How to Adjust Keyboard Brightness on MacBook Air

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Khamosh Pathak

When you’re in a dark room, you can increase the brightness of the keyboard on your MacBook Air to make typing easier. There are two ways to do this: using the function keys on your keyboard or the Control Center in macOS.

Adjust the keyboard brightness on an Intel MacBook Air

If you’re using a MacBook Air that was made before the 2020 MacBook Air M1 (when Apple transitioned to its own Apple Silicon chip), it’s actually quite easy to manually adjust the keyboard brightness.

RELATED: How to check if your Mac is using an Intel or Apple Silicon processor

On your MacBook Air keyboard, press the F5 key to decrease keyboard brightness and press the F6 key to increase keyboard brightness.

Increase or decrease keyboard brightness on the MacBook Air keyboard

Adjust the keyboard brightness on an Apple Silicon MacBook Air

With the introduction of the 2020 MacBook Air with an M1 chip, Apple changed the keyboard layout of the MacBook Air. The company replaced the Launchpad and keyboard brightness control keys with Spotlight, Dictation, and Do Not Disturb buttons.

MacBook Air 2020 M1 keyboard with new keys

So how do you increase keyboard brightness or enable keyboard light on your Macbook Air now that the keys are missing? You can simply use the Keyboard Brightness slider from Control Center. Alternatively, you can install a third-party app to remap the F5 and F6 keys to the old keyboard brightness behavior.

Adjust keyboard brightness using Control Center on Mac

You’ll find a dedicated Keyboard Brightness module in the macOS Control Center (available in macOS Big Sur and above).

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RELATED: How to use Control Center on Mac

To get started, click the Control Center icon (next to the date and time).

Click Control Center from the menu bar on Mac

Here, select the “Keyboard Brightness” button.

Click Keyboard Brightness Control

Then use the slider to increase or decrease the brightness of the keyboard.

Use the slider to increase or decrease the brightness of the keyboard

If you often find yourself adjusting your keyboard brightness, you can pin the Keyboard Brightness control to the menu bar.

Open Control Center, click the “Keyboard Brightness” control, and drag it to the menu bar.

Move the keyboard brightness module to the menu bar

Clicking the Keyboard Brightness icon in the menu bar will now instantly display the brightness slider.

Use the keyboard brightness control from the menu bar

Remap keyboard brightness keys on MacBook Air

While keyboard brightness control is nice, you may still want to use the hard keys to control keyboard brightness, especially if you don’t find much use for the Dictation and Do Not Disturb function keys on your Mac.

Fortunately, you can get back to the old behavior using a simple app. All you need to do is install the Karabiner Elements app. It is a stable, free and open source keymapping tool for macOS. Your default profile will automatically restore the keyboard’s brightness function keys.

Once you have downloaded and installed the Karabiner Elements app, you will need to allow the app to control your keyboard input so that it can remap the keys.

On macOS, you’ll need to give the app express permission from the System Preferences menu.

Click the Apple icon in the menu bar and choose the “System Preferences” option to get started.

Select System Preferences from the Apple menu in Big Sur

Then go to the “Security and privacy” section.

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Click Security & Privacy in System Preferences

Here, select the “Privacy” tab and click the lock button so you can make changes.

Click the lock button

Scan your fingerprint with Touch ID or enter your password to unlock the settings.

Authenticate using Touch ID or password on Mac

In the “Input monitoring” section, click the check mark next to the “karabiner_grabber” and “karabiner_observer” options.

Enable carabiner options

You can now close the System Preferences window.

Go back to the Karabiner Elements app and go to the “Function Keys” tab. Here, make sure that the F5 key is selected as “light_decrease” and that the F6 key is assigned to the “light_increase” option.

Carabiner Default Profile

Finally, press the F5 key to decrease the keyboard brightness and the F6 key to increase it. If this doesn’t work right away, close and restart the Karabiner Elements app.

And that is. You have now restored the original keyboard brightness controls for the MacBook Air keyboard.

Did you know that the Control Center in macOS is customizable? Here’s how to add and remove Control Center modules on your Mac.

RELATED: How to customize Control Center on Mac

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