How to Fix Keyboard Backlight Not Working on Mac Featured Image

How to Fix Keyboard Backlight Not Working on Mac

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Last updated: September 6, 2023

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MacBooks’ keyboard backlight allows you to type comfortably in low-light conditions. However, if the keyboard backlight stops working, it can be frustrating and affect productivity.

In this blog post, I will explore the common causes of the keyboard backlight not working on Mac and provide solutions to fix them.

Before We Begin

Outdated software, physical damage, and malware can cause keyboard backlight issues. MacKeeper’s Antivirus can help your run a virus scan on your Mac and resolve the keyboard backlight issue if malicious items are causing it.

Common Causes of Keyboard Backlight Issues on Mac

Identifying the root cause of the issue is essential before attempting to fix the keyboard backlight not working on Mac. Some common causes of keyboard backlight issues on Mac include the following:

  • 📱 Software Issues: Sometimes, the keyboard backlight issue may arise due to software bugs, outdated software or OS, or incorrect settings.
  • 💻 Hardware Issues: The keyboard’s backlight may stop working due to hardware issues such as a loose connection, faulty hardware components, or liquid damage.
  • 💡 Ambient Light Sensor: The ambient light sensor adjusts the keyboard backlight according to the ambient light level. If the ambient light sensor is faulty, it can cause issues with the keyboard backlight.
  • 🔋 Battery Issues: If the battery of your MacBook is running low or faulty, it can cause issues with the keyboard backlight.
  • 🖥️ SMC Issues: The System Management Controller (SMC) manages the hardware components on your Mac, including the keyboard backlight. If the SMC is not functioning correctly, it can cause keyboard backlight issues.
  • 🔨 Physical damage: Physical damage to the keyboard or the MacBook may also cause the backlight to stop working.

Troubleshooting Keyboard Backlight Not Working on Mac

Below, I have shared some tried and tested methods to resolve keyboard backlight issues on your Mac caused by software-related bugs. However, for hardware-related problems, you may require professional repairs.

1. Restart Your Mac

Restarting your system can resolve various issues, including the keyboard backlight not working on Mac. When you restart your Mac, it clears the memory and reinitializes the system software, resolving software-related issues causing the keyboard backlight to malfunction.

To restart a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner of the screen.
  2. Select Restart from the dropdown menu.
click apple icon and select restart
  1. A confirmation window will appear. Click Restart again.
click restart on the confirmation pop up
  1. Wait for your Mac to shut down and restart. It may take a few minutes.
  2. Once your Mac has restarted, check if the keyboard backlight issue has been resolved.

2. Cleaning the Keyboard

Dust, dirt, or debris can accumulate on the keyboard and interfere with the backlight’s functionality. Cleaning the keyboard can help remove any such buildup and fix the issue. 

Shut down your Mac and start cleaning. Any cleaning solution or moisture should not be used while cleaning the keyboard. These substances can damage the keyboard and cause further problems. 

Instead, a simple dry microfiber cloth or compressed air can be used to remove debris or dirt particles from the keyboard. When cleaning the keyboard, be gentle and avoid applying too much pressure to the keys. Also, use a small brush or toothbrush to remove dirt from the crevices and gaps between the keys.

cleaning mac with a lint free cloth 1

Once the cleaning process is complete, turn on your Mac and check if the keyboard backlight works correctly. If the issue persists, it may indicate a deeper problem with the hardware, and advanced solutions, such as reinstalling macOS or replacing the keyboard, may be required.

Cleaning your keyboard may not help if you have spilled water on your Mac.

3. Adjust the Light Sensor on Mac

Your Macbook has a light sensor at the top of the screen, which can sometimes become locked when exposed to intense direct lighting, such as sunlight. This feature is designed to disable backlighting when it is unnecessary.

laptop in sunlight

To resolve this issue, adjust the positioning of your Macbook to prevent direct light from shining on the display and the front-facing camera.

