Lock Mac Screen

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Every time you are away from your computer, it is a good idea to lock the screen. This provides a level of privacy and security for the Mac that is very easy to use and implement and it should be considered a must trick, especially for anyone working in public areas, offices, schools, or anywhere else where there is a possibility that a third party may have access to the computer. The fastest way to lock the screen of a Mac OS X computer is to use a simple keyboard shortcut.

We walk right through it how to set up the lock screen feature and show you the keystrokes you can use to instantly lock the Mac, requiring a password to be entered before the machine can be used again.

Turn on the lock screen in Mac OS X.

To use the lock screen shortcuts, you must first enable the screen lock feature in Mac OS X. If enabled, you can immediately lock your Mac and require a password to make it usable again. Here is how to enable the lock screen in Mac OS X:

  1. Launch System Preferences from the  Apple menu
  2. Click on “Security and Privacy” and look under the “General” tab
  3. Click the check box next to ‘Require password after sleep or screen saver starts’ – from the drop-down menu select ‘Immediately’ or ‘5 seconds’ as the time interval to require the password
  4. Exit System Preferences

This password lockout setting exists on all versions of Mac OS X:

Requires a lock screen password in Mac OS X

You can easily confirm that the setting is now working by pressing the locking keystrokes for your Mac model, which immediately turns the screen black.

Lock a Mac screen with keystrokes

Now that Mac OS X Screen Lock is on, you can lock the screen with a few simple keyboard shortcuts:

  • Control + Shift + Eject is the keystroke for Macs with an eject key and for external keyboards
  • Control + Shift + Power is the keystroke for Macs without the eject key, such as the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro Retina
  • Control + Command + Q is the default lock screen keystroke on Mac with latest macOS versions installed, this is new for macOS Mojave, High Sierra and above

Press the correct key combination for your Mac model and the Macs screen will immediately go dark, locking it and requiring a user to enter a password before the computer can be accessed again.

The lock screen on a Mac looks something like the images below, with an image of the user account avatar and password field, as well as a few other simple options. Authentication must be valid to go beyond the lock screen, which can be through a password, Touch ID, Apple Watch, or other authentication method, if the Mac supports it:

The Mac lock screen in MacOS

Here’s what the Mac OS X lock screen looks like in previous versions of system software:

Locked screen in Mac OS X requires a password

If you chose the immediate option in Security Preferences, you will need to enter the user password before you can use the Mac again, the option to wait 5 seconds will give you a few seconds before you need the password, which may be more desirable in some situations. You’ve probably noticed that there are other choices available in the timing, but realistically anything over a minute starts to lose its security benefits, so the shorter times are most desirable for optimal security and privacy purposes.

lock mac screen The Mac OS X lock screen is the same as what you see when you wake a Mac from sleep or a screen saver when it is feature is enabled, so remember that if you’re using a screen saver that automatically wakes up your Mac or puts it to sleep periodically, you’ll also enter your password when it wakes up.

Lock the screen from hot corners

You can also lock the Mac OS X screen by using Hot Corners, which allows you to drag the mouse cursor to any corner of the screen and launch the screen saver or, as with the keystrokes above, turn the screen black. Both require a password to unlock and use the Mac again. Institution up Hot Corners for this purpose is very simple, make sure you have already enabled the “Require Password” setting we mentioned above: “

  • In System Preferences, go to “Mission Control” and click on “Hot Corners” button in the bottom corner
  • Choose the hot corner you want to associate with the lock feature (bottom right is my preference) then choose ‘Put display to sleep’ or ‘Start screen saver’ – both methods require a password to regain access

Lock the screen with Hot Corners in Mac OS X

Now you can test this by dragging the cursor to the hot corner you just set. The display sleep mode makes the screen black, while the other starts with the set screen saver. Assuming you set “Immediately” as the initial password requirement, any movement of the mouse will bring up the login screen and require the correct credentials to unlock the Mac again.

Remember: Always lock your Mac when you are away

It doesn’t matter which method you use to actually lock the screen, just make it a habit. This is highly recommended to enable on any Mac, but especially for those in offices, schools, public places, and any other environment where you may have sensitive data on your computer that you want to keep from prying eyes. Another very worthwhile attempt is to add a login message to Mac OS X, which can include things like Mac identifying information, or better yet, ownership information like a name, email address, or phone number.

Note: this feature exists in all versions of macOS and Mac OS X, including macOS Mojave, High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, Yosemite, OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, Lion, Snow Leopard, and both earlier and newer versions. The verbiage is slightly different in earlier versions of Mac OS X, but the setting works the same. For example, this is what you’ll find in the same settings for Snow Leopard:

Enable mac lock screen password

Nevertheless, the settings and keyboard shortcuts are the same regardless of the version of Mac OS X, and the Hot Corner will work universally as well.

Remember the password or you will not be able to access the computer easily. If you do wind up in a situation where you forget your Mac password, there are several ways you can reset it.

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Lock a Mac Screen: FAQ

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mac OS

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