What happens when you close your MacBook Pro lid? Various questions

These are such basic, simple questions I’m embarrassed to ask it after all these years. But I can’t find definitive answers in the support docs. And lately Apple Support has been extraordinarily unhelpful; I feel I know more than the advisors I speak with.

I have a new MBP M1 Pro. It’s connected to an external monitor during the day. After 20 minutes away the screens go into screen saver mode. And later they goes dark. Has it gone to sleep? Or is it sleeping just when it goes dark? Or is it just saving the screen by going dark and never really sleeping at all?

I was thinking of closing the lid when I go to sleep, just to keep the screen from getting dusty. Is that what definitively puts it to sleep?

I notice if I close the lid and open it up everything on my external monitor has moved to my main screen. Is there a way of getting everything back to where it was easily? If not, I’ll just leave it open.

I basically leave it connected on my desk all the time, unless I’m on travel.

I leave my MBP closed in a vertical holder and connected to a monitor. I use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard. The MBP stays closed all day except when I need a camera - though I could use an external camera mounted on the monitor connected to the MBP.

If I’m I’m inactive, the MBP goes to sleep. The monitor goes off. To get it awake, I just just use the external mouse or keyboard.


You set that behavior in the Energy Saver module in System Preferences. Generally the screen saver goes on first, then it blacks the screen to save power, and eventually the whole system goes to sleep. But you can totally adjust those behaviors to whatever you want (and there are separate settings for battery versus plugged in).

Note that on the new Apple Silicon machines it wakes from sleep so fast that you might set it to sleep sooner than in the past when it took a while to wake up.

Well, first things first, I don’t see an Energy Saver module in System Preferences.

If there was one, what would be the advantages/disadvantages of letting it go to sleep?

Looks like it’s now called Battery :man_facepalming:t3:

Sleep saves power so you’re not wasting electricity.

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I guess there is a setting in there, which I’ve checked, to not let my MBP sleep when the screen goes dark. I must have figured there are network things in the background that are important to keep going.

If I let it sleep, will the same thing happens that happens when I close the lid: all the windows will revert to my main display?

Does closing the lid force it to go to sleep?

Is there a way of opening the lid and having the windows go back to the displays they were at?

I use an app called Moom to reset my windows when my external monitor gets plugged back in. With Moom, you have to tell it to save a snapshot of your window locations and it can then restore them when the external screen reappears. Maybe there are other apps out there which can auto-memorize your window layouts so you don’t have to save a snapshot ahead of time? I feel like the Mac used to be better at this particular game without extra software, but maybe I’m imagining things…

FWIW, merely going to sleep doesn’t cause my machine (2019 MBP 13") to move all of the windows off the external screen, so the behavior you are seeing is new to me.

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I’ll take a look at Moom.

The behavior I’m talking about is what happens if I close the lid and open it up again. I’m still not clear if that means there MBP has gone to sleep. I don’t understand the conditions under which it goes to sleep.

It is my impression that the window rearrangement happens when the external monitor is slower to wake up than the Mac, so the Mac thinks that the monitor has disconnected.

And do you happen to know when it goes to sleep? Does closing the lid always put it in sleep mode?

Apple disables Apple Pay on Touch ID capable Macs with the lid closed. (Unless you have an M1 and are using a Magic Keyboard with Touch ID: then Apple Pay remains active.)

I took a look at Moom. It looks well featured, but it’s super complicated, and I still haven’t been able to get it to work, even with help from their support.

But I found another app called DisplayMaid that is (1) incredibly easy to use - it just works and (2) is less expensive. So I’ll go with that I think.

When you close the lid, the laptop will generally go to sleep—unless there is an external display, a keyboard, and a mouse (or other pointer device) connected, in which case it should move to “clamshell” mode and stay awake until the sleep timer kicks in (configured in System Preferences).

Is that right? I thought closing the lid always puts it to sleep and you need to subsequently wake it with a keyboard or mouse event in order to enter clamshell mode.

But it’s been a long time since I looked into this, so maybe Apple changed the behavior since then.

Yep, that’s the way it works. You can open and close the lid without the Mac ever going to sleep as long as display, KB/mouse, and power are connected.

If you remove the connection to those peripherals while the lid is closed, the Mac will go to sleep.

If you connect the peripherals to the Mac with its lid closed (i.e. it’s sleeping), it will remain asleep until you hit keys on the KB or click mouse buttons.

There is one peculiarity here though. If your Mac is asleep, moving the mouse is enough to get it to wake. But moving the mouse, will not wake a Mac that has just been connected to peripherals for clamshell mode. For that initial wake you need to hit a key or mouse button. I always assumed this restriction served to prevent accidental wake on initial connection.

Hi, people. I don’t know why this supposedly simple thing is so endlessly confusing to me. I even spent time talking with Apple Support yesterday and they told me flat out when the lid is closed it goes to sleep.

Yet I have an external display attached. And I also have a bluetooth mouse connected.

But if I close my lid all (or sometimes just most) of my windows return to the main display and I have to replace them when I open the lid again. I think I’m going to use Display Maid to handle that problem going forward. It is much much much easier to use than Moom, which somebody here recommended, and also much less expensive.

These are my settings. I don’t see “clamshell” mentioned anywhere. And this appears to be the only setting where the Mac going to “sleep” is mentioned at all, except for the schedule settings, which I’m not using.

As has already been noted, the problem may be that the external display wakes up after the computer has already taken a census of display resources. In that case, it will try to cram everything open onto the single display. I assume that this is likely to happen especially when working with a new, speedy computer and an older external display.

You won’t. It’s not a configuration item, but a term used by many users to describe operation with the lid closed (via an external monitor, keyboard and pointing device).

Since you have an external display, does it go black when you close the lid? What about if you click the mouse with the lid closed? If the Mac wakes up (making your external screen your only display), then that is “clamshell” mode. And it explains why everything is moving, since this is causing it to change from a dual-display desktop to a single-display (external only).

OK, it’s weird. I thought it had been going black when I close the lid, but it does not. The external display seems to get somewhat brighter/bluer in tone, and I can move the cursor around.

What’s weirder is as soon as I open the lid everything disappears from the external display and is moved to the main display! (I used Display Maid to restore the windows - very convenient app.)

So what does this mean?

Maybe TidBits needs a “Taking Control of Sleep” book. :slight_smile:

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You mean, like in this article? :slight_smile: