How to setup a black / blank screensaver on a Mac or Windows computer
Note, this technique should work on any desktop operating system and this technique quite easy to set up. I also realize that Windows offers a Blank screen saver that kind of negates this technique, but here it is anyway. Let’s explore.
I’m starting with the Mac because it seems so much less obvious considering how ‘easy’ it should be for a Mac. One of the things you’ll notice in the screensaver area is that there is no blank or black screen saver. What people have suggested instead of a black screensaver is to enable energy saver. While this works to turn off the backlight and save it, power savings does other unfortunate things to the computer at the same time.
Energy Saver Problems
What problems do you ask? Well, Apple has taken it upon themselves to also shut down a number of other critical components when the power saver is activated. Windows may be doing this as well. Yes, it does turn off the backlight. Unfortunately, with that it also turns the WiFi and networking off. This means that if you have a VPN running, your VPN will disconnect. If your company invests in VPN software which does not self-connect on WiFi reactivation, you’re stuck reentering your passwords and setting up your terminals all over again. Unfortunately, I have no control over the software that’s used by my company and I have to live with it. So, I avoid the energy saver system like the plague to avoid random VPN disconnection.
A Screen Saver?
A little history, a screen saver was used primarily to prevent burn-in on CRT tubes. It’s also distinctly different from power saver mode. Since the days of CRT tubes have long since passed, we are now using LCD screens with LED back or side lights. Some screens are made of OLED technology, which means that each pixel is a self-illuminated RGB LED light. With either of the LCD or OLED technologies, the chance for burn-in is almost non-existent. However, some LCD screens can show latent imagery under certain specific conditions if left sitting with the same image for too long. So, a screen saver is still useful. However, a screen saver is most useful as a screen lock indicator.
Black Screen Saver on Mac
The problem is, the Mac doesn’t offer a black screensaver. It expects to to use images to cycle through or other screen savers like a bouncing clock or a bouncing apple or similar.
However, I just want a simple black screen with no movement at all. You’re not going to burn-in your screen with a simple black surface, even though LCDs don’t really do that. To wit, you’ll notice no settings for that ..
There is no screen saver above that provides a blank or black only screen. So, how do you do it?
Here are the steps:
- Find your current Mac’s screen resolution in Finder using => About This Mac. Then click on Display and look for your resolution. In the below example, you see 1440 x 900. It’ll be whatever your Mac offers.
- Make note of the resolution above and jump to Creating a blank image using The Gimp section.
Blank Screensaver on other operating systems
If you find that your Windows system doesn’t offer a blank screen saver, you can follow these instructions:
- Windows Button => Control Panel => Display
- In Display, click Adjust Resolution
- Make note of screen resolution
- Windows Button => Control Panel => Appearance and Personalization => Display
- In Display, click Change display settings
- When the Settings window opens, make sure it’s still on Display. Then, scroll to the bottom of the right side panel and click Advanced display settings
- Make note of the screen resolution
- Refer to your Preferences and Display settings to find the current screen resolution
Create a blank image using The Gimp
From here, what you’re going to do next is create a blank image in the resolution of your screen. It’s best to cover the entire screen’s pixels with black rather than, say some lower res image like 1024 x 768. This is the reason for discovering the resolution above. Using the full screen resolution prevents unexpected issues with the screen saver’s stretching (or not stretching) the pixels properly. This process can be used on all operating systems that have The Gimp installed.
To create a blank image in The Gimp, use the following:
- Open the Gimp (download it here — it’s free)
- Make sure your foreground and background colors look like so, with black on left top and white on right bottom:
- In the Gimp, File => New…
- Then, type in the resolution you found from from your operating system into the Width and Height fields (making sure to put the correct values in each field).
- Click Advanced Options and change Fill with: to Background Color
- Click, OK
- You should now see an image filled with black.
- Save the image using File => Export As… and type in a filename and change the file type from .png to .jpg to make the image smaller. Be sure to remember the folder where you are about to save your file.
- Click the Export button
- In the Export image as JPEG window, click the Export button
- You now have a new black image in the resolution of your screen.
- From the GIMP menu => Quit GIMP
Now that you have a saved blank image, you need to add it to a list of images where your screen saver looks.
Adding this image to the Mac screen saver
This is a fairly simple concept. You will now use this newly created black image as your only screen saver image. So, no matter what the cycle rate is, it will always cycle back to this same blank image all of the time.
Here’s what I did on the Mac. I created a folder called black-image under my Pictures directory. I’ve placed my newly created image into /Users/myuser/Pictures/black-image/black-image.jpg. I’ve put it in a separate folder because that’s how Mac finds images… by folder. Now, select the folder in the screen saver settings like so:
Where the arrow points, click that selection area, it will open a file requester and then choose the folder where your new black-image.jpg file is. Once you set it here, your screen will turn black when the screen saver activates (as in my case, in 30 minutes).
Windows or Linux
While I know that Windows has a Blank screen saver built-in, you can also use this technique by choosing the screen saver as Photos, then choose the folder where your blank-image is located. For Linux, simply perform the same setup using your preferences to select the photo folder where your save black-image.jpg exists. Once you do this, the screen saver will only show that single black image once the screen saver has activated.
This is actually the safest technique rather than relying on plugins or programs to provide a black screen. It will also continue to work should Microsoft decide, in their infinite wisdom, to be like Mac and remove the Blank screen saver in the next version of Windows.
I prefer this technique to using the power saver because of the issues mentioned above. This allows me to set up a black screen with the backlight still on which also keeps my VPN active. Of course, if you don’t deal with VPNs, then by all means use the power saver.
If this tutorial was helpful to you, please leave a comment below and let me know.