Check tutorial of Keyboard Backlight Not Working on a MacBook Pro / Air? Try 3 Simple Fixes
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All portable Macs in the MacBook Pro and Air series today have backlit keyboards, which not only makes it easier to type in low light, but let’s face it, it looks really nice too. Since the backlight uses a very low power LED to illuminate, the battery life isn’t much affected if the brightness is set to a reasonable or low level, so many people choose to have the backlit keyboard always display, even as a lighting situation does not require it to be useful.
But sometimes the backlit keyboard on a Mac laptop doesn’t work at all for seemingly no apparent reason … and even an attempt to manually control the backlight with the hotkeys suggests the feature does not work or is turned off.
There are a few possible reasons why the backlight has stopped working on a MacBook Pro, MacBook, or MacBook Air, and most of them offer simple resolutions. If you discover that the keyboard backlight is not working on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro keyboard, follow the troubleshooting steps listed below. More often than not, you will be able to resolve the situation quite quickly and easily.
3 Tips in front of How to Fix keyboard backlight on MacBook Pro or Air
First of all, make sure your Mac laptop supports keyboard backlighting (virtually any vaguely new model MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or MacBook does), and that keyboard backlight is turned on. The easiest way to check if the keyboard backlight is on is to try to adjust the backlight up to make it brighter, which is usually done by hitting the Mac laptops ‘F6’ key.
Solution # 1: Adjust the Mac & Light Sensor
In some situations, direct illumination, bright lights, sunlight, or glare can shine directly on the light sensor on the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, and when this happens, the illumination indicator and controls will lock.
The solution to this is simple enough: adjust the Mac so that the source of bright lighting no longer shines on the screen and near the front camera. This is a feature, not a bug, the aim is to automatically turn off the backlight when it is not needed and it would not be visible anyway, such as when using a MacBook outside in the sun.
If you’ve never experienced this yourself, you can test it out quite easily, even in a pitch-dark room. Just shine a flashlight or bright light near the FaceTime camera at the top of the screen and the backlit keyboard goes dark. Prevent the bright light source from the camera area and the keyboard will light up again.
Solution # 2: Manually control the key illumination
Sometimes tweaking the MacBook’s positioning isn’t enough, and I’ve had experience with some very stubborn MacBook Air keyboards whose backlights just wouldn’t respond well to external lighting conditions. Sometimes the sensitivity issue can be solved with the # 3 solution provided below, but another solution is to just use manual backlight and stop the automatic lighting adjustments.
You can manually control the keyboard backlight using System Preferences and then use the F5 and F6 keys to adjust the backlight strength:
- Open System Preferences from the Apple menu and go to the “Keyboard” panel
- Uncheck the box next to ‘Automatically illuminate keyboard in low light’
Now you have to Use the F5 and F6 keyboard keys to manually control the illumination level of the keys, this becomes the only way the lighting is affected.
That may sound a bit contradictory, but turn off the auto lighting feature gives you full manual control over the backlit keys, allowing you to set a brightness level that you want to use all the time and it remains consistent regardless of the external lighting conditions hitting the sensors or not. Keep in mind that the backlit keys no longer self-adjust at all, so if you notice any negative impact on the battery, you can adjust the brightness at the bottom.
Solution # 3: Reset the SMC
Illuminated keys don’t work at all, and you can be sure that the MacBook has it feature? Is the “Automatically Illuminate Keyboard in Low Light” toggle completely missing from keyboard preferences? You may need to reset the System Management Controller (SMC) to get things back in order. The SMC controls a variety of system-level hardware options and power functions, and sometimes things can go wrong during major OS X version upgrades or for no apparent reason. We’ve covered a number of reasons why and how you might want to reset the SMC and backlit keyboard issues is one of them … this can resolve some of the more stubborn situations.
Keep in mind that this is quite rarely necessary, but if all else has failed, you can follow our instructions or Apple Support’s official walkthrough. You must restart the MacBook Air / Pro to perform an SMC reset.
Help out! My Mac’s keyboard backlight still doesn’t work
If you’ve tried all of the above and still can’t find anything that works, there may be a real hardware problem. This is quite unlikely, but the best thing to do right now is to target the official channels through Apple support. Contact AppleCare or set up up an appointment at the Genius Bar, they should be able to sort it out and get the keys working again, or replace a faulty lighting system in the highly unlikely event there is a real hardware issue. Keep in mind that liquid contact and small splashes on the keyboard can affect the backlit lighting, while the rest of the MacBook retains full functionality, so if the Mac had a smooth touch, that could be the culprit too.
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