Turn off the Mac's volume/brightness screen overlays/HUDs

22 January 2016, 04:33

Whenever you adjust the screen brightness or audio volume on a Mac you’ll see a small grey box overlay appear showing the current setting. This is sometimes known as a head-up display, or HUD.

Some people find it annoying, especially if they’re watching a movie because it can obscure the screen for several seconds before it disappears.

Here’s how to turn it off.

Turning off temporarily
To turn off the on-screen volume and brightness displays, open a Terminal window (you’ll find it in the Utilites folder of the Applications list) and paste in the following, which should be copied and pasted as a single line:

 launchctl unload -F /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.BezelUI.plist

Restoring the overlay/HUD is easy: you’ll just need to log out and back in again, or simply restart your Mac.

Turning off permanently
To turn off the on-screen volume and brightness displays permanently, again open a Terminal window (as described above) and paste-in the following, which again should be copied and pasted as a single line:

 launchctl unload -wF /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.BezelUI.plist

To turn them back on again, open the Terminal window and paste-in the following, which again should be copied and pasted as a single line, before logging out and back in again, or restarting your Mac,:

 launchctl load -wF /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.BezelUI.plist

Leave a comment...

Only yesterday I was thinking it was time these overlays could be made smaller now.

Michael Quinn · Feb 3, 02:49 AM · #

It appears that this no longer works with macOS Sierra. Any chance of an alternative workaround? This was an EXCELLENT tip, allowing me to turn up or down the volume during a presentation, without having the audience ever see the bezel. Thanks!

dm · Oct 3, 06:09 PM · #

I second dm’s comment – if you can post a way to address this for Sierra, my students and I would really appreciate it!

— Dave M. · Oct 16, 10:48 AM · #

Is there any way to do this on Sierra? Seems the bezel file is gone.

For a company so obsessed with subtly, the heads up displays are such an awful design feature. It’s shocking that you can’t turn them off.

— Mark · Nov 2, 04:11 PM · #

I want this for Sierra too. I am doing time-laps recordings of my work and I keep forgetting that I can’t change volume or screen brightness while doing this.

My Guess is Apple see this as a form of brand badging and don’t want it to be hidden lest someone makes their own theme and pass it off as something else in some TV show or Movie. Wouldn’t be the first time. I think this is the #1 reason we are only given rudimentary appearance changing preferences. There are some really cool things that would require a single checkbox and label. But no Apple stick with the annoying thing that you can’t turn off because it’s distinctive to them.

— EkDor · Nov 26, 10:03 PM · #

Hey, this might be a little late (especially since this tip doesn’t work on Sierra), but I wrote an nearly identical Apple Stack Exchange answer a few months before this was published.

My answer was the top Google result for this even before your article was published, so I’m assuming you got this tip from there.

The footer of every Stack Exchange page says “user contributions licensed under cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required,” so a link back to my original answer would have been nice:

Asking for attribution might seem selfish, but it benefits everyone. More traffic from your site will probably generate more votes for the answer, which will in turn encourage people like me to write more good answers that you can use for your site. :) Happy holidays!

— Sean Zhu · Dec 22, 06:19 PM · #

Hi Sean – Keir here, and I write this blog.

Many tips I discover myself – I spent a lot of time hacking OS X for my book Mac Kung Fu, attempting to find the likes of “default writes”. I’m a little offended that you automatically assume that I stole this, and rather bemused you automatically assume I stole it from you.

As it happens though you’re actually right in the first count — I didn’t uncover this tip but I’ve also no idea where I found it. I seem to recall it being something of a classic tip out there anyway, around for some time before I wrote this piece. You might’ve discovered it independently but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t already out there.

I’m sorry Google places my piece above what you wrote, but that’s something you’ll need to speak to them about. I don’t practice SEO tactics here above the basics of ensuring the title mentions what the piece is about. Ironically this lack of aggressive SEO tactics might be why I’m getting higher spots than some other sites. But ultimately I don’t know.

Keir · Dec 23, 12:48 AM · #

Hi Keir, in retrospect my comment was a little condescending, so thanks for taking the time to respond to it despite that. I’d also like to refine and take back some of my original statements here.

I understand that you discover a lot of tips yourself, and I’m sorry that it felt like I was attacking your persona. I didn’t read your other posts, so I just want to clarify, I was just talking about this piece alone.

You stated that you’re a little offended that I thought you stole this. I did assume, but I didn’t just automatically assume that you copied it. I noticed a substantial similarity between your post and my answer, not just in content but the way the content is ordered and grouped. Maybe my judgment is off, but my opinion is that it’s too similar to have been not at least inspired by mine.

I think there was another misunderstanding, but I would not feel bad if your answer ranked above mine in SEO. In fact, the more people who this tip can reach, the better! All I was saying is that if the tip was taken from Stack Exchange, you should put an attribution link back per the Stack Exchange license. However, given that you didn’t remember where you got the tip from when you wrote this article, not putting one is understandably totally okay.

Thanks again for taking your time to respond to comments!

— Sean Zhu · Jan 2, 02:07 PM · #

Hi Sean

Thanks for the reply.

You’re making a pretty serious accusation and I must respond to it.

What you say doesn’t make much sense based on how most people, including me, write blog postings. Creating a structure for a posting is something so trivial and easy that the idea of stealing one from somebody else makes little sense. There’s only a limited number of ways “tips” posts like this can be written – usually an intro explaining the problem, a paragraph mentioning other potential cures, then paragraphs discussing the “new” cure. As a professional writer (I’ve been writing about computers since 1997) I try to keep my copy concise, whereas other bloggers tend to include much more personal info. This conciseness is perhaps exasperating the problem here because there isn’t a lot to distinguish this posting as specifically written by me.

I took a look at your posting at Stack Exchange just now and can see there are two headings that are similar although your post has three. If I recall, however, when I first wrote this I didn’t actually have ANY headings. I added them in later because a reader complained it was hard to follow. I also recall looking up the correct flags for the launchctl flags in its man page because I think the source I got this from got it wrong. But I can barely remember because I wrote this a year ago now, and write a lot for this blog.

I’ve noticed based on things I’ve discovered that the nature of tech blogging is one of unashamed theft. Do you remember the “select text in a Quick Look window” trick from a few years ago? I discovered that via the OS X hacking I mentioned earlier. I googled the exact defaults-write flag at the time and it was nowhere online, so I was 100% sure I was original. I shared it in a blog posting not long after to publicise my book. Suddenly every blog wrote about it, and not one person linked back to me. Ask people now and they won’t have a clue it was me who came up with it. Nor will they care. Google it now and you’ll find other sites that stole it coming out way on top of mine.

If you share tips online then, yes, people will steal then and, no, they will not give you credit. I’m not saying that happened in this instance. I’m just trying to help you understand the nature of writing tips. Expect theft!

Keir · Jan 2, 02:28 PM · #

Hi Keir, I think your willingness to be open this situation speaks much more than whatever conclusions I jumped to earlier. I see your side now, thanks for explaining!

— Sean Zhu · Mar 25, 03:51 PM · #

It is very clear thank you!
I was wondering, do you know how I could move up the screen ? Because I make music with Ableton and every time I change the volume it overlays my effects rack and it makes me want to throw my mac through the window…

Thank you and sorry if my english isn’t good, I’m from France :)

— Air · Apr 13, 11:24 AM · #

Does anyone know how to do this on macOS Catalina? I’ve tried the above code, but it doesn’t help for me.

Bert Visscher · Jan 24, 03:00 PM · #