So only Jedi carry lightsabers, have the skill to use them (save a few exceptions), and they're assembled using the power of the force. Why the heck do they have a plain old button on the the outside to activate them?

Why weren't all lightsabers force-activated? Would it not make more sense to have an activation switch inside the hilt that can only be activated using the force? What if someone were to bump into a Jedi and accidentally activate their lightsaber while it was hanging from their belt? Do they have a safety on them? Why would a Jedi want anyone except someone who can use the force to be able to activate a lightsaber?

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  • They don't always... starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Force-activated
    – Valorum
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 20:30
  • Thanks @Richard, I edited that into my question, in a way it makes it even more puzzling.
    – ShemSeger
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 20:34
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    Hmm...Green clearly means ON, but what if the lightsaber is red? This could be bad...
    – MAF
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 20:43
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    Maybe the button is optional. Just in case they end up in a snow storm and need their friend to chop open a dead animal and keep them warm... or more recently, if a completely untrained in the arts of light sabring ex-storm trooper needs to fight off a dark side weasly weakling. Real question is what makes them turn off when flung from their owner's hands?
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 0:33
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    If a lightsaber was only activated by the Force, how would that stop a Sith from deactivating a Jedi's lightsaber?
    – RichS
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 21:12

7 Answers 7


I'm struggling to find a canon answer but there seem to be a couple of logical reasons why you'd want an external button rather than internal one;

  • Using the force requires substantial concentration. Really the last thing you want in a fight scenario is to be wasting your valuable focus on trying to ignite your lightsaber. If it became known that all you needed to do to kill a jedi was to distract them for a few seconds, they'd be far less effective as guardians of the peace.

  • It might well come down to mere habit. Younglings are taught using (non-lethal) training lightsabers. Obviously, most trainees will lack sufficient skill to use a force-activated button so they'll all be learning on sabers with toggle-switches. As they grow, using these types of switch becomes second nature to them, so much so that they ignore the likely benefits of force activation.

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    If you can use the force to turn ON your lightsaber, the baddy you are fighting can use force to turn OFF your lightsaber, too.
    – Oldcat
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 21:52
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    I'd submit that it would require even more concentration to keep an opponent from just toggling the switch on you. Mine would be designed so as to require many intricate, internal 'switches' to operate either way. Somewhat of a moot point; my first action would be to turn yours into a real life exploded diagram of pieces parts. Also, if you can't "common Schwartz" a simple switch, you shouldn't be playing with lightsabers.
    – Mazura
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 21:54
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    @Oldcat - I'm reasonably certain that protecting your lightsaber with the force is something that's covered in Yoda's seminal "Lightsabers for Dummies".
    – Valorum
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 22:18
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    @oldcat That's true for an external as well as an internal mechanism. If you can make things fly via telekinesis you can certainly push a switch. Maybe the whole point is that it's not an actual switch but a a Dead man's switch. That would explain why the lightsabers tend to switch off when the wielder let's them fall out of his hand. Might be a security mechanism too. They just deactivate if you let them fall by accident and thus cant burn through something or someone. Would also mean the famous throw would require to not only direct the path of the sword but also to keep the button pushed. Commented May 22, 2015 at 23:37
  • @Oldcat - I wonder if that would privilege external switches, since someone could, say, keep it from moving with their thumb, or at least know immediately when someone was trying, instead of sparing the concentration to do either just with the force mid battle.
    – Megha
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 5:10

This answer is based on my recollection of the Canon movies, some Legends material and some logical reasoning.

I can see a few distinct reason for the "Regular Button Standard".

  1. Focus/Concentration

Using the Force requires concentration and focus. While experienced jedi most likely could turn on their lightsaber in their sleep: younger ones may not be as skilled with the Force.

  1. Habit

Youngling start Saber training at an early age, as can be seen in Star Wars Episode 2 (see picture below). It is likely that their abilities are not yet great enough to ignite sabers with the Force. As they spend their entire youth using a button to ignite their sabers, the keep doing it once they build their own. Youngling Saber Training

  1. Inability

Corran Horn, a character from Legends, is a Jedi Master who is completely unable to use Telekinesis with the Force. His children also seem to have inherited this inability.

This suggests that some Jedi simply cannot use the Force for telekinesis and, as such, must use conventional methods of igniting their sabers. Perhaps the "regular button standard" is used to enhance equality between differently-abled jedi and to avoid the "Haha, can't even ignite his lightsaber properly"-mocking. If not that, then for the sake of consistency: should a jedi need to use another jedi's saber (for whatever reason), they won't have to figure out the ingition mechanism, they simply have to push the button.

  1. Safety

If the button is a toggle button (meaning it stays ignited once the button is flicked and only turns off when flicked again), the saber would stay ignited if lost, dropped or similar. While most jedi treat their saber as a part of their body, accidents do happen and when they do, it could be hazardous to have an ignited saber lying around with no-one but another jedi able to switch it off.

