Does Your Phone or Tablet or Computer Screen Turn Black Too Quickly?
Does this happen to you? You pause to think or talk to someone, and then your computer, smartphone, or tablet screen dims or turns black after a minute (or less). You then have to tap your keyboard or touch your device screen to bring it back, and you may also have to re-enter your passcode or password if prompted.
This happens so often that you do it almost without thinking about it, and you’ve accepted that this is just how it works.
It doesn’t have to be this way! There are settings that let you adjust this behavior.
Auto-lock or Screen timeout
Your computer or smartphone or tablet becoming locked after a (sometimes very short) period of time is a security feature, intended to protect your device (and the private data it probably contains) from being accessed or stolen by unauthorized people. Unfortunately, security is often at odds with convenience.
Many users aren’t aware that they can adjust this setting, which can be especially irritating if it’s set to lock after 30 seconds of inactivity.
How to adjust this
On an iPhone or iPad there is one setting:
- Settings->Display & Brightness->Auto-Lock
On an Android device there are two settings:
- Settings->Display (or Display & brightness or Screen)->Sleep (or Timeout or Screen timeout or Auto screen off)
- If your device has a “Screen lock” (typically a PIN or password or gesture to unlock it), then you can adjust the period of inactivity before it will lock. Go to: Settings->Security->Automatically lock
On a Microsoft Windows computer:
- Control Panel->Power Options->Choose when to turn off the display
- On Windows 10 and 11 you can also go to: Settings->Personalization->Lock screen->Screen timeout settings
You’ll need to adjust settings for both the display (screen) and sleep, and if you’ve got a laptop, there are settings for both “on battery power” and “when plugged in.”
On a Macintosh:
- For an older Mac: Apple->System Preferences->Energy Saver
- For a newer Mac: Apple->System Settings, and then click Energy Saver, Battery, or Displays, depending on the MacOS version and whether you’ve got a laptop or desktop computer
What I typically recommend
For a mobile device:
- For most people, 3 or 5 minutes is a reasonable choice that balances security, convenience, and battery life.
For a laptop or desktop computer:
- For many users, 1 to 3 hours is a reasonable choice for the screen to turn off.
- However, many computers have scheduled tasks (like antivirus scans, backup, etc.) that will run if the screen is off, but not if the computer is sleeping. For those situations, I recommend “Never” for the Sleep setting, which means that if you want it to go to sleep you’ll have to do that manually, either by choosing the Sleep command or (for a laptop) closing the lid, assuming that you haven't changed (or overridden) the default behavior to go to sleep when the lid is closed.
- Note that Macintoshes running MacOS 10.13 High Sierra or later have a special “Power Nap” option that permits some tasks to run even while the computer is sleeping, including system software updates and Time Machine backups.
Where to go from here
For any of the searches below, replace “X” with iPhone, iPad, Windows, or Macintosh:
- google: X auto-lock
- google: X screen lock
- google: X sleep settings