I want to have the computer log me in so all my login items can get started, but I need it to be secure, aka it still needs to ask me for my password before I can actually use the computer.


I outlined how to do this at http://www.tuaw.com/2011/03/07/terminally-geeky-use-automatic-login-more-securely/ but I will summarize it for you:

  1. set your account to autologin
  2. create a login item (using launchd) which calls:

/System/Library/CoreServices/Menu\ Extras/User.menu/Contents/Resources/CGSession -suspend

NOTE: that command should be ONE LONG LINE not two lines with a line break/line feed.

A more thorough explanation is available at TUAW, so I won't repeat it all here, because those are the relevant details.

What it does:

The idea is very simple, your account is set to auto-login, so all of your login items will run, however, one of those login items (the CGSession command listed above) will tell the loginwindow to appear. If you have used Fast User Switching before, you will be familiar with how it works.

"But what if someone holds down the shift key to stop autolaunching?"

In my testing, that will also prevent the user from being automatically logged in.

Is this 100% as safe as not using auto-login?

Probably not, but I'd consider it close to 99.999% as safe.

That said, use at your own risk, etc.

  • Addendum: I use this technique on my office computer in case I need to reboot it while out of the office via ssh. HOWEVER if you use FileVault in Lion, this will not work because the user needs to manually enter their password before the computer will boot. – TJ Luoma Jan 16 '12 at 18:28
  • I'm not familiar with using launchd. Could you please explain in your answer how to create the login item? I tried to figure this out using the link, but I did not really get it. – gentmatt Jan 16 '12 at 18:47
  • @gentmatt That might be best asked as a separate question, but the short answer is "use Lingon" <itunes.apple.com/us/app/lingon/id411211026?mt=12>. Note that there is a separate version #3 which has fewer features, but version 2 will probably not be updated due to Apple's sandboxing requirements. – TJ Luoma Jan 17 '12 at 5:21

In System preferences set the screen saver so that it is on and required a password to start

enter image description here

I left the Disable automatic login ticked really as a mistake as to answer the user exactly this should be unticked.
However I would strongly suggest that it is ticked otherwise any could reboot the computer and get into a logged in session as the user.

  • Shouldn't you also untick "Disable automatic login"? – nohillside Jan 16 '12 at 18:09
  • doesn't answer my question – segiddins Jan 17 '12 at 1:58

Such behavior is not possible to be set in the System Preferences. Login Items are user specific. They aren't loaded unless you select a user and enter the password.

You would need to e.g. write a script that locks the screen as soon as you are logged in and set this script to be excecuted as the first thing after login.

  • FYI - That's precisely what my suggest (which I was writing while you posted yours :-) does. – TJ Luoma Jan 16 '12 at 18:26
  • Yes, I see :) I'll upvote yours, but I just hit the voting limit. – gentmatt Jan 16 '12 at 18:35

Since not everybody is familiar with creating a launchd / launchctl script, here's how you do it

This explains step two of @TJ Luomas answer:

  1. Set your account to auto login

  2. Open TextEdit and create a new file containing the following

    /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu\ Extras/User.menu/Contents/Resources/CGSession -suspend
  3. Name the file suspend.sh and save it to your User folder (~)

  4. Open TextEdit and create a new file with the following content

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
    <plist version="1.0">
  5. Save the file to ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.fl034.suspendAfterLogin.plist

  6. Restart your Mac to see if it works

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