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I am running Ubuntu 12 on a 5 year old Sony Vaio laptop. The battery is totally shot and does not even register anymore, so I am using it as a desktop instead, with an external monitor. Unfortunately, I have to keep the laptop lid open.

I tried changing the power setting to Do nothing when the lid is closed, but the system does not respect that setting.

I am wondering if this is related to my dysfunctional battery. If anyone knows how I can overcome this problem?

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This is often a setting in the BIOS for the laptop. Reboot the computer and press the appropriate key to get into the BIOS. It will usually say "press del for settings", "press F10 to edit BIOS" or something like that while it boots. Usually there will be an option in the power settings on what to do when the lid is closed.

Even after enabling it, some laptops won't boot at all with the lid closed (when they have power buttons accessible on the side) and you will have to open it, power it on, wait a few seconds, then close it. Some laptops just don't allow you operate the laptop with the lid closed at all too.

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I might add something about disabling powering off the screen in power management settings to your answer as another method. –  hbdgaf May 18 '12 at 21:48
    
Joshua had already mentioned that in the question. That is what the "Do Nothing" is referring to, no? –  reverendj1 May 18 '12 at 21:50
    
I was more thinking acpi=off in grub/kernel settings –  hbdgaf May 18 '12 at 21:52
    
I have the same problem. I don't think it has to do with the bios settings since when i use the same laptop under Windows I have no problem using an external display. –  eli Aug 6 '13 at 8:18
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