MacBook Clamshell Mode Constantly: Safe?

Here’s whether it’s safe to constantly leave your MacBook in clamshell mode:

In most cases, you can leave your MacBook in clamshell mode without any problem. 

Apple has designed MacBooks to work with clamshell mode, so there is very little risk in leaving your Mac in this mode. 

Just make sure your MacBook doesn’t get too hot if you’re performing resource-intensive tasks.

So if you want to learn all about how a constant MacBook clamshell mode affects your MacBook exactly, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

MacBook Clamshell Mode Constantly: Safe? (All the Info)

What Is MacBook Clamshell Mode?

Clamshell mode allows you to close your MacBook’s lid and use an external monitor to control your computer. 

This is sometimes also called closed-display mode. Using your computer in this setting makes it act more like a desktop. 

You can fill your desk up with peripherals to make for a far more comfortable experience than using the laptop alone.

While it is easy to switch between using your laptop like normal and clamshell mode, some people choose to only use clamshell mode. 

And that’s no problem at all–Apple knows some people will do this and designs their computers with it in mind.

Why Would You Want to Use MacBook Clamshell Mode?

You’ll find that with the right setup you can have a much better experience in clamshell mode.

Going from a 13-inch laptop screen to a 24-inch monitor provides a substantially different experience. 

You could even use more than one monitor to maximize your productivity. 

Likewise, having an actual mouse means navigating web pages, menus, and apps is far easier than before where you were stuck using the trackpad.

If your hands were uncomfortably warm when resting on top of your MacBook, then having a standalone keyboard will be much more comfortable. 

You also have more ergonomic freedom to devise a workspace that feels comfortable for your hands.

In short, most things just get easier in clamshell mode. It allows you to have a desktop setup without the bulk of a desktop computer.

What Do You Need for MacBook Clamshell Mode?

To get clammy (it’s a good thing) you’ll need:

  1. Your MacBook and its power adapter
  2. At least one monitor and its required cables
  3. A wired or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard

You should keep your Macbook plugged into power prior to and during clamshell mode.

Next, plug in your monitor. 

Don’t worry if you do not have the compatible ports for it on your Macbook, there are ways around that problem.

Then, connect your mouse and keyboard. If they are Bluetooth, you may have to pair them to your Macbook.

After that, you can close the laptop and continue to use your laptop via the monitor you set up. 

Some Macbooks may require you to move the mouse a bit or press a button on the keyboard to initialize clamshell mode.

What If Your Macbook Does Not Have a Port That Fits Your Monitor?

There are products that can help you fix this problem. 

Most modern monitors support HDMI, while some MacBooks only have USB-C ports built-in.

Purchasing a USB-C multiport adapter that supports your monitor may be a necessary step to begin working in clamshell mode. 

Your monitor will be able to plug into this device, and then you will plug the adapter into your computer so that you can use it.

Apple sells a large variety of adapters, but you can also find them elsewhere. 

Just make sure to double-check the adapter fits both your monitor and your MacBook.

Are You Losing Any Features When Using MacBook Clamshell Mode?

There are a few downsides of clamshell mode.

Of course, while in clamshell mode you are a lot less mobile. 

If you want to move the whole setup, it is a lot harder than just picking up your laptop.

Meanwhile, MacBooks with Touch ID will need to be unlocked with your user password instead of your fingerprint while the laptop lid is closed. 

Touchbars will similarly be inaccessible.

Since MacBooks use the keyboard area to house speakers, sound might be slightly muffled by the closed lid. 

That said, if the minor difference in audio quality bothers you, then external speakers or headphones may be a good option for you.

Depending on your external monitor, the picture displayed on your MacBook screen might more accurately display colors and have a smoother image.

What Are the Risks of MacBook Clamshell Mode?

Constant use of clamshell mode is not very risky at all. The biggest problem clamshell can potentially cause is overheating.

Normally, some of the heat produced by your MacBook leaves the laptop through the keyboard area. 

Since the closed laptop lid in clamshell mode is preventing this, MacBooks tend to run a bit hotter when configured this way.

Depending on the resolution of your monitor and how many monitors you hook up, the laptop might run warmer due to the heavier video processing load it is under as well.

As long as you are not doing constant resource-intensive work you should not have much to worry about.

How Is Battery Life Affected by MacBook Clamshell Mode?

All Apple devices have Lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are carefully managed by your device to maximize longevity.

Leaving your MacBook constantly plugged in will not cause your battery to wear out faster. 

Clamshell mode does not reduce your MacBooks battery capacity or cause it to drain more quickly when running off battery power.

I’ll go into more detail on this later.

What Are the Dangers of Overheating in MacBook Clamshell Mode?

While the risk of your MacBook overheating because of clamshell mode is small, it’s important to be aware of the possibility.

Overheating can cause permanent damage to your MacBook’s sensitive components. Some laptops can even get hot enough to burn you.

MacBooks should automatically shut down when approaching temperatures that threaten their internal components. 

