How to fix stuck keyboard backlight on Macbook Pro

Here’s an obscure piece of Mac voodoo that hopefully few people will ever need. I opened up my sleeping Macbook Pro this morning (the 15″ 2.2 GHz mid-2007 edition) and the keyboard backlighting was on full blast. Pressing the F8 key to turn it off did nothing. In fact, the backlight brightness display appeared with a little circle with a slash through it (what Apple calls the “prohibitory sign”).

So I tried using the keyboard preferences to turn off background illumination. No luck, still stuck. I tried rebooting but no luck, still stuck. I tried rebooting and zapping the PRAM. No luck, still stuck. I tried messing around on Google for a solution someone else used. No luck, still stuck (with apologies to my kids’ favorite book, One Duck Stuck by Phyllis Root).

So how did I finally turn off the stuck keyboard backlight on my Macbook Pro? I found a slightly hidden article on Apple’s support website describing how to mess with the Macbook Pro’s backlight ambient light sensor. Simply place a palm over the lefthand speaker grill, where the ambient light sensor lives, make your MBP think it’s in the dark, and, abracadabra, the keyboard backlighting turned off and the F8, F9 and F10 control keys were functioning once again.

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  • Props for this! Thanks a lot for that cool obscure article!

  • This article I so true, keep on writing like this, enjoyment to read :) 473

  • ango

    Placing hands over both speaker grills worked for me.

  • chrissy

    k well i have a macbook pro 13″ and i just got it 2 days ago. my backlight is not working, there is no button for me to press to simply brighten it or dim it. ive searched websites trying to find a solution, and ive tried “lab tick” which did absolutely nothing, suggestions…?

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  • chottibara

    Does not work for me.
    Still stuck
    on a new machine

    There are hundreds of people on the internet who are faced with this problem. Long time ago Apple could make reliable machines …

    It seems to me that some application (using X11) turned the bacllighting off (as it can happen with sound), but there is nothing that can be done from the system prefs.

  • Karl

    Worked fine for me – Thanks!

  • Zircon

    Try downloading LabTick, it puts a light control in your menu bar that overrides the light sensor.

  • KaoS

    Nice 1, thnx

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  • Kuskurino

    yes thanx soooo much!!!!! life saver!!!

  • Nette

    Many thanks for your article, it’s work and very helpful for me. Ahhh… both hands placing as well.

  • William Griessel

    I have the same problem with my MacBook pro 2.2 Quad core that I just bought. The keyboard light sensor doesnt turn lights on as it did in my older MacBook pro.
    I tried all combinations to no avail.

    The Apple store didn’t know what to do except go through the same steps as I did?..

    Very disappointed because it is a good feature to have available…….

    I hope it can be fixed.

  • William Griessel

    Yes, but the keyboard lights will not be in auto mode as it should be?

  • William Griessel

    I have solved my keyboard auto lighting problem by going to another Apple dealer who showed me the proper settings in the keyboard adjustments control panel. ONLY tick on the auto brightness for low level lights. Turn off the other two.

  • Gordan

    THIS DOES NOT SOLVE THE PROBLEM.  I don’t know why every article that I find thinks that this solves the problem.  The F5 and F6 keys always used to change the key backlights regardless of the lighting in the room.  Now, they show the prohibitory sign unless my hand is over the sensor.  When I remove my hand, THE BACKLIGHT TURNS OFF.  I can’t fathom how this could have happened, as I haven’t installed anything new or changed any settings.  I’m obviously not going to use my computer with my hand over the sensor the whole time, so how do I make those buttons work like they always have?

  • LAB TICK … !!! :) After searching 40 articles, reseting PRAM and everyother kind of memory/cach this little thing solved my problem. Get it now !!

  • Michael

    Thanks – this solved this most annoying obscure problem on my 2013 MBP! Seems one of overhead downlights is angled in just away as to confuse the sensor!
    Would have been nice if Apple could have provided some additional useability information that just the little “No-Entry” indicator!
    Thanks for the tip!