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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 5th August 2011

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OS X Lion: Lock the Mac with a custom message

Security is an important subject and it is something you need to consider when you own a computer. Normally when people talk about security they only think about online security and hackers, but the physical security of the Mac itself is also important. When you leave your desk to go and get a coffee or for some other reason, can someone get access to your Mac? In those few minute or seconds you are away someone could get on the Mac and steal information.

You need to lock your Mac, not just from thieves, but perhaps from the rest of the family too. You don't want your kids to get on your Mac when you aren't looking and accidentally delete valuable files or install some dodgy software. Fortunately, you can instantly lock your Mac and display a custom message on the screen for anyone that tries to access it. It can be a warning to unauthorised people to keep off your Mac or a helpful message to a child telling them to ask mum or dad if they want to use the computer.

The first step is to require a password when your Mac is locked. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences, then click Security & Privacy. Clic the padlock in the bottom left corner and enter your administrator password - it is necessary for making changes to the security of the Mac. Now tick the box at the top to require a password after sleep or a screen saver begins. Select Immediately from the pop-up option list.

Tick the option to show a message when the screen is lock and enter the message into the box. It is up to you what message you use and if it's a work computer then it will probably be different one you have at home.

That's the locking and message sorted, now let's set up the Mac so that we can instantly lock it. Go to System Prefences, Mission Control and click the Hot Corners button in the bottom left corner. This displays a window with four pop-up menus, one for each corner of the screenn. When the mouse cursor is placed in one of the corners some action can be carried out.

Click a pop-up menu for one of the corners and you'll see a list of actions. The one we want is Put Display To Sleep. Before you select it, when a pop-up menu is displayed for a hot corner, hold down the Control, Option or Command key. You'll see that one of those funny symbols Apple uses for these keys is added to the menu. To prevent accidentally locking the computer by moving the mouse into a corner you can require one of these keys to be pressed. The Command key is a good one. Hold down Command and select Put Display To Sleep for one of the corners.

Now you can close System Preferences and try the new features. Hold down Command (if you chose this option) and move the mouse to the corner you selected. The screen will switch off, saving you power, being friendly to the environment, and also locking your Mac. Just move the mouse and you'll see the lock screen displaying the custom message you defined and prompting you to enter your password. (You do have a password set on your account don't you?)

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