How to lock a Mac OS X workstation

Apr 23, 2007 - 42 Comments

Reader Adam Smith writes in with the following question: “I am a new Mac user, and I love OSX! I have a MacBook Pro 15″. I would like to know though, is there a way that you can lock a MAC? Like in Windows, you can hit the shortcut “Windows Key + L”. Is there something similar in Mac or is there a script you can write? It’s just so I can leave my Mac while its doing stuff, lock it, so that no one else can play around with it. Thank you for your time.”

Yes there is! Mac OS X doesn’t have an active workstation lock quite in the same manner as Windows, but you can still lock your Mac’s workstation and require a password for all users to access the machine. Here’s how:

Lock an active Mac OS X workstation

The easiest way to lock down your Mac is by using a screen saver and password protecting it. Here’s how in three easy steps:

Select a Screen Saver – First, you’ll need to select a screen saver to activate. Open System Preferences and click the “Desktop & Screen Saver” icon. Pick any screen saver.

Enable a Hot Corner – In the same preference pane, click on the “Hot Corners…” button in the bottom corner of the pane. Select a “Hot Corner” – where you want the screen saver to be activated by dragging your cursor into that corner.

Enable Password Protection – Now you’ll need to password protect your screen saver. Navigate back to System Preferences and this time select the “Security” icon. Ignore all the FileVault settings, about halfway in the pane there is a check box for “Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver” – click the box next to it so a check appears.

Try it out – Now anytime you drag your mouse cursor into the activated Hot Corner, you will activate the screen saver, which requires a password to return to the desktop. Also, if your machine is put to sleep it will bring about the same password prompt.

To further secure your Mac workstation, you can also require a password on system boot. Doing so is easy, just check the Login Options under the Accounts preference pane. It’s pretty self explanatory but if anyone wants a full walkthrough let us know.

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Posted by: AJ in Ask OS X Daily, How to, Mac OS X, Security, Tips & Tricks

42 Comments

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  1. Weaver says:

    I remember it was easy to do this in system 9 but I never could figure out how to do it in Mac OS X. It seems like Apple unintentionally hid the option in the Security preferences rather than putting it in the ScreenSaver where it would be more appropriate.

    Another great tip, I immediately implemented this one.

  2. bryanl says:

    1. open up keychain access preferences
    2. choose show status in menu bar. this will place a lock on the menubar
    3. click the lock on the menubar and choose “lock screen”

    sometimes i want my screensaver to come on without the machine locking

  3. Brett Johson says:

    You can also use Fast User Switching, which allows multiple users to be logged in via the GUI at the same time. I use this to “lock” my login – allowing others to use the computer, while my state is preserved and my background computing tasks continue cranking. I prefer it to a locking screen saver in situations where a machine might be shared.

    To enable Fast User Switching:
    Goto “System Preferences”->Accounts.
    Click the padlock in the lower left to enable changes.
    Select “Login Options”
    Check “Enable Fast User Switching”

    To “Lock” the system:
    Click on your name on the right side of the menu bar,
    and select “Login Window…”

    To “Unlock” the system:
    If the system is still at “Login Window”, just log in as yourself.
    GUI access to your workspace will be restored
    If another user is logged in, click on their name on the right end
    of the menu bar, and select yourself to switch-to. You will be
    prompted for your password.

  4. Christopher says:

    Also, if you’d like to get the fast user switching effect without having to enable it, such as if you are the only user of your computer, then there are a handful of dashboard widgets and probably some standalone apps that do the trick. I prefer the widget “Locker” which is a little lock icon that sits in your dashboard, when double clicked, it gives you a fast-user-switching-esque rotating desktop effect and takes you to the standard login screen. That’s all. I hope this is of some help.

  5. Scott says:

    You could also set up the computer to require a password to wake from sleep and press
    to fast sleep the computer.

    I use this all the time.

    I dislike hot spots on my screen.
    PS shuts down the mac.

  6. Scott says:

    Previous post contained a character the website did not like,

    What I meant:
    You could also set up the computer to require a password to wake from sleep and press
    command option eject to fast sleep the computer.

    I use this all the time.

    I dislike hot spots on my screen.
    PS command option control eject shuts down the mac.

  7. […] Edit: Damnit looks like OS X Daily has the same info as my post. […]

  8. kathy kirkham says:

    I locked my desktop items somehow on my imac and dont rember what i did , now i cant drag items , anyone know how iunlock it again? much appreciated , kathy

  9. Kenneth Benedict says:

    How would one make OS 9 a locking screen saver?