If your MacBook performs an automatic shut-down, you may lose unsaved work and other information.

Higher temperatures also reduce your MacBook’s performance. 

The guts of your computer run much better when operating at cooler temperatures.

When running hot, your computer will also be less energy efficient and less effective because they reduce their clockspeed to try to cool themselves.

How Can You Tell If Your MacBook is Overheating?

Your MacBook should always have an ambient temperature between 50°F to 95°F (10° to 35°C)

That means the outside of the laptop should not be warmer than your body. 

The internal components of your MacBook will be much hotter than the ambient temperature. 

In fact, the dangerous territory where MacBooks risk overheating is beyond 192°F (89°C).

Many MacBooks have an internal fan which helps cool their hardware down. 

If the fan is much louder than normal, that means it is working extra hard to cool your computer down. 

Note that the new MacBook Airs with M1 chips do not have fans, so it is less obvious when they are heating up.

So, how do you know if it’s too hot? 

You can use the Activity Monitor app to view the internal temperatures and verify that they are still safe. 

You can also feel the laptop to see how hot it is. 

If it is uncomfortable to the touch, fire up the Activity Monitor and see exactly how things are running.

What Should You Do If Your MacBook is Getting Too Hot?

If you are worried about the temperature of your device, you can do a few things to help reduce it.

The simplest step is to ensure your MacBook is in a good, well-ventilated spot. 

If you have it stuffed inside a bag, or resting atop a rug or carpet, move it to a better spot for heat dissipation.

A hard, flat surface will allow the air to flow to and from your MacBook much more easily in order to cool it down.

If that’s not enough, you can look into purchasing a docking stand. Docking stands give you a well-ventilated place to rest your MacBook. 

Some docks even come with fans built into them for extra cooling. There are docks that are specifically designed for MacBooks, but a generic dock can work just fine.

Close Unused Programs

Don’t forget to close programs you are no longer using. 

Open programs can be hogging resources and making your laptop run warmer and slower. 

Remember that you are fully quitting the app and not just minimizing the window to the background.

You can view how much different applications are using your processor by viewing the CPU tab in the Activity Monitor.

If you can’t find the Activity Monitor, search for it in Spotlight, the magnifying glass in the top right of your screen.

Once in Spotlight, you can click on the % CPU column to see which apps are causing the most strain on your computer. 

If you see an app that is hogging your processor you might want to see if you can reduce its impact or close it entirely.

Why Is MacBook Clamshell Mode Safe for Your Battery?

Lithium-ion batteries found inside MacBooks do not risk a decreased lifespan from being constantly plugged into power. 

Overcharging is not a concern for these batteries.

When you are using a fully charged MacBook while it is plugged in, the power is being drawn from the power adapter, not the battery

That means you are not placing any additional strain on your battery.

That said, your MacBook’s battery will still eventually wear down regardless of whether it is left in clamshell mode. 

Lithium-ion batteries tend to start losing capacity after 500 charging cycles.

Even when left plugged in, your MacBook’s battery will lose some charge over time and simply be topped off as it does. 

This means that eventually, the battery will still wear out. 

That said, batteries tend to last longer for users who utilize clamshell mode.

Monitor Your Battery if Your MacBook Is Getting Hot

If your MacBook is getting hot, from use or from external factors, it can be bad for the battery. 

Heat can cause the battery to swell and become a fire hazard.

Typical use will not cause this to happen, and it is very rare for the battery to become a safety concern.

You might be able to spot a swollen battery if you notice your trackpad or keys are slightly out of place and not as flat as they used to be.

Batteries can also swell as a result of normal aging

If the chemical reaction inside the battery no longer completes perfectly, it may become swollen.

Looking for Alternatives to MacBook Clamshell?

If you plan to permanently work from a desk, you may not need a MacBook. 

Apple offers desktop computers that can streamline your experience.

The Mac Pro is Apple’s most powerful computer. 

Though it is larger, it has a lot of power and is much more suited to handle resource-intensive tasks than any other Apple device.

The Mac mini is an economical desktop computer for those that desire the Mac experience. 

Its compact size allows it to easily fit on any desk.

The iMac is a relatively compact all-in-one computer. That means it has a built-in screen without the bulk of a tower computer.

You’ll still need a monitor if you plan on using a Mac Pro or a Mac mini. 

The Mac Pro and iMac come with Apple’s magic mouse and keyboard, but the Mac mini is sold without any peripherals.

Do Windows Laptops have Clamshell Mode?

While it is not called clamshell mode in Windows, you can have the same experience on Windows laptops. 

After you tweak a setting, that is.

By default, Windows will put a laptop to sleep when you close its lid. That means you’ll lose picture on your monitor when you close it up.

To fix this, you’ll need to go to the Control Panel. From there, navigate to Hardware and Sound, then Power Options.

Then you’ll be given the option to change what closing the lid does. 

Instead of putting the laptop to sleep, select “Do nothing” from the drop-down menu.

Now you’re good to go so long as you have your peripherals plugged in.