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How To: Customize Your Screen Saver & Sleep Settings

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Ever find your computer going to sleep on you when you don’t want it to? Or starting up your screen saver while you’re trying to work?

Good news: MacBooks and iMacs make it easy to create screen saver and display sleep settings that perfectly suit your needs.

Assuming you’re using Max OS X 10.6.x, aka Snow Leopard, you can change all of your display settings by clicking the “System Preferences” icon in your dock. It looks like this.

Screen Saver

In the System Preferences menu, click on “Desktop & Screen Saver.” Select the Screen Saver tab at the top. OS X comes with 8 built-in screen savers that you can choose from; these are the ones with the kinds of snazzy graphic effects that Apple just loves to show off. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can select the “Options” button and customize things like the screen saver’s speed and colors.

Under the built-in screen savers, you’ll see a list called Photos. Here, you can choose to use some built-in, high-res photos display as your screen saver, or you can use your own pictures. (Your pictures must exist inside iPhoto for System Preferences to be able to use them.) If you select the “Shuffle” option at the very top of the list, a new window will pop up to let you select which of your pictures to include in the rotation.

One very important option in the Screen Saver window is the “Start Screen Saver” slider. Use this to tell your computer how long it should wait, after your last activity, before automatically starting up the screen saver. And since the system sleep options are on similar timers, typically you’ll want your system to go to sleep a good while after your screen saver starts up.

Putting Your Computer to Sleep

Back out on the main System Preferences menu, click on “Energy Saver.” These settings may seem unnecessary to new users, but they’re really quite essential to keeping your system running smoothly for a long, long time.

There are a lot of options on this screen, but I’m only going to focus on the ones you need to worry about. The first thing MacBook users will notice are the two tabs at the top labeled “Battery” and “Power Adapter.” iMac users only have the Power Adapter to worry about. Both have their own energy settings. Your Power Adapter can be set to go to sleep significantly longer than your Battery; after all, when you’re running on battery power, every second counts!

There are two sliders: one for the monitor, and one for the entire computer. Generally you’ll want your monitor to go to sleep much sooner than your entire system, because a lot of times you might be running something in the background (such as a big download) that you don’t want interrupted, but you don’t need to keep a close eye on it. It’s best to put the screen to sleep as early as you’re comfortable with, because monitors are power hogs and every minute you use it is one minute less that it has left to live (in the long run).

For the power adapter, I generally set my screen to go to sleep after 15 to 30 minutes, and my system at least an hour later. Many times, I leave my system on “Never,” so that it won’t ever shut down. This is a bit more strenuous on the computer and the hard drive, but it’s good for things like Time Machine’s automated backups.

When running strictly off of the battery, I let my display sleep after 2 minutes, and my laptop after 10 minutes, to conserve as much of the battery’s juice as possible. This makes the screen saver moot, since it’s set to kick in after 5 minutes, but that’s okay. Screen savers drain battery power, too.

These settings work for me, but they aren’t what’s best for everyone. Depending on what you use your computer for, you should tweak the default settings so that your computer is running at optimum conditions for your needs.

Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo is a technology enthusiast and digital strategist with a fervent passion for Apple products and the innovative technologies that orbit them. With a background in computer science and a decade of experience in app development and digital marketing, Kossi brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to the Apple Gazette team.

2 thoughts on “How To: Customize Your Screen Saver & Sleep Settings

  1. I have an Imac operating on OS High Sierra. I am an artist and I want to keep a jpeg up on my screen for reference while I work but the screensaver comes on in place of my jpeg. I have tried changing the display settings in system preferences and caffeinate in the terminal in utilities. Any answers?

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