Power management hot keys in OS X

If you need to shut down or restart your Mac, you can do so using quick hot-key sequences.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

Many system functions in OS X are accessible not only through menus and utilities, but also through hot keys that can be invoked from the keyboard. Often these can be found by perusing the menus and observing the keyboard shortcuts next to the various commands in them, but in addition to these there are a number of hidden keyboard shortcuts that can be used for managing specific functions.

When it comes to power management options in OS X, such as restarting or shutting down, people often access the Apple menu where Apple keeps these options; however, if your mouse is not working, then accessing this menu may be difficult. In these cases, if you need to shut down or restart you might consider pressing and holding the power button to reset the system, but this type of hard-reset can result in corruption and lead to potential problems.

If you need to access power management commands on your Mac without using the mouse, then you can do so using a number of built-in hot keys:

  • The Power menu
    In old Mac systems, Apple included a power button on the keyboard that could be used to access the Power menu when the Mac was running. Apple has removed this button, but the functions invoked by it are still available in OS X by pressing Control-Eject on your keyboard. When you do this, a window will pop up that contains options to restart, sleep, or shut down the system. Pressing Enter will shut the system down immediately, or you can use the tab key to change the focus to change the selection focus and press the Space bar to activate the selection.
  • Power menu in OS X
    The Power menu in OS X provides quick access to shutdown, restart, and sleep options. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  • Soft restart
    To issue a soft restart in which the system shuts down processes cleanly and allows you time and options to save your work, press Control-Command-Eject. This is similar to accessing the Restart function from the Apple menu.
  • Soft shutdown
    Similar to a soft-restart, you can perform a soft shutdown that will likewise allow you to save data cleanly. To do this, include the Option key and press Control-Option-Command-Eject.
  • Hard reset
    If the system is in a hung state in which it cannot interact with processes or the hard drive to provide you a way to save your data or cleanly quit running tasks, then you can force the system to reset by holding the Option and Command keys, followed by pressing the power button.
  • Hard shutdown
    If instead of a hard reset you would like to shut down the system (such as in cases of persistent hangs during bootup), then you can press and hold the power button for about 5-10 seconds to kill power to the system. Both hard resets and hard shutdowns are similar to pulling the plug on your system, and should be used as a last resort.
  • Sleep the system
    In addition to managing restarts and shutdowns, you can sleep the system by pressing Command-Option-Eject.
  • Sleep the display
    A final power mode option that Apple supports is display sleep, which can be handy for quickly killing the output to your monitor without shutting down the system, sleeping your computer, or turning off your monitor if you have an external display. This will maintain full function of your system, so you can continue any ongoing tasks you have running. To do this, press Shift-Control-Eject on your keyboard.

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