How to lock your Mac OS X screen on demand

If you’re migrating to Mac OS X from Windows, you might be looking for a shortcut to lock your screen. This is a two-part fix: first you have to require a password to unlock the screen, then you have to learn the shortcut to lock your screen on-demand.

Require password to unlock

Require password to unlock Mac OS X

Okay, click the Apple logo in your toolbar and open System Preferences. Browse to Security & Privacy and load the General tab. Make sure the Require password option is ticked (as in the image above).

You can configure this to ask for the password immediately after the screen sleeps. Personally, I prefer to leave a few seconds grace for those occasions the screensaver activates by accident.

Lock the screen whenever you want

Now, if you’re leaving your MacBook unattended, you can lock the screen with a keyboard shortcut combo. Use the shortcuts below depending on your model of Mac.

  • If your Mac has an Eject key or an external keyboard, use Control+Shift+Eject.
  • If you have a MacBook Air or a retina MacBook Pro, use Control+Shift+Power Button.

The screensaver should automatically activate. When you try to reactivate the MacBook using either the mousepad or the keyboard, you should be prompted for a password. Now, test that out a couple of times to make sure it works.

Why bother with locking your screen?

If you work in a shared space – or you’re simply worried about getting fraped by an over-zealous family member – locking your screen is essential. Getting into the habit of locking your computer when you’re away from it protects it from prying eyes. It’s great security practise.

For a little bit of additional protection, you can add a message to your lock screen. It can be a good idea to leave contact details so if the machine gets stolen or misplaced, you can be reached by whoever finds it. You can set this up from the same Security & Privacy area in System Preferences.

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