Auto-lock Screen w/o Sleep

Auto-lock Screen w/o Sleep: a reader asks…

I recently followed your advice about not using sleep mode on my windows 10 PC. But I’m now seeing a problem: my screen doesn’t auto-lock. Is there a way to use auto-lock without using Sleep mode? I need this because when I travel, I leave my laptop in my hotel room and don’t want anyone to be able to get into my computer.

In both Windows 10 & 11, the computer auto-locks the screen when going into sleep mode. Now that your computer isn’t using sleep mode, it doesn’t auto-lock. There’s an alternate way to engage the screen lock automatically, which harks back to older days when we used screen-savers. But before I walk you through that process, let me pose another way of doing this:

Anytime I’m traveling with my PC and/or using it in places where someone other than close family might have access to it, I prefer to manually lock the screen when I’m done using it. This ensures that the screen is positively locked before I walk away. I do this with a simple Windows shortcut key combination: press the Windows key and the L key simultaneously. That locks the screen instantly and I can visually verify that before I shut the lid of my laptop, so I know my computer is secure.

You never know if some malfunctioning process or other app running in the background might prevent your computer from auto-locking, so the above method is my 100% sure-fire way to secure the computer.

With sleep mode, Windows automatically locks when it goes to sleep. But, sleep mode can interfere with other computer operations (particularly 3rd party apps), so I recommend against using it. Instead, I simply set the monitor to power down after xx minutes (usually 15-30). That means when you tap a key, move the mouse, or swipe the trackpad, the computer wakes up and is ready to work instantly. But the screen isn’t automatically locked. To add auto-lock functionality to this mode:

  1. Open the screen saver settings: Type “Screen saver settings” into the search bar at the bottom of the monitor screen (next to the Start button) and press the Enter key.
  2. Click open the “Screen saver” box and change it from (None) to anything else (such as Blank). In the “Wait” box, type in the same number of minutes you have set the monitor to power down, or perhaps 5 minutes extra. Also check the checkbox “On resume, display logon screen”.
  3. Click the OK button to apply those changes and close the Screen Saver Settings window.

I have my computers setup in the auto-lock/screen saver method above, and I also use the Win + L key combo to positively lock the screen whenever I want. This way if I forget to lock the screen, it will auto-lock for me after 20 minutes.

I add an extra five minutes to the auto-lock because sometimes I’m sitting at my computer but doing something else, and once the screen goes blank I wake it back up, and the grace period saves me that minor annoyance.

This works identically the same in Windows 10 and 11. Fyi, the “Windows” keyboard key is the one in-between the CTRL and ALT keys on most keyboards.

I use and recommend both these methods. By positively locking your screen yourself, you are making sure your computer is as secure as possible in case someone tries to gain access. And by having the auto-lock set to engage after a period of inactivity, you have an added security layer for anytime you forget to lock the screen yourself.

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