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How to password protect your screensaver

Upon waking your Mac from sleep or from running the screensaver, you may want to require password authentication before allowing access to the computer. This is an effective method to prevent unauthorized users from viewing and manipulating your files and programs while you are away from your Mac for brief and/or longer periods of time.

Mac OS X makes no distinction between sleep mode and running the screensaver: in both cases, it assumes that the user has stepped away from the computer. For this reason, they were combined into a single setting that can be toggled to your preference like so:

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left of your screen, then click "System Preferences".
  2. Click the "Security & Privacy" icon, and make sure the "General" tab is active.
  3. Check or uncheck the box in front of the "Require password for sleep and screen saver" setting. Check it to enable password protection, or uncheck to disable.
  4. You can optionally customize how long it takes before password protection will kick in by using the dropdown menu within this setting. When you choose "5 min", for example, and sleep mode or the screensaver has been started, you can still return to your computer without the need for password authentication before 5 minutes have passed. Select "Direct" to always ask for a password.

Password protecting your Mac does not prevent others from shutting it down when they have physical access, so always make sure you save your work before leaving it unattended.

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