  • your point 4 makes more sense if the force activated mechanism is the toggle that just happens to be inside the handle, and so must be deactivated as well as activated by the force. Is that what you meant? If it required constant exertion to activate through the force (like holding down the button or completing the circuit), then the safety considerations would be the other way around.
    – Megha
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 5:05
  • Yes, I mean a toggle button that must be "flicked" with the force both to activate and deactivate the lightsaber. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 8:03

The original lightsaber, the Forcesaber, was a weapon that used the dark side, to channel pure force energy from a hilt, into a blade. But using the weapon, required the user to use the dark side, so obviously the Jedi did not agree with that. The activation switches must stay pressed for the blade to stay ignited. When throwing the blade, or whenever necessary, a Jedi could use the force to keep the switch pressed, so that the blade does not deactivate.

  • 1
    "The activation switches must stay pressed for the blade to stay ignited." Any sources to back that up? Welcome to the site btw. :)
    – RedCaio
    Commented Apr 2, 2016 at 17:35
  • "When throwing the blade, or whenever necessary, a Jedi could use the force to keep the switch pressed". Interesting. So that explains the ability to saber throw as seen by Vader and the Force Unleashed games. I was wondering why they didn't switch off as when the user drops the lightsaber. Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 15:26

One key answer, that has already been given, is that even if lightsaber are made to be used by a Force-sensitive person, people lacking such gifts might have to use them (but it's rare).

KotOR 2's final boss activates 5 lightsaber using the force (but it remains untold if it's a manual switch or a force switch), so force-activated lightsabers remain possible in the Star Wars Universe.

But I think there also a bond with it's owner. Each time a lightsaber user dies while using his saber, it switches off automaticly. Qui-Gon, Dark Maul (slowly switching off), any Jedi fighting Palpatine or killed after order 66. Every light saber is switching off. So there has to be a connection, with the death of its owner, the saber switches off. (I once killed the final boss in KotOr 2 while having still one force controlled saber activated, but I think it was a glitch)

In a more trivial way, it's, in the canon, rare to use the force without moving any part of your body, this would lack a "wow-effect". It would be to subtle to notice and not cool looking enough for a Star Wars movie.

Finally, and even more trivial, back in 77, almost everything emitting light had a switch. You had to push on/off on many things. The explanation might be that simple and less poetic.

Side note: On many non canon things (I'm thinking about TFU and Robot Chicken episodes), throwing, or dropping a lightsaber doesn't switches it off.

  • I've always assumed lightsabers had dead-man switches. When thrown (as Vader does in RotJ) I would guess it's either kept on by the Force or the switch has a lock, much like some flashlights do. Commented May 29, 2015 at 14:35
  • This brings an other question: are lightsabers on as long as you press the switch, or is this a classic push/push button? I always assummed that it was a classic on/off switch, but as a Jedi builds his saber with some tweaks that he wants to include, this may depend on the builder
    – Tloz
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 14:40

It was noted at least in the novel of Return of the Jedi (and perhaps a few other books) that Luke locks his saber to the on position to throw it, thus, it sounds like his might use a "dead man's switch" style.

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    This seems more like a comment than an answer...
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 20:24
  • This doesn't seem to answer the question of why most lightsabers have an activation button.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 20:31
  • It is an observation. Given how much needs to fit into the hilt of a lightsaber, and the Jedi tendency towards 'less is more', a more user friendly, straightforward design makes the most sense. More complex might also be indicative of ego. Just look at lightsabers like Dooku's. Some of the button/activation placement may also depend on the individual's style and simple ergonomics. A simple, easy to use button may simply work easiest for the largest number of species. Commented Feb 22, 2017 at 20:34

Force users can use the Force to operate buttons. There's a story where a Jedi Knight manages to switch off Darth Vader's life support by using the Force to punch the buttons on his chest. So not only are Force users using the Force to press buttons, they are also using the Force to keep buttons from being pressed. In the case of Vader, this is almost all of his waking time.

A lot of this falls into the same rubric as why the Millennium Falcon uses wired headsets when wireless communications are easily available, or why the bottom of Luke's saber in TESB says "New York City" on the bottom, or why Han wears foundation make-up to the Death Star. It's just us noticing details that some harried art decorator thought would slide. And these details did slide, for decades. Nobody expected hi-def.

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    Obviously Force users can use the force to activate a button. That's the point of the question, after all. This appears to be more of a comment than an actual answer; please read How to Answer.
    – DavidW
    Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 0:03
  • I’ve voted to delete because this has no specific, actual out or in-universe evidence as to why. Commented Aug 30, 2019 at 1:50

I believe that I read somewhere (thus possibly not Canon) that force users could imprint their DNA onto the lightsaber which meant that only they could activate the lightsaber. Also regarding when Darth Vader throws his lightsaber, I'm not sure if it applies to all lightsabers or just some, however they have a switch that locks the blade into an extended position which is why it didn't turn off upon leaving his hand as most other lightsaber do, for safety reasons I presume. As for why a use a plain button, I can only assume that it is just easier to use then a force activated switch.

  • 2
    This would be much better if you found where you did read it, so we could see. The information is relevant, but it's hard to know if it was a fanfic, speculation, or Legends you got the info from.
    – user31178
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 17:58

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