How to Configure a Lock Screen for Your Mac

The other day I had to walk away from my Mac, and in order to secure it properly I had to close the screen so the computer would go to sleep. This is not the best method for locking your screen during a quick trip to the restroom or vending machine.

You want to keep nosy bystanders from accessing your screen while you’re away, but you also want to jump right in again when you get back. Putting the whole Mac to sleep stops all system functions and applications, which can be a pain if you’re running a program in the background and don’t want it to be suspended.

The best solution is to put only your screen to sleep, essentially locking others out while still keeping your Mac active doing whatever it’s doing. This is great for when you’re working in a place where other people are around, such as the office or coffee shop. Just type in your password when you get back and you’ll hit the ground running.

It’s easy to create a lock screen feature on your Mac. This way you don’t have to worry about securing your data when you’re craving that Snickers. Let’s go over the steps.

1. Click on Spotlight in the top right corner of your screen and type “key” in the text box.

Search results in OS X Spotlight

2. Select Keychain Access. From the new menu bar at the top of the screen, go to Keychain Access > Preferences.

Keychain Access Preferences window

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3. Select the General tab and check the checkbox next to Show keychain status in menu bar.

Checkbox checked in Keychain Access Preferences window

A small lock icon now appears in the right side of the Apple menu bar.

Closeup of Apple menu bar showing lock icon

When that candy bar calls you, click the lock icon and select Lock Screen. This will lock your screen but keep all your running apps open. When you get back to your computer, simply enter your credentials and continue working.
Lock Screen drop-down menu

Note: In order to really secure your Mac, make sure you have a password associated with your account. You can set this up under System Preferences > Users & Groups.

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