A Computer Prepares

Note: This page was last updated on May 29, 2020 to reflect our most up-to-date research on the subject, and to reflect changes in macOS Catalina (10.15).

There are a number of programs, processes, and tasks that your Mac runs either periodically or all the time in the background. Many of these programs are essential, but many are not and disabling them will increase the total percentage of your computer’s resources which are available to QLab.

What follows here is a list of the programs or processes which we recommend disabling, and instructions for doing so. This section presupposes a basic understanding of macOS and at least a passing familiarity with the Terminal.

Click here to download our “Prep and Restore” workspace (current version: 5.2020). The workspace contains two Script cues. The first one executes all the prep steps below, not including the video-specific ones, that require Terminal commands. The other Script cue reverses these steps.

The current version of this workspace behaves slightly differently from earlier versions, mostly because macOS Catalina requires a different approach to achieve the desired results. The scripts will ask for your password two separate times because these commands require administrator privileges. Nothing sneaky is going on; nothing is stored or transmitted.

Disable Spotlight

Spotlight periodically updates its index of all files on all attached disks, and this updating can cause the disk to be momentarily unavailable to QLab. This can cause late cues or stuttering in playback. To prevent Spotlight from updating its index, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

sudo mdutil -a -i off

Disable Display Sleep, Disk Spindown, and System Sleep

Obviously we don’t want our computer going to sleep during a show. macOS has independent sleep intervals for the display, the hard disk, and the whole system. To prevent all three kinds of sleeping, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

sudo pmset -a displaysleep 0 disksleep 0 sleep 0

The built-in disk on most modern Macs is an SSD, solid state drive, which does not have any moving parts. The moniker “spindown” therefore is no longer exactly appropriate; nothing is spinning, nothing spins down. However, this setting is still sometimes used for SSDs which have a low-power “idle” state.

Disable Screen Saver

Likewise, we don’t want the screen saver coming up, particularly if QLab is running video. To prevent that from happening, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

defaults -currentHost write com.apple.screensaver idleTime 0

Disable Time Machine

Backups are wonderful. You should back up everything as often as possible. But on a computer used for your show, backups should only be done manually. Time Machine, much like Spotlight, uses indexing and background processes which can take hold of the disk at inopportune moments. To shut off Time Machine, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

sudo tmutil disable

Disable Software Update

You don’t want your computer trying to update software in the middle of a run, let alone in the middle of a performance. To disable Software Update, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

sudo softwareupdate --schedule off

Disable Dashboard

The Dashboard was removed from macOS Catalina. If your Mac is running Catalina or later, skip this step.

If your Mac is running an earlier version of macOS, however, the Dashboard remains a pernicious little vampire of CPU time and network access. Also, if accidentally invoked, it takes over the screen of your Mac entirely, which can be surprising and confusing and lead to missed cues. To disable Dashboard entirely, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard mcx-disabled -boolean YES

Alternately, you can disable Dashboard on macOS El Capitan (10.11) through Mojave (10.14) using System Preferences:

  1. Open System Preferences;
  2. Choose Mission Control;
  3. Set Dashboard to “Off”

Disable Photos Processing and Cloud Services

Apple’s Photos app does a huge amount of background processing, include face and object detection. The only way to make sure that Photos doesn’t keep your Mac busy whenever it thinks the system is idle (a.k.a. during standby), make sure the Mac isn’t connected to your iCloud photo library.

  1. Open Photos;
  2. Choose Preferences from the Photos menu;
  3. Click iCloud;
  4. Uncheck the box marked “iCloud Photo Library”.

Log Out of iCloud

Even when your Mac is offline, iCloud is surprisingly assertive about checking in with the iCloud servers in Apple’s data centers. Logging out of iCloud ensures that this check-in process doesn’t claim processor power when you need it.

  1. Open System Preferences;
  2. Choose iCloud;
  3. Click “Sign Out”.

Minimize Internet Accounts

Similarly, any accounts used to sync Mail, Contacts, and Calendars can potentially try to access the Internet and take up processing power while doing so, even while network access is disabled.

  1. Open System Preferences;
  2. Choose Internet Accounts;
  3. Choose an account;
  4. Uncheck each service type;
  5. Repeat for each account.

Restart the Dock

Oddly, the Dock is in control of several of the system components that we just adjusted. Restarting the Dock allows these changes to take effect. Open a Terminal window and enter this command:

killall Dock

Stay Off The Internet (sort of)

Many individual applications, including QLab, have their own internal scheme to check for updates. You can turn them off manually, and we recommend that. One of the simplest ways to guarantee that automatic software updates or any other network traffic won’t bother your show is to disconnect the show computer from the Internet. We absolutely do not require this, but it can be a very wise thing to do unless you need internet access on your show Mac for some specific reason. If you use a network to connect your QLab computer to other hardware, and your show doesn’t require Internet access, make sure that network is a closed LAN (local area network) and has no path to the Internet.

Show Mode and Task Switching

By default, QLab 4 prevents use of ⌘-Tab, Mission Control, and Exposé while in Show Mode. If you want QLab to not prevent these things in Show Mode, choose QLab Preferences… from the QLab menu and uncheck the box marked Disable Disruptive Task Switching Features.

And If You’re Doing Video…

If you’re using QLab for video, there are two more critical settings:

Disable Mirror Displays

When you have more than one display connected to a Mac (including the built-in display on a laptop or iMac), you can either have the displays mirroring each other, showing the same thing, or turn off mirroring, which lets each display show its own image. That’s how you want it set for QLab, so that you can see QLab on your display, and the audience sees your cues on the other display or displays. Amazingly, there is no Terminal command for this! To turn off display mirroring:

  1. Open System Preferences;
  2. Choose Displays;
  3. Choose Arrangement;
  4. Uncheck Mirror Displays.

Disable Displays have separate Spaces

Spaces is Apple’s name for virtual desktops (if you don’t know what this means, don’t worry about it.) If your displays are set to have separate spaces, the Menu bar also appears on all Displays, and that is visible to your audience when no cues are playing through QLab. To set your displays to share Spaces, and thus keep the menu bar out of your picture, open a Terminal window and enter this command:

defaults write com.apple.spaces spans-displays -bool TRUE

Important: you’ll need to log out, then back in again for this to take effect.

Blackout the Desktop

When QLab is playing a Video cue, it places a black “backdrop” over any screen that the Video cue is playing on. When no video is playing, however, QLab does not display this backdrop. Therefore, in order to prevent your audience from seeing anything when no Video cue is playing, you’ll need to set the desktop background on your projector (or other audience-visible display) to black. You can do that in two ways. Either:

  1. Open System Preferences;
  2. Choose Desktop & Screen Saver;
  3. Choose Desktop;
  4. On your projector (or other display), choose “Solid Colors”;
  5. Click “Custom Color…“;
  6. Set the color to black.

Alternately, QLab provides a quick and easy way to do the same thing. Simply choose Black out desktop backgrounds from the Tools menu, and all desktop backgrounds will be set to black. You can later choose Restore saved desktop backgrounds, also from the Tools menu, to restore the desktop backgrounds you had previously.

Still have a question?

Our support team is always happy to help.

Business Hours
M-F 9am-7pm (ET)
Current time at our headquarters