os x sleep

How to instantly lock your OS X screen in Mavericks 10.9

Back in June 2012, I blogged about ‘How to Instantly Lock your Mac OS X Screen in Lion’.

This is an updated version of that blog for Mavericks as I wanted to add a couple of new comments and an even quicker way in Mavericks to achieve a locked screen.

The easiest and quickest way to lock an OS X screen is to put the display to sleep, ensuring you have configured your Mac to ask for a password after sleep or screen saver.

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

Step 1: Launch System Preferences.
Step 2: Open the “Security & Privacy” preference pane and select the “General” tab.
Step 3: Click the checkbox next to ‘Require password after sleep or screen saver begins’ – you can select either immediately or a preferred time interval.
Step 4: Close System Preferences and you’re done!

lock os x screen mavericks

Once you have the password feature setup, you are ready to toggle display sleep.

To do this you can perform EITHER of the following:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Control+Shift+Eject keys together (if your Mac has an internal Optical Drive and an Eject key).
  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Control+Shift+Power keys together (if your Mac does NOT have an internal Optical Drive or an Eject key).

In both cases, you’ll see your Mac’s display shut off immediately, while the system continues to run in the background. This is not sleep mode so your Mac will still function, you have just put the display to sleep.

Press any button to wake the display up and you should be asked to authenticate with your user’s password to unlock the screen:

os x sleep

There are other methods of locking your Mac, for example you can enable a Keychain Access menu in your menu bar or configure a screen saver Hot Corner. However, for me, I think these methods take longer to setup and use.

You could also just put your entire Mac into sleep mode, which will also toggle the required user password on wake-up. However, your Mac is now in sleep mode and background services may not run unless you have the latest portable Mac, which has the Power Nap feature.

To do this you can perform ANY of the following:

  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Command+Option/Alt+Eject keys together (if your Mac has an internal Optical Drive and an Eject key).
  • Use the keyboard shortcut of holding down the Command+Option/Alt+Power keys together (if your Mac does NOT have an internal Optical Drive or an Eject key).
  • In Mavericks, simply press the Power key.

(This last option triggered by updating to Mavericks, means that you can no longer simply press the power button to bring up the ‘Restart, Sleep, Cancel, Shut Down’ pop up. In Mavericks, hold down the Control key whilst pressing the power button to bring up this menu to quickly choose one of these options).

To disable the power button sleep in 10.9, read Russell’s latest blog here.

Locking your Mac’s screen, whichever way you wish to do it, 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.

Or, like me, you have a mischievous colleague who you cannot trust with your Mac if you walk away and leave yourself logged in! 🙂

To learn how to support and troubleshoot OS X Mavericks, come on our OS X Support Essentials 10.9 course!


While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X v10.9.1 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

7 Replies to "How to instantly lock your OS X screen in Mavericks 10.9"

  • cashxx

    I personally like the Keychain menu for labs, but Apple keeps screwing me! In 10.8.x I have it on for users so they can visually see the lock and know what it is and then it kicks the screensaver on and I have a custom screensaver with who is logged in and our school logo flying around. All in all it looks very nice! But now with Mavericks like I think Lion or Snow Leopard did, when you lock the screen using the lock it puts the monitor to sleep, drives me nuts!

    What good is it if the screen is black in a lab, if its in use its nice for students walking by to see that its in use visually and move on. With the monitor off they sit down move the mouse or whatever and the monitor kicks no and then they see oh someone is using this. Get up and move.

    Wish I could find a way to make the Keychain lock kick the screen saver on instead of putting the monitor to sleep.

  • nunu

    Actually to lock your screen, you can just click on your username on the right top corner of Finder menu bar and choose Login Window…, this will simply take you to the login window where you need to give passwords to login back.

  • Thanks nunu for that suggestion.

    Indeed you can select your user name from the Fast User switching menu and this does bring you back to the login window. However, this doesn’t technically just lock the screen, this saves unsaved changes for example caching all your apps, documents and background processes to be able to bring back the login window and puts your user account in a ‘reserved’ state. This leverages the Application and Document resume feature Apple introduced with OS X Lion. So this can take a while depending on what apps, documents and background processes you have open and if there are any unsaved changes.
    Also, this feature would require ‘fast user switching’ to be enabled in Users & Groups preferences.

    Whereas the ‘Lock’ feature quickly shuts down the screen and forces user authentication without caching and reserving the user environment. So this is a much quicker option if you need to quickly run away from your desk.

    If you are concerned about loss of data, switching back to the login window could therefore be a safer bet, but may take longer than locking the screen.


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  • It does not work (in Yosemite 10.10) if you don’t set the time to immediately. Is there any fix for that, assuming that I don’t want to set the time to immediately?

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