MacBook Clamshell Mode (2023 Ultimate Guide)

Clamshell mode on MacBook can optimize your system resources and provide a better external display for gaming and multitasking. It can also reduce the laptop’s built-in cooling system’s ability to remove heat.

However, to run the clamshell mode, your laptop needs to be properly configured with the external monitor, and some display settings must be adjusted to avoid any issues.

I’ve discussed everything regarding MacBook Clamshell mode in this article and how to set it up. So without any further ado, let’s start the video.

What Is MacBook Clamshell Mode?

Clamshell mode on MacBook is also known as a closed-display mode. This mode refers to using your MacBook when the lid is shut.

In the clamshell mode, the external monitor or display is connected to your MacBook with the help of an HDMI cable. You can take advantage of the larger display with this feature for multitasking.

This mode optimizes your system resources and reduces the laptop’s built-in cooling system’s ability to remove heat.

In the below section, I’ve discussed a step-by-step explanation of how to operate the Mac in clamshell mode.

Which Mac Models Support Clamshell Mode?

Firstly, you should ensure your Mac mode is compatible with clamshell mode before setting up the clamshell mode.

This is because, Clamshell mode is only available on a few Mac models, so it’s essential to check if your Mac model is on the list of supported devices.

The Following Mac models support Clamshell mode:

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro (2016 or later) 
  • MacBook Air (2018 or later) 
  • Mac mini (2018 or later) 
  • iMac (2017 or later)

You can use Clamshell mode if you own any of the above models.

Things Required For MacBook Clamshell Mode

The clamshell mode requires various requirements, so ensure you have them all before using it. The clamshell mode would not operate if any of them were not available or faulty.

Here’s a list of the following things that you need in clamshell mode:

  • An external monitor or display
  • External mouse and keyboard
  • Thunderbolt cable (If your Mac has an HDMI port)
  • Thunderbolt to HDMI converter (If your Mac doesn’t have an HDMI port)
  • MacBook charger

These things are a must for MacBook to run in clamshell mode.

Now it’s time to see how to set up and operate MacBook in the clamshell mode.

How To Set Up And Operate In Clamshell Mode

Once you have confirmed that your Mac model is compatible with the Clamshell mode and has all the accessories, the next step is to connect your external display to your Mac.

These are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Plug In Your Mac

The first thing is to plug in your Mac, and it’s highly important because the MacBook may go to sleep which can create problems in the Clamshell mode.

Without plugging in, the Clamshell mode will not activate. So, you must plug your device into a power source before doing anything in the Clamshell mode.

Step 2: Connect Your Mac To External Monitor

After plugging in your Mac, it’s time to connect your external monitor to your Mac. Pick up the HDMI cable and insert one end into the monitor. A monitor or display must have input 1 and 2 options, and you can connect the cable to either.

Now insert the other end of the HDMI cable into your MacBook. Remember, if it’s available on your Mac, you can directly plug the HDMI cable into your Mac’s HDMI input port.

But if your Mac doesn’t have an HDMI input port, you can use Thunderbolt to HDMI converter. Just plug in the converter to your Mac and then connect the HDMI cable to that converter.

Step 3: Connect the External Mouse And Keyboard

After connecting the external monitor to your Mac, it’s time to connect the external mouse and keyboard. 

This is important because you won’t be able to use the built-in trackpad and keyboard in the clamshell mode. Due to this reason, you need to connect an external mouse and keyboard.

You can use both wired and wireless mouse and keyboard in clamshell mode.

Step 4:Turn On The Power Source

Once you have connected all the accessories and established a proper connection, it’s time to turn on the power source. 

When you plug the HDMI cable into the monitor, the display will be displayed according to the input port. 

5. Close The MacBook Lid

After the Mac screen appears on the external monitor, gently close the MacBook lid. Now you’re Mac is in Clamshell mode.

By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll surely be able to use your Mac in clamshell mode.

Why Is MacBook Clamshell Mode Not Working?

If your MacBook clamshell mode isn’t working, there could be the following reasons:

  • Incompatible display settings
  • Low Battery
  • Certain system settings

Read this guide to fix the Clamshell mode not working issue.

How To Prevent MacBook From Sleeping In Clamshell Mode?

The MacBook sleeping in clamshell mode loses all your time and focus, which is frustrating. To prevent this issue, you need to prevent its sleeping from the settings. 

Follow this step-by-step guide to prevent your MacBook from sleeping in Clamshell mode:

  1. Click on the Apple logo from the top left corner of your screen and go to System Preferences.
  1. Select Battery.
  1. Choose Power Adapter from the left column.
  1. Use the slider to choose how long until the display turns off. If you set this to “Never,” your MacBook will never go to sleep when the display is off.
  2. Finally, check the box next to “Prevent computer from sleeping automatically when the display is off” to enable this setting.

After making these changes, your Mac will never sleep in the Clamshell mode.

How To Turn Off The MacBook Clamshell Mode

There are multiple ways to turn off the MacBook Clamshell mode. Follow any of them to turn off the Clamshell mode:

  1. Sleep Mode
  2. Click on the Apple icon on the top left corner of the screen and select “Sleep” to disable Clamshell mode. 
  3. When the MacBook goes into sleep mode, you can disconnect the cables for mobile use or connect them to resume clamshell mode.
  4. Shutdown Method
  5. Click on the Apple icon on the top left corner of the screen and select “Shutdown.” 
  6. When you turn off your MacBook, you can disconnect the cables to use it in mobile mode or leave them connected to resume clamshell mode.

