Screen Saver Stuck on Mac? How to Fix It

Aug 17, 2019 - 27 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.

You can also try Control+Shift+Eject if you have an Apple keyboard with the eject key, or Control+Shift+Power if you have a Mac keyboard with Touch ID or no eject button.

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, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. C says:


  2. Dani says:

    Nice problem solving there, helped me out. Cheers

  3. G says:

    Yassss! This one works . Thank Ü !!

    • Amit varde says:

      In my case entering the password took me back to the screen saver.
      However hitting cancel where it asked to enter the password worked🤷🏽‍♂️

  4. Richard Wasteney says:

    Control shift eject works

  5. Mark Everett says:

    Our recently purchased M1 MacBook Air randomly went into screensaver mode while I was actively working on the computer – configured with external monitor (USB-C), keyboard, and mouse (Bluetooth ). While the screensaver was active, input from the keyboard and mouse would not interrupt the screensaver and bring up the login prompt. Entering Cntrl+Cmd +Q successfully brought up the login prompt.

  6. mt says:

    i have this problem in my macbook pro m1 :( is this normal? or is it factory defect?

  7. Michael says:

    But what is the cause of this and what is the fix to prevent it? Anyone can hit some random keys or open and close the lid and hope for the best.

  8. Fjord Prefect says:

    My iMac did this today. None of the suggestions worked so I hit the power button just on a whim and it fixed the problem. Note – I didn’t hold the button down to force shut down, I simply pressed it once and let go.

    • NOELLE says:

      This worked! Nothing else did. Just pressed the power button and then my password let back in working where I had left off. Thanks

    • Michael says:

      This inspired me. What wound up getting rid of the stuck screen saver for me was hitting CTRL+CMD+Q and then clicking the Cancel button. Logging in would simply bring the screen saver right back.

  9. Graham says:

    This worked for me too. Lock screen ( CMD+shift+Q ) wasn’t enough

  10. Felix P says:

    After updating my iMac to Catalina OSx today I keep finding the computer frozen in what would normally screensaver mode but with a flashing file icon with a question mark in it. Does this remedy work for this too and is there a setting that can be changed to prevent this without leaving the screen on all the time?

  11. Alejandro says:

    Sir, you saved me.

  12. ChangeOrders says:

    Cntl-Shift-Eject is working for me. (Catalina, Mini, various screen savers)

  13. Matthijs says:

    You sir, just saved my day and my project :-) Thank you :-)

  14. Troy says:

    I have had this issue quite often on 1 laptop & 1 iMac since i upgraded. The trick i found was just to hit the power button. seems to always work. I am using the ariel screensaver, not sure if that makes a difference.

  15. Dan says:

    In Catalina I find the screensaver will often let me unlock it with either the apple watch or via the password, but the screensaver just keeps running. If I do shift-opt-cmd-esc I can get back to my desktop every time.

  16. NotarySojac says:

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

  17. 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

  18. Randel Conner says:

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

  19. 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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