Run your MacBook with the lid closed

Written by: Adam Christianson

Categories: Feedback

MacBook Closed Lid

Listener Andre pointed out a really cool feature of the new MacBook Pro that many, including myself, had missed. If you carefully read the “Pure Digital Signal” section of the MacBook Pro Graphics page on Apples site you’ll see this:

…you get three options for using your display: dual-display mode, video mirroring, and lid-closed mode.

So apparently the MacBook can be run with the lid shut. This is a BIG change from the PowerBook. With the PowerBooks you can use software like Sleepless, but doing so could cause excess heat and damage your Mac, so it is NOT recommended. I’m sure addition of lid closed operation will be a welcome feature for many new MacBook owners.

OOPS: Looks like I made a mistake on this one. From the comments on this post it looks like PowerBook have been able to run with the lid closed for a while now. The trick is they need to be connected to an external display. I was confused becasue this topic came up on the MacCast in the past, but in that case the listener wanted to run with the lid closed and still have the PowerBook a connected to the network, but with no external monitor attached. He wanted it available for server operation.

There are 26 comments on Run your MacBook with the lid closed:

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  1. rick | Jan 15 2006 - 04:40

    my new powerbook G4 15″ (bought in Nov. 2005) also has lid-closed operation, according to its user’s guide. No way for me to test it without an external monitor, but is a welcome feature if I decide to use it as a desktop machine.

  2. Nick Circosta | Jan 15 2006 - 06:49

    cool :)

  3. Eric | Jan 15 2006 - 07:21

    This isn’t new, PowerBooks have been able to do this for a while. It’s the iBooks that dont do it. Without any hacks at all my Pismo G3, PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 12″, and my PowerBook G4 1.5GHz 15″ all will run with the lid shut. My iBook 1.33GHz 14″ will not however.

  4. Wilf | Jan 15 2006 - 08:18

    this is very interesting, and cool :), but of course some people might accidentally close the lid… thinking it was going to sleep :S

  5. mac user X | Jan 15 2006 - 08:27

    i need that mode for when i am sleeping and something is downloading. turning off the brightness is annoying nad putting the display to sleep to is annoying.

  6. Rob | Jan 15 2006 - 08:46

    This is also a feature on the Powerbooks.
    The computer sleeps unless it’s connected to another monitor.


  7. Justin Winokur | Jan 15 2006 - 09:30


    Powerbooks can run with the lid shut. It is only iBooks that can’t. I am currently running mine with the lid shut. No hacks or anything.

    That, and mini-DVI is why i went with a power book and not an iBook

  8. debbie T | Jan 15 2006 - 09:16

    My powerbook G4 (bought in July) already has this option.

    Reading from the manual, “using your powerbook with the display closed”

    “You can use your PowerBook with the display closed if the computer is connected to an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and the power adapter is plugged into the PowerBook and an outlet.”

    “Important: To use your PowerBook with the display closed, the power adapter must be plugged into the PowerBook and an outlet.”

    Actually this (clamshell mode) feature was one of the reasons I opted for the PowerBook vs iBook. I have used the dual display, but I haven’t used it with the lid closed yet, so I can’t comment on any heat issues. I would imagine it could get quite hot!

    If you google “powerbook G4 clamshell mode” there are tons of pages.

    Love the show, Adam!! Keep up the good work!

  9. Rodney Blevins | Jan 15 2006 - 01:03

    Yes, that’s right, Powerbooks are standard equipped to run with the lid closed. Apple explains in the user’s manual how you can use this mode. You have to attach an external monitor, keyboard and mouse and then put it to sleep like normal by closing the lid. Once it is asleep you click a mouse button or touch a key on the keyboard and it will wake up again.

  10. adrian | Jan 15 2006 - 01:33

    I’ve been using my powerbook with an external display and the lid closed every day for the past year. The displays shuts down and the Book goes to sleep when unplugging the monitor. Therefore, nothing new or special about this feature

  11. Mike Shur | Jan 15 2006 - 01:22

    Huh??!!! I run my 15 inch 1.25 GHz G4 PB with the lid shut attached to a sepperate display all the time!! The apple web site, at least it used to, explains how to do it.

