Mac Security 101: Login

You’re using your Mac to manage your media library, your photos, heck – even your finances! Now you’re taking your machine with you on vacation or perhaps even leaving it at home with older children and house guests. It starts up and is so convenient to use, even logging in (yes, it does this) automatically without prompting you for a password. All of a sudden, convenience is trumped by need for security.

Assuming you have a relatively secure password, let’s disable auto-login.
1.Open the Apple Menu, click on System Preferences and choose “Accounts”
2.Choose “login options” at the lower-left. You may have to click the lock to authenticate and change these options (you do remember your password, right?)
3.Choose “Off” for automatic login.

Now, whenever you restart your Mac, you are presented with a login window rather than your desktop and apps. If you want to get back to this “lock” screen even when you’re logged in, turn on your guest user option and then allow fast user switching. You can then click your name in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and choose “login window” to get out fast. Your user is still logged in (and your Quicken session or document open for editing) but inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t know your password.

Want to get more secure? Choose a better password. At least eight characters, one upper-case, one number, one odd one like @.

Apple also has a great document on Mac OS X hardening!


This post applies to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.  A more recent document and information is available from Apple on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and later.