Should you use a password when you log into your Mac? This is a question many people grapple with, but I can help you clear it up right now. If you use email, do online banking, store personal documents on your computer, input anything personal into your computer or online, you should use a password to protect your Mac from unauthorized access.
Our ability to protect our data, our identity, our assets, our employment and other aspects of our lives could be severely compromised if someone accessed our computer. Even though odds are on our side that nothing will ever happen to us, those odds are becoming less in our favor as hacker and criminal activity in the digital world increases exponentially. Even though it may seem terribly inconvenient, the extra second or so it takes to input a password will be worth it.
To enable a log-in password, select the Apple menu at the top-left and then select “System Preferences.” Next, select “Security & Privacy.”
In the box that opens, there are four tabs near the top. Select “General” if it is not already chosen. When selecting a password, do not use familiarity such as, the name of a pet, the numbers of your address or phone number, or even birth dates of your spouse or children. Criminals will try these first, hoping you use them to help remember the password.
To set, change or remove your password, click the lock in the lower-left corner of the box. Enter your Apple user ID and password and select “Unlock.” This will unlock all the options for all the tabs available in the Security & Privacy box.
With the options unlocked, you can now set/change your password by clicking the Set/Change Password button. Leave Old password blank and then enter your new password (twice) and you can use a password hint in case you need help remembering it. Select the “Change Password” button to save your changes.
The next three options depend on your preferences. The first option, when your Mac goes to sleep, you can require it to log-in again with your password. Place a checkmark in the box and then you can establish the amount of time it can sleep before you must use your password to log back in. Click the drop-down arrows and choose between “immediately” to “8 hours.” If you leave the box blank, when your Mac goes to sleep, it will not require a password for access. If you use your Mac in public places, selecting immediately may be your best choice.
The second option allows you to set a message that displays on your screen when it locks. Checkmark the box, click “Set Lock Message” and then type what you want to appear on your lock screen. Click “OK” to save your changes.
The third option, if you would like to bypass the entire log in procedure, remove the checkmark from the box: “Disable automatic login.” However, if you remove this checkmark, your Mac will boot directly to your desktop, allowing access without any security barriers. Checkmark the box to require a password to log-in.
The lower section gives you the chance to select from where apps can be downloaded to your system. The default is “App Store and identified developers” and I recommend you use this setting unless you know why you should choose otherwise.
Next, at the bottom-right, click “Advanced.” These options further customize your log in preferences. You can adjust how long it takes before your computer logs out after a certain amount of time of inactivity. You can also require an administrator password to access system-wide preferences by check marking the box. The last one pertains if you have a remote control infrared receiver, you can click “Pair” and after following the instructions, you can connect your remote to your Mac. Click “OK” to save your changes.
Click the lock in the lower-left corner to save and lock all the changes you have made and you can close the box.
For more than 15 years, Scott Lindsay has helped thousands of people better their skills, publishing more than 500 articles about Apple and Microsoft software, the computer and the Internet. You can reach Scott for comments or questions at ScottLindsay@live.com.