How to turn off keyboard light on Mac

7 min read

For years, MacBook keyboards have been heralded as the best in the business. Standard size, low profile, reliable mechanisms (apart from the Butterfly models), gorgeous typography, and beautiful backlighting — all contributed to the popularity of Apple’s Magic Keyboard. 

Out of all the features, keyboard backlighting has probably raised the most eyebrows and received the most praise. Mac keyboard lights not only illuminate the perimeter of each key but also shine directly through the letters and symbols, making typing at night simple and easy on the eyes. What’s better, backlit Mac keyboards automatically turn on in low-light environments and turn off in bright ones. 

There are, however, instances when you don’t want to turn on keyboard backlighting. So here are a few easy ways to turn your laptop keyboard light off. 

Why turn Mac keyboard lights off?

Even though most people find a lot of value in having keyboard backlights turned on at night, this feature is not without downsides. 

When you turn off the lights in a room to watch a movie, for example, you don’t want your Mac keyboard light to distract you from what’s happening on the screen. Similarly, when you know all the keys by heart and have no problem typing blindly, even at night, you might not want to light up keyboard and drain your Mac’s battery life. Finally, if you notice that you have a light keyboard during the day — it’s just a pure waste of energy.

So let’s dive into what you specifically need to do in these situations. 

How to turn off keyboard light on Mac

If your Mac laptop has a backlit keyboard, you can change the backlighting's intensity or turn it off when operating your Mac in low light.

Adjust keyboard backlighting or turn it off manually

Depending on the model of your Mac, choose one of the following:

  1. Look for the Brightness buttons on your keyboard (in most cases, it’s in the top row with the F keys). There are two buttons: the increase brightness button (a small circle with dashes around it) and the decrease button (a small circle with dots around it)

  2. To turn backlighting off, press the decrease brightness key. You’ll see an indicator on your screen showing how the brightness is decreasing. 

In this situation, or if you simply prefer using your mouse, OS X also allows you to change the brightness. To do this:

  1. Go to Control Center (available in macOS Big Sur and higher) that is located in the upper right corner in the menu bar
  2. Click Keyboard Brightness and drag the slider.

Control Center 

For Mac computers with the Touch Bar:

  1. Expand the Control Strip, then look for the increase and decrease brightness buttons
  2. To turn backlighting off, touch and hold the brightness decrease button. 

Adjust keyboard backlighting in low light conditions automatically

When you aren’t using the keyboard, you might want to ask your MacBook to turn off the keyboard backlight by doing the following:

  • Go to Apple menu  > System Preferences
  • Click Keyboard
  • Select “Adjust keyboard brightness in low light”.

In the same window, you also have the option to set Mac keyboard lights to turn off after a certain period of inactivity (from 5 secs to 5 min). 

Mac keyboard lightness keys

If you’re using one of the latest MacBook models equipped with a Touch Bar, you might not see the F5 key or the correct icon to decrease the keyboard backlight due to the buttons contextually shifting. In this case, look for a few standard icons (such as screen brightness and volume) at the right end of your Touch Bar. There should also be a left-pointing arrow beside them. Tap the arrow to expand the Touch Bar and reveal the standard icon set. Then follow the directions above. If you still don’t see the keyboard backlight icons, click on your desktop or open Finder to reset your Touch Bar. 

How to turn on keyboard light on Mac

After you learn how you can turn off laptop keyboard lights, you might also wonder how to turn on backlit keyboard on Mac when you need to. 

The process is largely the same, but in reverse: 

  1. Go to Control Center (available in macOS Big Sur and higher) that is located in the upper right corner in the menu bar
  2. Click Keyboard Brightness and drag the slider to decrease brightness.

You can also use the Brightness buttons on your keyboard (in most cases, it’s in the top row with the F keys).

How to fix backlit Mac keyboard not working

Sometimes, even if you follow all the directions above, you might find that your light keyboard keys are not working and your Mac displays a lock icon when you’re trying to use them. 

Most commonly, the lock icon appears when your Mac can’t accurately detect the lighting conditions — when your lighting sensor is in direct sunlight, for example. Since the sensor is located right next to your MacBook’s front-facing camera, just try to move your Mac to a shade. 

The next step is to take over the laptop keyboard light control: 

  1. Open the Keyboard menu in System Preferences (Apple Menu > System Preferences > Keyboard)
  2. Uncheck “Adjust keyboard brightness in low light” 
  3. Move the keyboard brightness up or down manually.

If none of the above corrected the issue, you might need to reset your SMC (system management controller), which is responsible for lots of low-level tasks on your Mac. 

To reset SMC on a MacBook with the T2 Security Chip (present on models from 2018 and newer): 

  1. Turn off the computer

  2. Hold Control + Option + Shift for seven seconds

  3. Keep holding the three keys and add the power button too. Hold all four keys for seven more seconds and release. 

  4. Turn your Mac on after a few seconds

To reset SMC on older MacBooks without controller devices: 

  1. Turn it off 

  2. Hold Control + Option + Shift keys

  3. Hold the power button too

  4. Keep holding for 10 seconds

  5. Release all keys and turn on your Mac

MacBook security chip controller

How to control your Mac remotely

While following all of the above should get your laptop keyboard lights working, there’s also another way to manipulate virtually any option in your Mac — with an effortless tap on your phone. 

Remote Mouse is a simple but powerful Mac (also iOS and Android) app that combines the versatility of your keyboard and mouse to control any software or feature on your Mac. Use your phone’s volume buttons to change your Mac’s volume or flip through the slides in a presentation. Waive your phone in the air to move the cursor on your desktop. Activate dozens of commands by voice throughout your day and even easily switch between your Macs — Remote Mouse is the ultimate controller you need. 

Remote Mouse controller Mac app

How to work on Mac faster with shortcuts

While you can use your mouse to click through anything you want your Mac to do, it’s highly inefficient. Since you’re most likely repeating lots of the same actions every day again and again (copy-paste, close the app window, etc.), it pays off greatly to find or create keyboard shortcuts for them. It’s estimated that people who use shortcuts all the time, save up to eight working days a year compared to mouse-clickers. Luckily, there’s an easy way to bridge the gap. 

Keysmith is a tool that creates custom shortcuts for your Mac and the web. When you hit record, Keysmith begins to capture your mouse and keyboard movements. Enter some text or select items from lists, Dock objects, buttons, menus, and more. Keysmith is smart enough to comprehend everything. Set a hotkey. After that, you can press the hotkey and watch Keysmith do all the typing, clicking, and browsing. Just like you did, but much faster.


To wrap up

By now, you see it’s really easy to turn off keyboard light on Mac using a few keys and options. And if they don’t work, you know how to fix the problem by resetting SMC. You can also use the Remote Mouse app to control any software or feature on your Mac easily.

And if you want to work faster on your computer and save time, we recommend you try Keysmith, the app that records your actions and creates shortcuts.

Both apps are available to you absolutely free for 7 days through a trial of Setapp, a platform with more than 240 time-saving Mac tools, from task managers (GoodTask) to distraction dimmers (HazeOver). Try them all today at no cost and see for yourself!

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