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Longtime Mac users probably remember Mac OS used to log in automatically when a computer was started up or restart. For security reasons, this has changed over time, and for the most part, Macs now require a login and password to successfully access a Mac and all documents and apps that reside on the computer. Nonetheless, in secure environments, in group computer rooms, or for some other particularly compelling reason, some Macs want automatic login to Mac OS X.
Using automatic login is not recommended for the vast majority of Mac users due to the theoretical security risk, as no password is required to access anything on the computer. Additionally, automatic login requires that FileVault disk encryption is disabled, eliminating any security and privacy benefit feature offers. If you are going to use this feature on a Mac with personal data or sensitive information, it’s critical that you use the lock screen to require a password after a period of inactivity, but in general, automatic login is simply not recommended for most computers.
How to Enable automatic login in Mac OS X
This requires admin access to enable, it will disable the login screen on a Mac and instead immediately access the selected account on startup and restart:
- Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu
- Select the “Users and Groups” control panel
- Click on the lock button in the lower left corner and authenticate with an admin account
- Click on the “Login Options” button bottom left side
- Locate “Auto Login” and choose the username you want to automatically login with from the drop-down menu * (see below as feature is disabled or inaccessible)
- Close System Preferences, the Mac will not automatically log in to the selected account
When you restart the Mac, the selected user will now automatically start up up no password entry and no login or authentication required.
If you are doing this on a personal Mac, which is generally not recommended, you may want to create a new user account on the Mac specifically for automatic login, and not allow the primary administrator account to be logged in automatically.
Automatic login disabled, grayed out or not available?
You may find the automatic login feature is disabled in Mac OS X, showing as “off” and with the drop-down menu gray and inaccessible. There are two reasons for this:
- FileVault is turned on – when disk encryption with FileVault is turned on, it automatically logs in feature is not available. Users should turn off FileVault to access it feature, which is generally not recommended
- Using an iCloud password to sign in to the Mac also disables automatic sign-in, so you should turn off iCloud password Mac access for authentication, or just don’t sign in automatically in the first place.
As mentioned several times, but worth it again, automatic login is not suitable for many Macs, especially if the computer has a laptop that is being moved and has the potential to be lost, stolen, misplaced or accessed by untrusted persons. If you turn off the login screen, a restarted Mac can access all files by anyone who happens to restart the computer, posing a security risk for many computer users. This is really one feature it is best reserved for different user accounts in computer labs or private computers in a secure location, such as in a household. Even in the latter scenario, it is recommended to have different user accounts and use logins, or at least set up a guest user account for non-primary users.
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