How to use the power button in OS X Mavericks: It's just like your iPhone and iPad now

If you've upgraded your Mac to OS X Mavericks, you may have already noticed that the physical power button behaves differently when pressed than it did in previous versions of OS X. As it turns out, Apple has brought some of iOS to the Mac when it comes to powering up and shutting down. Here's what's changed and what you need to know:

Video Walkthrough

How to put your Mac to sleep

Putting your Mac to sleep in OS X Mavericks couldn't be easier. Just tap on the power button. That's it. Your monitor will turn off and your Mac will sleep. To wake it up again, simply tap the power button again. If you have a passcode set on your Mac, you'll be asked to enter it in order to go back to what you were doing.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, this behavior should sound very familiar to you since it's essentially the same thing you would do to put any iOS device to sleep and wake it back up again.

How to restart or shut down your Mac

There are a few ways to shut down your Mac but the easiest by far is by simply holding the power button for about 2 seconds. A dialog pops up asking you what you'd like to do. Your options under OS X Mavericks are Restart, Sleep, Shut Down, and Cancel. Choose your option and you're done, no menus or additional mouse clicks needed.

Again, for those that use iOS, this is pretty much the same as holding down the power button on an iPhone or iPad and sliding to power off. Considering iPhones and iPads don't have a restart option, it's a little different. If they did, I'd bet this is exactly where you'd find it.

How to force your Mac to shut down

Just like any other computer, a Mac can occasionally freeze up due to an app that isn't responding or an operating system error. If this happens, simply hold down the power button on your Mac until the screen turns off. Ignore any prompts that come up. This behavior hasn't changed over time and has always remained the same.

This one is a little different than iOS but not by much. If it sounds familiar to how you'd hard reboot an iPhone or an iPad, you'd be right, minus the Home button part on iOS.

The bottom line

OS X took a lot of cues from iOS where Mavericks is concerned. The power button functionality being changed was one that left quite a few Mac users scratching their heads. Hopefully this helps explain not only how it's changed, but perhaps why Apple changed it. Whether we like it or not, it seems to be here to stay.

Just think of how you'd turn your iPhone or iPad on or off and apply the same principles to your Mac running OS X Mavericks and you'll be in good shape.

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • Occasionally I fat-finger the power button on my rMBP on accident. Does this sleep function in Mavericks activate after accidental bumps of the button or do you have to press it with some intention? This function makes sense to me as an iOS user but I guess it'll take some getting used to. Sent from the iMore App
  • Unfortunately I've hit the power button on accident on my Air. So it's pretty touchy.
  • Guess I'll have to be extra careful when aiming for the adjacent F12 key! Sent from the iMore App
  • I didn't realize the sleep function. I think it may come in useful. I've already configured a hot corner for display sleep. So another shortcut for computer sleep is nice. Sent from the iMore App
  • Although I'm very familiar with the power button functionality I did want to say that the video walkthrough is awesome! Love videos. Thanks Ally!
    :D Sent from the iMore App
  • Wow! Didn't know this. Great tip as always. I really enjoy the tips provided by you guys. Great job! Sent from the iMore App
  • You should note that force-rebooting your Mac by holding down the power button can cause serious directory damage, and should only ever be used as a last resort.
  • Yes. Forcing your max to quit can be very hazardous to its health. My Graphite iMac had its firmware damaged because of this one time long, long ago.
    ... Talk about a big paper weight! Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm glad we can change it. I tend to hit the power key by accident. Sent from the iMore App
  • They need to institute a double-tap or squeeze in a 1-second press on then Power button on the Mac or the Sleep/Wake button on iOS devices to force-lock it. I don't always want to wait for the device's timeout of 1 minute or more to require the password/passcode. Sent from the iMore App
  • Wow didn't know about the sleep feature. Thanks iMore well definitely be using this in class when the professor rants on about a particular PowerPoint slide to save me power for the rest of the day! Sent from the iMore App
  • Power on or shutdown. I don't know why but I have never used Sleep option on my now busted laptop. Sent from the iMore App
  • How to put your Mac to sleep: close the lid and you're done :D