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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Escaping a stuck screensaver on the Mac

Note: This story has not been updated since 2021.

This afternoon I set my iMac to update to macOS 11.3, walked away, and when I came back, was greeted with the soothing sight of jellyfish on my screensaver. But when I tried to wake my Mac by tapping the trackpad or the keyboard, nothing happened.


I tried plugging in the wireless keyboard and trackpad in turns, no dice. I tried screen sharing in from my iPhone and got to see the same jellyfish, just smaller.

Normally at this point, I’d probably end up going for the hard reboot by holding down the power button, but as I’d told it to start running an update, I was reluctant to go for the nuclear option.

What to do?

A search turned up one keyboard shortcut that didn’t help (control-shift-Eject), and then one that did:

What eventually worked for me, I didn’t find elsewhere:



And voila, so it did! So the next time you get locked out at your Mac’s screensaver, try this before reaching for that power button. It might save you some time.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at or reach him by email at His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]

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