How to Instantly Lock your Mac OS X Screen in Lion

Please Note: Click here for the updated blog post for Instantly Locking your Screen in Mavericks.

One of the most common questions I’m asked by Mac users is how to quickly lock the screen when needing to walk away from your desk and leave your computer.

The easiest and quickest way to lock a Mac OS X screen is to use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Control+Shift+Eject keys together.

When you press these keys together, your Mac display screen will go black and lock the Mac screen, requiring a user to enter their user account password before the Mac can be used again, providing you have this setting enabled. (Essentially, these keys execute two commands. Firstly, they turn off the display lamp, then they optionally start the lockscreen facility).

If you do not have the password required feature enabled, then follow these simple steps to set this up on any Mac:

  1. Launch System Preferences.
  2. Open the “Security & Privacy” preference pane and select the “General” tab.
  3. Click the checkbox next to “Require password after sleep and screen saver” – you can select either immediately or a preferred time interval.
  4. Close System Preferences and you’re done!
How to Instantly Lock your Mac OS X Screen in Lion


This feature is a great option to enable in environments where you may have sensitive data on your Mac that you want to ensure is not accessible when you leave your Mac powered on.

This feature has been tested using Mac OS X v10.7.4 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing and also using the latest internal and external Apple keyboards.

13 Replies to "How to Instantly Lock your Mac OS X Screen in Lion"

  • Cashxx

    Or open “Keychain Access” and under the “Keychain Access” menu select “Preferences” and check the box “Show keychain status in menu bar”.

    Should see a lock menu up by the clock now in the Apple Menu Bar. Can simply click it and Lock Screen now.

    Been using this in labs and personally for years. Snow Leopard ruined it by going to a black screen, but with Lion goes to screen saver once again!

    Still have to check that box to require password on sleep and screen saver for a password box to show. I always do immediately.

  • Ross

    The new Retina MBP doesn’t have an Eject key…they moved the Power button there like the Air has.

  • Javier

    …or you could just add a ‘hot corner’ to your screensaver settings ( I like to pick the top-right corner of my screen) to activate my screensaver when I step away from my need to memorize anymore keyboard shortcuts 🙂

  • Cashxx – Was using that method for years too, but find these hot keys easier and quicker for myself to quickly lock my screen without having to use the trackpad.

    Javier – True. Trying to remember every keyboard shortcut it a lot to ask! I used this method for years but since i lock my screen many times everyday, this keyboard shortcut for me is now the easiest.

    Ross & daniel – Indeed. Im afraid any mac portable without a built-in optical drive (which is the airs and the new retina pro models) have no eject key so this tip won’t work. You can use the keychain option Cashxx has mentioned or indeed the screen corner technique mentioned by Javier.
    If anyone discovers an alternative for the eject key on these newer portables then please let me know! 🙂

  • Andrey

    On MBA and alike without the eject button the key stroke is the same! Power button is now the eject button. So just hold Ctrl+Shift and hit Power

  • Hi Abruzzo.

    Andrey back in October on comment 7 mentioned the answer for the MacBook Airs which have no eject key.
    The Power button acts as the eject button. So just hold Ctrl+Shift and Power to lock the screen.

    This actually works on macs even with an eject key too!

    Alexandre, My colleagues and I are not aware of a way to do this on a third party keyboard i’m afraid. If there is a way, maybe someone will read your plea for help and blog the answer!

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