Whenever you leave your Windows 11 PC, it’s a good habit to keep it locked (with a special Windows software feature) so that others can’t use it. Here are several ways to keep your PC secure by locking it up.

Locking vs. Signing Out or Shutting Down

An example Windows 11 logon screen.
Benj Edwards / How-To Geek

When we say “lock” your PC, we’re not talking about using a physical padlock (or even a keyhole lock like the ones found on PCs in the 1980s and 90s.) Instead, we’re talking about using a software lock feature built into Windows.

When you lock your PC, Windows displays a login screen, but it keeps your Windows session active in the background. You can resume what you were doing (before you locked it) at any time by signing in to your account on the login screen with a password, PIN, or another login method.

In contrast, “signing out” can prevent others from using your PC as well, but it will close out everything you’ve been working on in Windows and free up system resources (such as RAM and CPU time). And shutting down closes out everything and turns off your PC completely.

RELATED: Why Did '90s PCs Have Keyhole Locks, and What Did They Do?

Lock Using a Keyboard Shortcut

Press Windows+L on your keyboard to lock Windows 11.

The absolute fastest way to lock your Windows 11 PC is by using a keyboard shortcut. At any time, press Windows+L on your keyboard, and Windows will lock and switch to the login screen immediately.

Lock Using the Start Menu

You can also lock your PC quickly using the Start menu. To do so, click the Start button, then select your account name in the lower-left corner of Start. In the menu that appears, select “Lock.” Your PC will lock, and you’ll need to log in again to use it.

Lock Using the Ctrl+Alt+Delete Screen

Another quick way to lock your PC is by using the Ctrl+Alt+Delete screen. To use it, press Ctrl+Alt+Delete on your keyboard, and you’ll see a special black screen with a menu in the center. Click “Lock,” and your PC will lock instantly.

Lock Automatically Using Dynamic Lock

In Settings, check the box beside "Allow Windows to automatically lock your device when you're away."

You can also lock your PC automatically when you walk away from it with a feature called Dynamic Lock. First, you need to pair your smartphone to your PC as a Bluetooth device. Then open Settings (press Windows+i) and navigate to Accounts > Sign-in Options. Scroll down to the “Dynamic Lock” section and check the box beside “Allow Windows to automatically lock your device when you’re away.” Then, close Settings. The next time you walk away from your PC, Windows will detect that you moved and lock automatically.

RELATED: How to Use Dynamic Lock to Automatically Lock Your Windows 10 PC

Lock Automatically When Inactive

In the "Screen Saver Settings" window, select a screen saver and check "On resume, display logon screen."

If you frequently walk away from your PC in a space shared with other people, you also automatically lock Windows 11 after a certain period of time. To do so, open Start and search “screen saver,” then click “Turn Screen Saver On or Off” in the “Settings” results.

When the “Screen Saver Settings” window opens, choose a screen saver from the drop-down menu, then set a time in the “Wait” box for how long you want your PC to stay active without locking. Finally, place a checkmark beside “On resume, display logon screen.” Then click “OK.” The next time your screen saver gets triggered, your PC will lock automatically.

By the way, if you don’t like the way your lock screen looks, you can customize it in Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen. Good luck!

RELATED: How to Customize the Lock Screen on Windows 11

Profile Photo for Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is a former Associate Editor for How-To Geek. Now, he is an AI and Machine Learning Reporter for Ars Technica. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
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