  12. Mike Shur | Jan 15 2006 - 01:30

    Oh, please excuse my misspellings… Kind of embarrassing…

  13. Mike Shur | Jan 15 2006 - 01:15

    Here’s the Apple page on their web site explaining how to operate a PB G4 with the lid shut.

  14. Gary Toews | Jan 15 2006 - 04:07

    This reminds me of my trusty PowerBook 100. I would run it with lid closed with a 17 inch color monitor even though its own display was B/W. A very inovative machine in its time… Nice to see this capability is back.

    BTW I love the MacCast, Adam!!!

  15. Mike Caputo | Jan 15 2006 - 07:32

    I agree with Mike and Justin — I run my 12″ G4 Alum. PB closed whenever I’m in my home office, which is most of the time. This isn’t news. I never had an iBook, so the fact that iBooks don’t work the same way is news to me.


  16. Eddie | Jan 15 2006 - 09:55

    I think the difference is that perhaps the MacBook doesn’t need a power source connected to it to run in lid-closed mode

  17. Eric | Jan 16 2006 - 01:27

    Yeah, so I posted a response to this about 19 hours ago, but it looks like it was deleted. Not sure why. Old news now, yeah PowerBooks have had this ability since at least the Pismo G3 and iBooks do not.

  18. Steve | Jan 16 2006 - 05:22

    I run my powerbook with the lid closed, but the power has to be connected for it to work.

  19. Shawn | Jan 18 2006 - 03:40

    It appears they can run (I have a 1.5GHz 15″ PB) with the lid closed. But still a very cool feature. I found this out when I was putting my laptop back on my desk connecting it to all it’s perhiperals when it was sleeping with the lid closed… as soon as I connected something (Either it be a flash drive, mouse, or external hard drive, or recording interface) it made the clicking noise and the sleep light was no longer on. Pretty cool, wish I had a display and keyboard for it though!

  20. Craig | Jan 18 2006 - 08:00

    Did anyone see the article at O’Reilly reporting that the pre-production models Apple was showing at MacWord had a battery life of four hours?

  21. JasonG | Jan 19 2006 - 12:30

    Your’e right, the name MacBook Pro leaves something to be desired. Say it 3x fast and you will swear that you are speaking Thai.

  22. dan | Jun 27 2007 - 06:02

    what if i want to carry my laptop into another room with the lid closed?
    when i had a sony running any version of windows it was the EASIEST thing to run with lid closed. what did i have to do? just change an option in the power management.

    why does apple make me have to plug in a mouse or external monitor just so i can move to the other room or throughout the house with my music playing? its stupid

  23. Ellis | Oct 17 2007 - 05:51

    Is there any way to run the MacBook with the lid closed while on batteries? I need to tuck it under my arm and run with it while recording sound with an external audio interface.

    How hard is it to just disconnect the friggin lid angle sensor?

  24. Blake | Feb 15 2008 - 12:17

    Same issue… Has anyone fingured this out? I just need unteathered , closed lid operation with a titanium PB.

    I have looked at sleepless, but seems to be a heat issue, but dont know why.? I really just need to turn the display off, not the fans or anything.

    Thanks for any info.

  25. Beth | Apr 10 2008 - 10:46

    i have no idea how to work my new mac, sorry i know it must sound at a second grade level to you, but my macbook won’t keep running when i close the lid. I know it can, not just from this blog but from my friends computer. i used to leave music playing at night but now it just shuts off. Its a power save and it prevents my pets/child from pressing keys. They seem to be drawn to expensive electronics.

    i pick up instruction pretty quick, so if you just tell me which setting to go into to fix it and whatnot, i should be able to get it.

    thanks a lot! sorry again for the bother.

  26. Mark | Dec 09 2008 - 05:59

    My Macbook Pro won’t always stop running when I shut the lid, even when it’s not plugged into the power adapter. This kills my battery, and it could damage it because I put it in my bag sometimes without waiting to see if the screen is off. I don’t have an external display or any kind of peripherals configured for it.