If the problem persists after adjusting the MacBook’s location, you can proceed to the next troubleshooting method.

4. Adjust Keyboard Brightness

On Mac computers, you can adjust the keyboard brightness if you have a MacBook with a backlit keyboard. You can increase or decrease the brightness level according to your preference.

Here’s how you can adjust the keyboard brightness on a Mac:

  1. Open the System Settings by clicking the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. In the System Settings window, click the Keyboard icon.
  2. In the Keyboard preferences, you will see a slider labeled Keyboard brightness. Move the slider to the right to increase the brightness or to the left to decrease it. As you adjust the slider, the keyboard backlight will change accordingly.
click keyboard and adjust keyboard brightness slider

If your Mac model does not have a backlit keyboard or the option to adjust the keyboard brightness is unavailable in the Keyboard preferences, it means your particular Mac model does not support this feature.

The keyboard backlight brightness may also automatically adjust based on ambient lighting conditions if your Mac has an ambient light sensor. You can disable the automatic adjustment by toggling off the Adjust keyboard brightness in low light option in the Keyboard preferences.

5. Run a Virus Scan on Your Mac

A virus or malware on your Mac wouldn’t directly cause your keyboard backlight not to function properly. The keyboard backlight is a hardware feature controlled by the system software, and viruses typically do not target or interfere with hardware functionality in this manner.

However, malware or viruses can sometimes cause general system instability or software conflicts, indirectly impacting the functioning of certain hardware features, including the keyboard backlight.

If you suspect your Mac is infected with malware or a virus, scan your Mac and remove malicious software. Here’s how to use MacKeeper to run a virus scan on your Mac:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper.
  2. Launch MacKeeper and navigate to the Antivirus tab in the left sidebar.
click antivirus under the security section 6
  1. Initiate an instant virus scan by clicking the Start Scan button.
click start scan in mackeeper antivirus 6
  1. If any viruses are detected during the scan, click the Fix Items button to resolve the issues.
  2. If your system is threat-free, you’ll see a No threats found message. You can tap the Restart button to run the scan again.
no threats found in mackeeper antivirus
  1. Enable real-time antivirus protection to safeguard your Mac from future threats by clicking the Enable button.
click enable to allow real time protection

After you have configured your security settings, MacKeeper will continue to operate in the background, diligently scanning for threats and actively blocking any malicious activity.

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides running a virus scan on your Mac, MacKeeper can remove duplicates, delete junk files, and get rid of unnecessary login items on your Mac. Check out my MacKeeper review to know more about its features.

6. Update Software

Updating software is one of the easiest ways to fix the keyboard backlight not working on Mac. Outdated software can cause conflicts and compatibility issues that may result in the backlight not working correctly. So, keeping your Mac’s software up to date is essential.

Here are the steps to update macOS:

  1. Click the Apple logo in the top-left corner and select System Settings.
click apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Software Update.
click general and select software update
  1. If any updates are available, click Update Now and follow the instructions.
click update now in software update
  1. If the updates require you to restart your Mac, save your work and click Restart.
click apple icon and select restart

7. Reset NVRAM/PRAM

Performing an NVRAM/PRAM reset is helpful when incorrect settings cause the keyboard backlight issue. It will clear any stored settings that might be causing the issue and can help resolve the problem. Resetting the NVRAM/PRAM won’t erase any data from your Mac.

To reset the NVRAM/PRAM on your Mac, follow these steps: 

  1. Shut down your Mac.
  2. Press the Power button to turn on your Mac.
macbook air touch id
  1. Immediately press and hold the Command + Option  + P + R keys.
macbook air option command p r keys
  1. Hold down the keys until you hear the startup sound twice or see the Apple logo twice. Release the keys and let your Mac continue to start up.
  2. This should fix the keyboard backing not working on Mac issue.