  10. JEREMY says:

    I FORGOT MY MC PASSWORD HOW DO I FIND IT AND WIN I PRESS THE OPTION KEY ITS ALSO LOCKED WHAT DO I DO PLEASE CAN YOU HELP.

  11. edwin Islas says:

    i forgot my password and i cant reset my laptop . because i need a admistrader and password and i forgot every thing please help me .

  12. laura says:

    I forgot my password and can’t start my iBook from the CD. How do I loose the login window? Is there any combination keys for loosing the login window?

  13. HandyMacApps says:

    You can use also use this simple application to lock your screen with your account login details.

    http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/networking_security/screenlock.html

  14. Terry Harmer says:

    To reset your account password, boot your mac from an OS X system disk and run the Change Password Tool under the Utilities menu.

  15. ryuhoo says:

    Thank You

  16. Dave says:

    i’m a new mac user, i have the 13″ unibody macbook.

    my personal trick for user switching is great, useful, and not too hard to set up.

    i have butler installed on my mac. for those of you who don’t know, it lets you set hot corners and keyboard shortcuts for anything you want.

    control+option+L on my mac, user switching. works great.

    control+option+up and control+option+down adjust my iTunes volume and tell me what’s currently playing.

    just to add humor, control+option+delete launches parallels. if you can’t tell, i’ve been trapped in windows for a little while.

  17. […] Enable locking the screen after waking from sleep or screensaver […]

  18. Fird says:

    @Brett Johson: Thank you so much for the tip!

  19. Azizi Khan says:

    I have a 13″ Macbook Pro. Its amazing that we have to resort to these tricks to lock the screen of after this many years of OSX. Something other OSes do out of the box. I guess Steve Jobs reckon Mac security is so unimportant that you don’t even need to lock the screen!

    Sheer blatant stupidity.

  20. i have purchased a second computer to use when not at the office – had Log me in installed so i can access my mac from away. Problem is – if i log off my mac or put to sleep, i am not able to access via logmein. The only way to do this is to leave the computer on which I obviously don’t want to do when I am away from the office.
    Any suggestions.

  21. i have purchased a second computer to use when not at the office – had Log me in installed so i can access my mac from away. Problem is – if i log off my mac or put to sleep, i am not able to access via logmein. The only way to do this is to leave the computer on which I obviously don’t want to do when I am away from the office.
    Any suggestions.

  22. […] thing that we found about Mac OS, you can’t lock screen, well technically you could with this setting. But what’s so hard about having a button says lock computer? Apple’s success are built […]

  23. Rodolfo Aburto says:

    Thanks. Was very Helpful. I am new to MAC

  24. Hello,this is Leland Mokiao,just identified your web-site on google and i must say this blog is great.may I share some of the Post found in the site to my local mates?i am not sure and what you think?anyway,Thank you!

  25. Chris says:

    The most frustrating thin in the world was not knowing how to lock my MAC. Thanks for the info…I have my mac on my computer cart in the middle of my cubicle and always afraid that one day I’m going to come back from lunch and have it accesses from one of my co-workers.

  26. Eric says:

    You also can lock your (snow leopard) mac by using ctrl+shift+eject, if require password password to wake from sleep or screensaver is checked under System Preferences → Security → General.

  27. […] a lot less security and reporting, you can always just lock your Mac with a screen saver, but where’s the fun in […]

  28. […] you’re the only one using your Mac, a good option is to set a password for the screensaver and for waking on sleep (although this is not the most secure, you can reset lost passwords rather […]

  29. Allen says:

    Obviously if you are using OSX 10.6 then you can use the alt+cmd+eject to lock your screen.

  30. […] Lockdown a Mac OS X Workstation with a Screen Saver hot corner […]

  31. There is a shortcut to lock your workstation and sleep your screens:

    CTRL + SHIFT + EJECT

    http://blog.jmedwards.net/post/3226277705/shortcut-lock-mac

    • ken says:

      thanks…it works…and the best solution so far…though the key combination is awkward….but can you tell me wh did u find this?

  32. […] de atalho? Só se você atribuir a um script que faça o trabalho sujo do bloqueio da máquina. Eu prefiro atribuir a função de ativar Protetor de Tela, que está configurado para pedir senha, a um […]

  33. God of Entropy says:

    MacOS lock sucks! In Windows you just CTRl+ALT+DEL then select LOCK THIS COMPUTER.

  34. […] Enable locking the screen after waking from sleep or screensaver […]

  35. YJM_Strat says:

    This is a bit more complicated than PC but WOW it works !

    Godo job !

  36. Keech says:

    how do you set it so standard users are unable to uncheck the “require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver”? Our users keep unchecking this and we need to ensure it is set.

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