Sleep your iMac screen – instantly

In my continuing quest to find a way to instantly, reliably turn off the iMac screen and keep it off, I just stumbled across this little gem: Sleep Display. It’s a little utility – in application or widget form – that lets you sleep your Mac screen instantly. None of that “make it sleep in 1 minute” hassle – just open the app, and your screen instantly sleeps. Wonderful – and about bleeding time. 🙂 (Having said that, I like to lock my display first, so I’ll still probably use the “1 minute” trick – but I’m sure this app will be incredibly useful to some folks.)

Now we just need a way to keep the damn display off. I’ve abandoned the idea of running my DVD backups overnight in the bedroom – spinning up the DVD “conveniently” wakes the display – so I now have to run these during the day. Ah well.

Haven’t moved the iMac into the bedroom yet – that’ll happen in the next month once little Isaac outgrows his bassinet – so I’m not sure what else might cause the display to spontaneously wake in the middle of the night. With a bit of luck it was just the DVD. Time will tell.

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23 Responses to “Sleep your iMac screen – instantly”

  1. Beth Says:

    There’s a free utility you can download called Shades. It sits in your menu bar and lets you turn the brightness all the way down to black. At it’s lowest setting you can’t see anything on the screen.

    You can get it from a company called Charcoal Design

    Hope that helps!!

  2. Matt Says:

    Thanks for the link – however Shades doesn’t actually sleep the display (ie turn off the backlight), so you still see a glow at night on the iMac. For more on similar “brightness-reducing” software see my other post:

    The best solution for a pure-black iMac screen is still Sleep Display IMO, as it’s the only program that instantly turns off the display backlight.

  3. adam Says:


  4. hendrik Says:

    about frickin time indeed

  5. Compay Says:

    Here’s another idea, it’s not that difficult and doesn’t require any scripts; take your iMac, lift it up (it’s not that heavy), and rotate it to such an angle that it is not in your line of sight when lying on your bed. There are also devices available in your local stores that will allow you to place a rotating device under your iMac, resembling a plate, commonly used to hold dining dishes.

  6. Greg Says:

    this does not work for leopard.

    After trying for a good hour last night to work out how to turn the damn screen off, i came to the conclusion it cannot be done. which is ridiculous, it only arrived yesterday and it spent all last night transferring my documents – i have to say, i wasn’t too happy to realize there was no way to turn the display off!

  7. Greg Says:

    ok intrestingly enough – none of the apps to switch the backlight off that were made for tiger work for leopard. the exploit has been removed.

    i have found a sort-of ok solution though. in the expose settings you can set up an active corner that will turn the backlight off. the downside of this is as soon as ou move the mouse it’s back on again. but it might be useful for some people – i’m going to use it for now.

    the dockables people are creating a new screen sleep dockable for leopard – so keep and eye out for that.

  8. Matt Says:

    Thanks for the Leopard input Greg, and the workaround. I’ll be upgrading to Leopard soon so hopefully this will be sorted by the time I move over!

  9. Brano Says:

    Guys, I hope you figured it out already, anyway, either use this:

    or (in Leopard) set a Hot Corner to the function “Sleep Display”. That can be found in “System Preferences -> Desktop&Screen Saver -> Hot Corners.”

    I’ve been googling that around for 2 days, so I know the info is worth it 😉

  10. ruzo Says:

    ctrl, shift, eject sleeps thee display

  11. Matt Says:

    Not in Tiger it doesn’t! Are you talking about Leopard?

  12. Jim Says:

    I have Leopard and whether I use Ctrl-Shift-Eject, a hot corner, the 1 minute setting or any of the Sleep Display applications or widgets, if I’m encoding a video (e.g. converting something to iPod format in iTunes or iSquint, or burning a DVD, or doing anything that makes heavy use of the processor, the display awakens within about 10 seconds. This is quite annoying!!

    The Sleep Display application in the main article of this page ( which claims to sleep the display and KEEP it off doesn’t work in Leopard yet, and the one which does sleep the display in Leopard is only as effective as using the hot corner, i.e. it still wakes up when the iMac is busy. The screensaver doesn’t wake up, so I’m thinking it’s a bug with the sleep display feature in Leopard itself (10.5.1).

    I’ve posted more details on the Apple Support discussion forum:

    Anyone got the same problem? Anyone got any solutions?! Thanks.

  13. Schremmer.Alain Says:

    With our new iMac we can connect a DVI projector and show DVDs in the mirror setting. Two problems though:

    1) The iMac screen stays on and I have not been able to set the iMac to sleep while keeping the projector on.

    2) The iMac does better than XGA (1024×768) but as soon as it senses the projector (always semi-on), it picks XGA which is a hassle when just working with the iMac.

    Could scripts or anything see to that?


  14. Chris Karcher Says:

    I’ve written a Leopard display sleeper dashboard widget, available at

    Only after reading this post did I discover that you could also hit Ctrl-Shift-Eject, but I decided to publish the widget nonetheless.

  15. Michael Says:

    If anyone finds out how to KEEP the display off, like when running Time Machine / Azureus / VisualHub in the background that would be super.

    I cannot believe there is no way to turn the thing off and keep it off when there is activity.

  16. John Says:

    I’ve tried the Hot Corner and Ctrl-Shift-Eject. They both work, but never for more than a minute or two, then it pops back on, and even at the lowest brightness setting, the 24 inch iMac lights up a room. Very annoying.

  17. Matt Says:

    John, that’s odd. I haven’t seen that problem with the Leopard sleep display. Actually, tell a lie – it did happen last night for some reason, but that’s the first time it’s happened for me!

    Maybe the 10.5.3 update will fix it for you?

  18. Alex Says:

    do you have a bluetooth mouse? If so it could be that the mouse is being moved (possibly by the drive spooling up and moving the desk) which is waking the computer. I had this happen until i realized that the mouse was the culprit

  19. nate Says:

    I’d really like to be able to sleep the display on my iMac, but continue to play video on an external screen (Samsung TV). When I use the hot-corner, both displays “sleep” so the TV loses the signal.

    Is there a way to only sleep the main display? I have mirroring turned off.

  20. Matt Says:

    @nate: See

  21. nate Says:

    @matt — thanks, but the screen goes black, but the backlight is still on.

  22. Seb Says:

    I have a late 2008 macbook and am suffering from the same issue where the screen turns back on after ~10 seconds. I tried the dashboard widget and the ctrl-shift-eject methods. I haven’t tried the hot corner as this looks to be more annoying that anything, even if it works. As others have posted, it is most likely due to activity on the machine. I am currently backing up to (that’s the only thing running) and would like to sleep the display without sleeping the whole machine as that would disable my network. Is there a way to disable wake on LAN or something like that?

    I am posting this mostly to derail postings that suggest it is caused by a bluetooth mouse or whatever. I have nothing connected, no disc in the DVD-ROM no external device what so ever other than the power adapter connected. I also have all recent OS X updates installed.

  23. Finnels Says:

    Guessing they’ve fixed this now – Control + Shift + Eject = instant display off.