8. Reset the SMC

Resetting the System Management Controller (SMC) can fix keyboard backlight issues caused by hardware-related problems. The SMC controls various hardware components on your Mac, including the keyboard backlight.

To reset the SMC on your Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Apple menu in the top-left corner and select Shut Down.
click apple icon and select shut down
  1. Unplug your Mac from the power source if it is connected to a power adapter.
  2. Hold the Shift + Control + Option  keys and the Power button simultaneously on your Mac’s built-in keyboard for about 10 seconds.
macbook air power shift control option keys
  1. After 10 seconds, release all the keys and the Power button.
  2. If your Mac was connected to a power adapter, reconnect it to the power source. Press the Power button to turn on your Mac.

8. Reinstall macOS

Reinstalling the OS is a more advanced solution to fix software-related issues causing the keyboard backlight not to work. However, it is time-consuming and should only be used as a last resort if the previous methods have failed to resolve the issue. Before proceeding with this solution, back up all the important data on your Mac to avoid losing any information.

To reinstall macOS on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Start by backing up all important data on your Mac to an external hard drive or cloud storage service.
  2. Restart your Mac and hold down the Command + R keys until the Apple logo appears.
macbook air command r keys
  1. The Mac will start in recovery mode and see a window with several options.
  2. Select Reinstall macOS and click Continue.
macos recovery screen
  1. Follow the instructions to complete the reinstallation process. Depending on your Mac’s speed and the OS’s size, this may take some time.
  2. Once the reinstallation process is complete, your Mac will restart, and you can check if the keyboard backlight issue has been resolved.

9. Check the Keyboard Backlight Hardware   

Sometimes, the issue with the keyboard backlight not working can be due to a loose connection or faulty hardware component. Checking the keyboard and backlight hardware can identify and fix such issues.

Opening your Mac to check the keyboard backlight hardware involves technical expertise and may void your warranty. Proceed with caution and at your own risk. If you are not experienced in handling computer hardware, I strongly recommend seeking professional assistance or contacting Apple support.

To check the keyboard and backlight hardware, you can follow these steps:

  1. Shut down your Mac and unplug it from the power source.
unplug your macbooks charger
  1. Turn your Mac over and remove the screws from the bottom case.
  2. Carefully lift off the bottom case and set it aside.
lift off the bottom case
  1. Locate the keyboard connector, a ribbon cable connecting the keyboard to the logic board. Ensure the connector is firmly seated in the socket, with no visible signs of damage or corrosion.
  2. Check the backlight cable, a thin cable connecting the keyboard backlight to the logic board. Ensure the cable is properly connected and there are no visible signs of damage or corrosion.
  3. If you notice any loose connections, try disconnecting and reconnecting the cables. You may need to replace the affected component if there are any signs of damage or corrosion.
  4. After checking the keyboard and backlight hardware, reattach the bottom case and screw it back into place.

    Final Thoughts

    A non-functioning keyboard backlight on a Mac can be frustrating, but several solutions can help fix the issue. Here are three tips for preventing and resolving keyboard backlight problems on a Mac:

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Can cleaning the keyboard resolve backlight issues on a Mac?

      Yes, cleaning the keyboard can resolve keyboard backlight issues on a Mac. Dust, dirt, or debris can accumulate on the keyboard and interfere with the backlight’s functionality. Cleaning the keyboard can help remove any such buildup and fix the issue.

    2. When should I replace the keyboard to fix keyboard backlight issues on a Mac?

      You should consider replacing the keyboard to fix keyboard backlight issues on a Mac when all other solutions fail. If the issue persists even after trying software updates, resetting the SMC and NVRAM/PRAM, and cleaning the keyboard, it could be a sign of a hardware issue that requires a keyboard replacement

    3. How can I check if my Mac model supports keyboard backlight?

      You can refer to Apple’s official documentation or your Mac’s specifications to determine if your specific model has a keyboard backlight feature.

    Hashir Ibrahim

    Author

    I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

    Ojash

    Reviewer

    Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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