Benefits Of Clamshell Mode

The following are the benefits of MacBook Clamshell mode:

  • It can help optimize your Mac’s resources and provide a better external display session.
  • You can use only external displays in this mode, which remain at eye level and offer better ergonomics than the built-in display.
  • The clamshell mode can reduce the laptop’s built-in cooling system’s ability to remove heat and avoid performance throttling.
  • It gives you a decent enough desktop experience.

Does Clamshell Mode Damage Mac’s Screen?

No. The clamshell mode doesn’t damage the Mac screen. This is because, during this process, your Mac screen is turned off.

The Clamshell mode is usually available on every modern laptop of Apple, and the company tests the feature before releasing the beta or final version. 

As a result, you don’t have to worry about your MacBook screen getting damaged during Clamshell mode.

You can run into only one issue with the connected monitor: electrical problems. 

The Clamshell mode works not only with monitors but also with Apple TV, projectors, multimedia, and other external screens, as these are built-in features, so you don’t need to worry about Mac screen damage.

Does Clamshell Mode Cause Overheat?

Clamshell mode overheating is dependent on how much work you do. The MacBook might overheat if you use heavy software or editing tools. 

In addition, some heat comes from the keyboard area since the MacBook is closed in clamshell mode, preventing heat from escaping.

However, MacBooks are designed to handle heavy work; you don’t need to worry about damage. So, there is no evidence that a small amount of heat will negatively affect the performance of the hardware or battery.

If you notice your MacBook overheating, you should immediately remove the power adapter and turn it off. Although new MacBooks turn off automatically when they overheat.

During heavy tasks like video editing and gaming, your MacBook may overheat if you live in a warm and humid environment.

Does Clamshell Mode Ruin The Battery?

There are many thoughts on this question. But according to my experience, I have never noticed that my battery performance or life has decreased because of clamshell mode.

In Clamshell mode, the adapter is plugged into the Mac to save the cycles of your battery’s limited age. So, this mode is not bad for your MacBook battery.

According to Apple, One charge cycle is completed when you utilize 100% of your battery. No matter if you waste 100% of your battery.

For example, Your MacBook battery is 100% charged, and you use 60% of the battery in one day and then charge it to 100%. On the second day, if you use 40% battery, one cycle will be complete.

Apple says that after 1000 battery cycles, battery health starts decreasing, and most of the time, you must change the battery.

In Clamshell mode, the battery cycles of your Mac drop very rarely, increasing the battery lifespan. 

Although Apple itself doesn’t say anything about the battery ruining in Clamshell mode, according to my experience, it doesn’t ruin your battery life.

Click here to read in detail explanation of Does Clamshell mode ruin battery.

Is Clamshell Mode Bad For MacBook Pro?

No. Leaving your MacBook Pro in Clamshell mode doesn’t have any bad impact. Apple had designed the clamshell feature for multitasking.

But if you’re constantly using MacBook Clamshell mode, you should keep one thing in mind your Mac doesn’t overheat while using heavy and intensive tasks.

So, if your Mac overheats, its efficiency automatically decreases because it reduces its clock speed to reduce the heat. So at that time, you should turn off your Mac and take a break to avoid any serious loss.

How To Turn Off MacBook In Clamshell Mode Using Terminal?

First of all, open the Terminal on Mac. And paste down the following command. 

pmset -g | grep hibernatemode

This command will show the number of hibernatemode. Below is a command to disable sleep on your MacBook.

sudo pmset -a sleep 0 

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode 0 

sudo pmset -a disablesleep 1 

After running these commands, you can now use Clamshell mode without power. You should use the following command lines to return to normal sleep settings. 

sudo pmset -a sleep 1 

sudo pmset -a hibernatemode <original hibernatemode value | usually 3 on a MacBook> 

sudo pmset -a disablesleep 0

Does Clamshell Mode Increase Performance?

Yes. I noticed many times that Clamshell mode increases the performance of your Mac. This is because in Clamshell mode, the lid is off, and there’s no way to escape the heat.

But sometimes, overheating occurs in the MacBook Clamshell mode, which reduces its performance. So, it’s important to cool down your Mac ins clamshell mode.

On idle, the MacBook itself consumes 0.5W, but in Clamshell mode, it consumes at least 4W. The display output consumes 10% of the MacBook’s thermal power.

The majority of people use cooling pads to prevent overheating. You won’t have to worry about the performance of the MacBook if you use a high-quality cooling pad.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Mac Not Sleep When Lid Is Closed?

You can stop your Mac from going to sleep by opening the System Settings. Click the Lock Screen button. Select Never next to Turn display off when inactive.

Is It Safe To Run MacBook Pro With Lid Closed?

Yes. It is completely safe to run MacBook Pro with the lid closed or open.

How Do I Use Clamshell On MacBook Pro?

On MacBook Pro, first connect the external monitor and keyboard, mouse, etc., to your Mac and then turn on the power outlet.


The whole article concluded that the Clamshell mode is usually available on every new laptop of Apple, and the company tests the feature before releasing the beta or final version. 

Hopefully, now you should know about the Clamshell mode and all the related queries that would help you in setting up this mode.

The above guide is based on my experience and deep research, and I’m sure that you’ll get a great benefit from it.

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