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How and Why You Should Customise Your Mac's Login Screen

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If your choice of Mac is one of the MacBooks Air, or Pro, then it is likely that you enjoy using your Mac for its portability … even if that portability is just so that you can work around your home or office. The disadvantage of that portability is that it opens up the chance of loss, when you are out and about. Combined with the desirability and high resale values, your Mac is also a prime target for thieves.

In this tutorial I will show you how to create a customised message, on the login screen, that may help reunite you with a lost or stolen Mac.

It's Not Just for MacBooks, It's for iMacs and Macs Mini

… and Macs Pro, too! The technique that I will demonstrate, in this tutorial, will work with any Mac running OS X 10.7 Lion, 10.8 Mountain Lion and 10.9 Mavericks. Technically, it will even work on a Hackintosh running OS X 10.7 Lion or later.

Why You Should Do This, Now

In my previous tutorial, How to Keep Your MacBook Safe: Theft Prevention and Recovery Tactics, I demonstrated a number of techniques for theft prevention and recovery. I urge you to read that tutorial and to implement some, preferably all, of the suggestions. This tutorial is in addition to the recommendations made there.

The reason that you should create a login screen message is that it alerts the finder, or thief, to the fact that your Mac is registered, tracked, recoverable and that it is in their best interests to return it to you.

I recommend that the return is made via a police station. That way, you do not come into direct contact with the finder (or thief) and, therefore, are never placed into a compromising or dangerous situation.

The message on the login screen will also prompt the police to check the Immobilise database and/or to contact you directly in order to reunite you with your Mac.

Essentially, anything that you can do to encourage and enable someone to return your property to you, you should do. If you want your Mac back, in the event of loss or theft, then your best bet is to make the experience of returning it to you as frictionless as possible. That’s exactly what this tutorial is about.

Consider Your Message

Before you start, you might just want to consider exactly what message you would like to convey on the login screen. It’s important to consider that only three lines of text will be visible at a time.

… if, like me, you’re not a comedian then you can use the message to convey some rather more useful, if mundane, information.

Whilst the text is scrollable, up and down, the default behaviour of OS X is to hide visual indicators such as scrollbars. This is the current fashion in user interface design; many of the lessons of usability, over the years, are lost for the sake of an aesthetic. Consequently, it is not immediately obvious that there is more information. On that basis, my advice is to restrict your message to no more than three lines.

You can use the message area to convey a humorous message to greet you each time you log in. Or if, like me, you’re not a comedian then you can use the message to convey some rather more useful, if mundane, information.

How to Create Your Custom Login Message

Once you have decided on what information you wish to convey, on the login screen, the next step is to create it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the Apple icon at the top left of the menu bar
  2. Click System Preferences in the drop down menu
  3. Click the Security & Privacy icon, normally the sixth icon along on the top line
  4. This should default to the General tab. Select this if it has not.
  5. Click on Click the lock to make changes and enter your password to unlock the preference pane
  6. Click the tick box, next to Show message when the screen is locked, to place a tick in the box
  7. Click the Set Lock Message button
  8. Enter your message and click the OK button when done
Creating the login screen messageCreating the login screen messageCreating the login screen message
Creating the login screen message

Tip: To enter line breaks in your message simply press the Ctrl and Enter keys, simultaneously.

Checking Your Login Screen Message

Aside from booting up your Mac, and assuming that you are already logged in to OS X, the quickest way to check and review your login screen message is to hold down the Shift, Command and Q keys, simultaneously. Alternatively, select Apple > Log Out [Your Name] …. Then click the Log Out button.

You will be logged out of your account and the login screen will be displayed, along with your message.

The login screen with custom messageThe login screen with custom messageThe login screen with custom message
The login screen with custom message

Tip: Review your login screen message paying particular attention to any contact details, that you have used, to ensure that they are correct.


In this tutorial, I have shown you how to create a custom login screen message. This is possible on all Macs running OS X 10.7 Lion or later. You can use this feature for fun or for a more serious purpose. I have demonstrated how it may be used to assist in the recovery of a lost or stolen Mac.

If you have any good ideas for the login message, or if you use it in a different way, let me know in the comments section below.

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