It’s important to lock your computer when you aren’t using it. If you don’t, someone could come by and play pranks on it or much worse. Someone with full access to your machine could steal your files, copy your passwords, or impersonate you using your online accounts.
Getting around a Windows password takes some time, so locking up should prevent any issues when you’re not physically present. Here are several ways to do so.
1. Use the Keyboard Shortcut
The most straightforward solution is probably the best for most people. You can use a basic keyboard shortcut to lock your computer whenever you get up from your desk.
Pressing Windows Key + L will immediately lock your computer on any version of Windows.
— Dorset Police Cyber (@DP_CyberCrime) February 16, 2017
The shortcut sends you back to the lock screen, and you’ll have to enter your password (or PIN ) to get back in.
Of course, your computer is only protected if you actually have a password on your account. Head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options and look under the Password field. If you don’t have a password on your account, set one now! You can change your password here too if you need something fresh.
2. Set a Short Timeout
Using the keyboard shortcut is great because it locks your computer immediately. If there’s no delay, nobody can jump onto your computer in that window of time before it locks. Setting a short timeout until Windows automatically locks is a good backup option for those times when you forget to hit the shortcut, though.
To do so in Windows 10, open Settings and search for Screensaver in the search bar. Click Change screen saver in the results list to pop open its window. Since screensavers aren’t really necessary with modern monitors, you thankfully don’t actually have to enable a screensaver to use this method.
Choose a screensaver from the list (or download an awesome free screensaver), then you’ll have to choose the number of minutes to wait until it activates. If you select (None), the computer will instantly lock after that time instead of displaying a screensaver. Make sure to check On resume, display logon screen so it locks!
The longer this value, the less secure of a setup. However, a short time could trigger the screensaver/lock when you’re actually at your computer, which is annoying. Choose a reasonable amount of time (maybe three minutes) and give it a try. Now whenever you leave your computer alone for a few minutes, your screensaver will kick in. Whoever wakes it up from the screensaver needs your password to get in.
Also, head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. Under Require sign-in, make sure that you select When PC wakes from sleep. This will make your computer ask for a password when it leaves sleep mode.
3. Try Windows 10’s Dynamic Lock
Windows 10 is a constantly evolving product, and the Creator’s Update coming in April is the latest major upgrade. One of the new features is Dynamic Lock, which lets you automatically lock your PC when you step away from your desk . If you’re not a Windows Insider you’ll have to wait a bit for this option, but those on the latest build can try it now.
First, make sure you have a phone or other device paired to your PC with Bluetooth. Then, go to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in Options. You should find the Dynamic lock header and check Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device. Once this is done, your computer will lock a few moments after it loses the Bluetooth connection to your phone.
Make sure your phone is in your pocket when you do this; if it’s sitting on your desk, your computer won’t lock! The keyboard shortcut is still the most reliable way of locking your PC instantly, but having the lock tied to your physical presence is neat. Plus, this method won’t annoy you with accidental locks when you’re inactive.
Use Third-Party Tools
Where Windows leaves a gap, clever developers invent awesome software. If none of the above methods suit your needs, there are several free tools that should help you out.
If you’re still using Windows 7 or 8.1, you can try the Dynamic Lock feature without upgrading to Windows 10 using Bluelock. It’s a simple tool that lets you pick a connected Bluetooth device to lock Windows with. Choose how long you’d like to wait before the computer locks, and it behaves just like Dynamic Lock.
For a totally different take, you can also lock Windows with a USB flash drive . Software like Predator handles all the work for free. Just assign a USB drive as the key to unlock your machine, and the computer won’t function without it.
This is a great option if you need absolute security on your machine. The Predator process can’t be stopped using the Task Manager, it can blast an alarm when someone types the wrong password, and it records security logs. Whenever you’re leaving your desk, just pull out the flash drive and everything locks up.
6. Lock My PC
If you don’t want to use a flash drive but still want more locking options, try Lock My PC. This free tool lets you override the default Windows lock screen (where other admins could still log in) by disabling the mouse and disc drives. You can trigger this lock with your own hotkeys, make the lock screen transparent, and even shut down or log off the user once the lock screen is up for a set time.
Locked Up Tight
There’s no shortage of options when you want to lock your PC. The keyboard shortcut is the most reliable method, and setting a screen timeout helps if you forget. If you’re hardcore about your security, try using a flash drive or advanced software for more options. You’ll never have to worry about unauthorized access to your computer again!
Now that your PC is locked down, make sure someone can’t steal all the hardware in your office !
Do you use one of these methods or do you prefer to lock Windows in another way? Share your PC security plan with us in the comments.
Image Credit: Evlakhov Valeriy via Shutterstock.com