Password-protecting video playback on a Mac

6 November 2015, 05:00

Ever wanted to set a video playing – or indeed set anything happening on your Mac – while simultaneously locking the screen so that if anybody attempts to use the computer then they’ll have to enter a password?

This kind of thing can be useful for “kiosk” Macs, which are setup in a public place to provide information or entertainment.

Here’s how to do it. These steps use a clever transparent screensaver so effectively it’s like a password-protected yet invisible screensaver is running. I assume below it’s movie playback you’re interested in, but the steps can easily be adjusted for any task that you want to password-protect.

  1. Visit Monkeybread Software’s website and download Transparent Screensaver. Once downloaded, unpack the zip file and then right-click the Transparent.saver file and select Open, then Open again in the dialog box that appears.
  2. System Preferences will start and you’ll be asked if you want to install the new screensaver for just yourself, or for all users. Install it just for yourself.
  3. The Screen Saver listing of System Preferences will now be visible, so select Transparent at the bottom. At the bottom left set a time in the Start After dropdown list to suit – perhaps 1 minute, for example
  4. Click the Back button to return to System Preferences’ main listing of icons, and then click the Security & Privacy icon.
  5. Select the General tab, and put a check alongside Require Password and change the dropdown alongside to read “Immediately”.
  6. Once again click the back button in System Preferences, and select the Energy Saver icon. Drag the slider alongside Turn Display Off After all the way to the right, so the display never turns off automatically.

All you need do now is start the movie playing via QuickTime Player, or indeed any other app.* Then wait for the screensaver to start in order to provide password protection. There’ll be no sign it’s started, aside from the fact that moving the mouse or tapping the keyboard will cause a password prompt to appear.

* I found that running apps full-screen didn’t allow the screensaver to start. YMMV.

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