How to Quickly Lock Your Screen in Mac OS X

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Listener Dominic writes in with a tip on how to quickly lock your screen in OS X (applies to both Snow Leopard and Lion).

As discussed on Mac Geek Gab 342, there are two easy methods to quickly lock your screen. First, you can use a menu bar item.

Keychain Access Preferences

Launch Keychain Access and go to Preferences. In the General tab, check the box for “Show keychain status in menu bar.” This will add a padlock icon to your system’s menu bar.

Screen Lock Menu Bar

Select this icon and you’ll see several options, the first of which is “Lock Screen.”

The second option is even faster: a keyboard shortcut.

Pressing Control-Shift-Eject on a Mac keyboard will immediately lock your display. If you set your security settings to require a password immediately after sleep, no one will be able to access your Mac without first entering a password.

Security Options

To change your security settings, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. Check the box next to “Require password…” and choose the time delay that suits your needs. If you’ll be using your Mac in public places such as coffee shops or libraries, choosing “immediately” will provide the best protection.

[Updated to show that Control-Shift-Eject locks the display instead of sleeping the system.]

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Ross Edwards

I’m not sure it puts the system to sleep so much as it turns off the screen and locks the terminal.  I routinely start a bunch of long video encoding tasks before bed, hit ctrl-shift-eject to lock and turn the screen off, and then in the morning when I unlock, six to eight hours worth of video encoding is finished.  If the machine were sleeping, it wouldn’t do anything.


The built-in Snow Leopard solution I like best is to go to System Preferences and check the ?show fast user switching menu as??.  This gives you the opinion of displaying name, short name or icon in the menu bar.  From there, just selecting ?Login Window?? locks your screen.


Yes, the above work. But I prefer the quickest and easiest way, involving NO clicks: Hot Corners.

Vincent Colombo

Ctrl-shift-eject sleeps the display, not the system.

Jim Tanous

Ctrl-shift-eject sleeps the display, not the system.

Right you are, Mr. Colombo. The article has been updated to reflect that. Thanks for spotting my error!

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