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Locking my Mac when I want to step away from it

Posted on July 20th, 2009 by Neil Crosby. Filed under Blog Posts, Tips & Tricks.

I’ve noticed a few people asking recently “How do you lock your Mac desktop when you want to nip out?”. It’s a reasonable question — after all, security of your machine and the data on it should be at the forefront of your mind if you decide to leave your machine whilst you go and do something else.

The way I do this is to use a “hot corner”. In OSX you can set up your Mac to perform different tasks when you move your mouse up to any one of the four corners. If you open System Preferences, then Exposé and Spaces and make sure you’ve got the Spaces tab open you’ll see an Active Screen Corners section at the top of the window. I have the bottom right hand corner set to Start Screen Saver. Because I have set Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver in the Security section of System Preferences, when I throw my mouse into the bottom right hand corner of the screen it automatically locks itself for me.

It’s a simple solution that works well for me.

Another way you can lock your machine is to use the Keychain Access application (/Applications/Utilities/Keychain If you load this and then open Preferences you’ll see a Show Status in Menu Bar option on the General tab. If you tick this you’ll see an unlocked padlock appear in your menu bar. From now on if you want to lock your machine you can click on the padlock icon and then select Lock Screen. I personally don’t use this solution because it requires more dexterity than just throwing the mouse into a corner of the screen, but it’s another option that you might lie to use.

So, there you have it — two different ways of locking your Mac’s screen under OSX.

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6 Responses to “Locking my Mac when I want to step away from it”

  1. I’ve always used the first one at work, but never seen anyone use that second tip. It seems I learned something new today!

  2. I must admit, I had to ask Sam Riley (the only other person I’ve ever seen use the other tip) to remind me how to do it!

  3. Third mechanism: the command line! (I know. You’re shocked.)

    Run /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu\ Extras/ -suspend from the shell to lock the computer down… I have this bound to a Quicksilver trigger, so a simple key combination (in my case ⌃⌥⌘-l) lets me get up without worrying about the screensaver jiggling it’s way back to life in the second or so after it’s triggered.

  4. There is also a third way.

    i used to use this at my old work place, used to work very well :)

  5. I’ve got a custom AppleScript that I run using a QuickSilver HotKey trigger:

    It locks the screen with (you you’ll need to set a screensaver password), paused iTunes, sets me as away in both Adium and Colloquy. When logging back in, it returns Adium and Colloquy to online status, but doesn’t resume playing iTunes.

  6. If you need another option (and who doesn’t), I used to use the script that Steve’s is based upon, but these days I use Spark:

    I have the “Screen Saver” action within Spark bound to Cmd+Escape (as I don’t use Front Row).

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