How to lock the screen in Mac OS X

One of the things I missed when I switched to this MacBook was the easy ability to lock my screen. When I leave my desk at work, I desperately do not want some hooligan sitting down to write the president of our university an email, asking for a pony while using my account. Gnome, the user interface I prefer with Linux, has screen locking available from the logout window pretty easily, and in Windows I just have to perform the three-finger-salute (alt+ctrl+del) to get a Lock Screen button. But there was nothing obvious in OS X to mimic this functionality.

Rob at work showed me how to lock the screen on OS X server, though, which is identical to OS X for the desktop, so I thought I’d share.

Step 1: Opening the Keychain Access utility

Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.
Keychain Access can be reached through the Utilities folder or by typing "keychain" in Spotlight.

First, open up the Utilities folder. You can get to this by either hitting Command+Shift+U with the desktop (Finder) selected, or by opening Finder, browsing to the Applications folder, then double clicking on the Utilities folder.

Step 2: Opening the Keychain Access Preferences

Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.
Reach the preferences window through the menu bar at the top of your screen.

Once you have Keychain Access opened up, you’ll see the Keychain Access window on your screen. You can ignore this, because what we really want to get into are the Keychain Access preferences. To reach these preferences, click on the words Keychain Access at the top left of your screen and then select Preferences from the drop-down menu.

Step 3: Modify Keychain Access Preferences

Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.
Check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar.

All we need to do in this window is check the box labeled Show Status in Menu Bar. Once completed, go ahead and hit the red button (X) at the top left of this window to close it. You can also close the main Keychain Access window.

Step 4: Lock Screen (if so desired)

You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.
You can now lock the screen by clicking on the padlock icon at the top right of you screen.

You can now lock your screen by using the padlock icon at the top right of you screen, located on the menu bar to the left of the clock and other icons.

How to modify System Preferences in OS X

System Preferences

Apple’s OS X operating system has a centralized system preferences window akin to the Control Panel in Microsoft Windows, and while it can be easier to navigate and use (after you get used to it), saving those preferences is a little less obvious. There are no “Save” or “Apply” buttons, and there often isn’t any indication that your changes have been saved. The key is to know how it works and, like all things Apple, just drink the Kool-Aid and trust.

Essentially, preference changes are made as you click the button and make your modifications, but they don’t take effect immediately. Instead, you need to back out; often, closing the window isn’t sufficient.

So, the steps go something like this:

  1. Open System Preferences from the Apple logo at the top left of your screen.
  2. Pick whatever it is you would like to change (Sharing properties, your dock, accounts for password change, etc.)
  3. Make the changes.
  4. Hit the Show All or Back button at the top left of the System Preferences window.

Now your changes have actually been saved and you can continue with your day. Congratulations!