How to Take Screenshots of the Login Screen on any Mac

Nov 11, 2015 - 12 Comments

How to take a screenshot of the login screen on any Mac

Taking screen shots of the login screen on a Mac is possible, and you can do so at either the OS X system boot, any login window, or at a locked user authentication screen. How a screenshot of the Mac login screen is accomplished will depend on what version of OS X the Mac is running however.

We’ll run through the process of taking a screenshot of a login screen and login window in all versions of Mac OS X. As you’ll see, the process is very easy on modern versions, whereas prior releases of Mac OS are a bit more involved.

Taking a Screenshot of the Login Screen in OS X EL Capitan

The latest versions of OS X 10.10 (and beyond) support the regular screenshot keystroke at all login windows. This makes taking a screenshot of the login screen or a setup window just as easy as taking one anywhere else:

  1. Access the login screen of OS X either on boot, through a locked screen saver, or Fast User Switching menu
  2. Hit Command+Shift+3 to take a screenshot of the login display

The login window screenshot will appear on the desktop with an “LW” prefix to the regular screenshot file name, like this: “LWScreenShot 2016-12-04 at 12.43.23 PM.png”

For example, if you have customized your login screen wallpaper in OS X El Capitan, you can now easily share that with the world by using the standard screenshot command sequence. Very easy.

A screenshot of the login screen on a Mac with OS X El Capitan

Taking Screen shots of the Login Screens in Earlier OS X Versions

Capturing a picture of the login window in earlier versions of OS X is a bit more technical and it involves a multiple part sequence; enabling remote login on the Mac with SSH, then connecting to the Mac with SSH to issue a command. Here are the steps for those interested in achieving this:

  1. First, enable SSH on the Mac to allow remote login connections, this needs to be done on the Mac which login display you’d like to screen capture, make note of this machines IP address if you aren’t aware of it
  2. Get to the login display on the Mac you just enabled SSH with, either through the screensaver lock screen or the fast user switching login screen
  3. From another computer (Mac or anything with an SSH client), login to the prior Mac with ssh by specifying the proper IP:
  4. ssh mac@

  5. Now logged into the target Mac with the login screen active, issue the following command line sequence to capture a screenshot on the target Mac:
  6. screencapture ~/Desktop/login-screen-shot.png

  7. Login to the Mac as usual, and locate the newly created ‘login-screen-shot.png’ file on the desktop

A screenshot of a Mac login screen in OS X Mavericks

You can then disable SSH if you want, or keep it on if you think you’ll want to connect again.

Another option with all versions of OS X is to take a screenshot of login windows through virtual machine software, though that’s obviously going to depend on what app you’re using rather than the Mac OS release.

As you can see, prior versions of OS X require quite a bit more effort to take a picture of the login windows and login screens, and require network access, whereas the latest versions of OS X are as simple as pressing a keyboard shortcut.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Steve says:

    What about screen recording right from the Login, to the user Desktop (user logged in)

    Is that possible to do natively on M1 Macs, without using any Capture cards?

  2. Themos says:


    How can I set up a similar clock on my mac ?

    Kindest regards

  3. Lookky says:

    The easy way to do it is with Screensharing, it works even with older versions of OSX (10.4,10.5 etc…)

  4. coconut says:

    How many screenshots do I have to take to fill up my colleagues Macbook Air SSD drive?

    • DCJ001 says:

      Solid State Drive drive?

      • QuattroGam3r says:

        Wow, another grammar cop. Instead of pointing out the obvious question of “how big is the SSD?” you attack his syntax.

        Maybe the best way to get more page hits for this site would be to misspell/miss-phrase more articles, lmao.

  5. Chris Quirk says:

    Are we to take it that there’s a busting need to do this?

    Beats me as to why you would want to.

    Fills a few column inches I guess.

    More real articles please!

    • Patrick M. says:

      Almost as much of a waste of time as reading your “comment”.

    • Paul says:

      Screen shotting the login screens is useful for Mac administrators mostly but it’s valid for average users as well. Perhaps if you’ve customized a login screen and want to share it with someone else, perhaps you’re wondering about a specific element or feature of the login screen, etc. A busting need, maybe not, but this is very much a real article. Though, naturally, not everything we cover is going to apply to every user out there, that’s just the nature of covering such a broad range of Apple topics and user knowledge levels.

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