How to Close Your MacBook Lid and Use an External Monitor Screen Instead

Using an external monitor with your MacBook allows you to expand your workspace and productivity. However, the MacBook screen can get in the way when using a larger external display. Fortunately, you can close the MacBook lid and have it work solely with the external monitor in what’s called “clamshell mode”. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to set this up.

What You Need

To use your MacBook in clamshell mode with an external display, you will need:

  • MacBook model from 2016 or later
  • External monitor
  • Monitor cable (HDMI, DisplayPort, etc.)
  • USB-C hub/dongle if your monitor does not have USB-C input
  • External keyboard and mouse (wireless recommended)
  • MacBook power adapter

Step 1: Connect the External Monitor

Connect your external monitor to your MacBook using the appropriate cable based on your monitor’s inputs. If your monitor only has HDMI or DisplayPort, you will need a USB-C hub or dongle to adapt to these inputs.

Make sure the monitor is powered on and set as the primary display if you want the menu bar to appear on the external screen.

Step 2: Connect Input Devices

Pair your Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to your MacBook or plug them into USB ports if they are wired devices. These will act as the input devices when your MacBook lid is closed.

Step 3: Connect Power

Connect the MacBook power adapter. This will provide consistent power and prevent your MacBook from going to sleep when you close the lid.

Some monitors like the Apple Studio Display also provide power through their USB-C cable.

Step 4: Close the Lid

Once the external monitor is set up and receiving video signal, you can go ahead and close the MacBook lid.

The MacBook screen will turn off and you will only see the desktop on the external display. Your wireless mouse and keyboard will remain connected.

Tips for Using Clamshell Mode

Here are some additional tips for using clamshell mode effectively:

  • Use a laptop stand or vertical dock to safely position your MacBook in clamshell mode. This allows for better airflow and cooling.
  • Go to System Preferences > Battery and check the box for “Prevent your Mac from automatically sleeping when the display is off” so it does not go to sleep when closing the lid.
  • Similarly, go to System Preferences > Energy Saver and select “Never” for “Turn display off after” under Battery and Power Adapter tabs.
  • If your MacBook goes to sleep when you close the lid, use an app like Amphetamine or Caffeine to keep it awake with the lid closed.
  • Calibrate colors of the external monitor using the Display Calibrator Assistant if needed.


Using clamshell mode allows you to take advantage of a larger external screen while keeping your MacBook out of the way. Just make sure to power your MacBook, connect devices, and modify sleep settings. This will provide a seamless desktop-like experience with the convenience of still having your laptop available when needed.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I have over 10 years of experience using MacBooks in clamshell mode with external displays.