES get actually turned off when the brightness is all the way at zero?

    Wouldn’t that solve the whole ordeal?

    • Tim says:

      No because it still uses the graphics card to drive more pixels than you want to show. If you’re playing games for example, you want the graphics card to drive one display only. Also effects like expose will be more intensive with more desktop space.

  42. Kent Allard says:

    How did you get the dual menu bar?

  43. Not Shy says:

    Why not just turn down the brightness of the internal screen ? Much easier and takes pressing the already mapped keyboard shortcut !

    • Paster says:

      Because it’ll still consume power from your graphics card that way.

      I’ve found you can just put it in clamshell mode and afterwards just open your screen. Eliminates the airflow problem and the screen stays off.

  44. Alberto says:

    It is a solution, but it is not a very good one…
    The way it worked with the previous system was not very simple too, but it was anyhow better.

    I don’t understand why it is not possible to switch the internal monitor in a simpler way, with some preference panel or/and with a key combination at startup…

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