Why You Should Never Use a Screen Protector on a MacBook

Why You Should Never Use a Screen Protector on a MacBook
Photo: Omar Tursic, Shutterstock

It might seem tempting at first to put a screen protector on your shiny new MacBook. After all, many of us put screen protectors on our shiny new iPhones, in an effort to preserve these expensive displays. You would think the same philosophy applies to your MacBook’s screen, which likely costs more than your iPhone display to fix. But it doesn’t.

MacBook displays are different than iPhone displays

The issue is, MacBook displays are not made of the same material as iPhone displays. Apple puts an anti-reflective coating on its laptop displays to help reduce glare and boost contrast. You’ll never notice this coating normally. It’s not something you can peel away, like a protective seal from the factory; rather, it’s an invisible layer of the display. If you can’t see it, why would you ever think it was there?

Many of the people who discover the existence of this coating, however, are the ones who apply a screen protector to their MacBooks. When the screen protector is on the display, everything is good: Just like on an iPhone, you see a layer of protector, with the actual display beneath it. No problem.

The issue comes when you remove the screen protector. Maybe the material took a hit, and now appears ugly because of cracks or other damage. Perhaps you’re just tired of seeing this protective layer on your screen, and have decided it’s worth the risk to remove it to view your MacBook display as Apple intended.

Either way, when you remove the screen protector, it is very possible for the adhesive on the protector to peel away the anti-reflective coating on your MacBook. It likely won’t take all of the coating off, but it could take a lot. Some MacBooks are already susceptible to the anti-reflective coating staining, and Apple has a repair program for those devices, but damage from a screen protector likely isn’t covered. You can take this Redditors experience as a PSA: They removed their screen protector from their MacBook, and were saddened and frustrated to see what it left behind.

A screen protector might break your MacBook’s display altogether

There’s also the risk of physical screen damage, especially from a thicker screen protector made of glass. First of all, these screen protectors are often too thick for your MacBook to properly close, which in itself isn’t a good thing: If you shut your laptop too hard, the force of the screen protector hitting the bottom case can damage the screen. Plus, when it comes time to remove it, the force it takes to pull the glass off your display can hurt it, to the point where the display no longer works at all, as this Redditor demonstrates in their post.

In practical use, a screen protector on a MacBook isn’t very necessary in the first place. Unlike an iPhone, your MacBook display isn’t sliding in and out of pockets and bags exposed: Because it’s a laptop, the display will usually be shut whenever the laptop is moving, which protects it fully. Sure, it’s exposed to the world while you’re working on it, but, as it’s attached to a larger machine, the chances of it falling or getting hit are much less than that of an iPhone.

If you must use a MacBook screen protector

If you really want a screen protector on your Mac, you need to choose carefully. Glass protectors can break or shatter your screen, and adhesive-based films can take off the anti-reflective coating. Apple has non-adhesive, thin protectors on its website you can buy, such as this Kensington magnetic screen protector or this removable option from Belkin.

Still, the company recommends you never leave anything between the screen and the keyboard when you close your laptop. That’s why you shouldn’t use a keyboard cover (among other reasons), and why, if you buy one of these protectors, you might want to remove it before stowing your MacBook.