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Information Technology

Password-protect Your Computer & Files

These pages provide step-by-step instructions for setting up passwords that restrict access to your computer and your documents. Guidelines for creating effective passwords are also included. To learn more about data security, see our Information Security Tips.

Password Guidelines

Consider applying these guidelines to all your passwords:

  • Your password needs to be at least eight characters long. Most secure passwords are between 8 and 16 characters.
  • Your password should include letters (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers, and symbols (e.g., &, *, %).
  • Always use a symbol (e.g., &, $, *) between the 2nd and 6th characters.
  • Avoid your name, user name, or any word from the dictionary.
  • Use 'pass phrases', unique abbreviations for a common phrase/sentence/title (e.g., Dyfic&D2 = Dress your family in corduroy and denim twice)
  • Use different passwords for different services (e.g., your computer User Account, your email, individual documents, etc.).

Lock the Screen

To ‘lock’ your computer screen:

Windows 7

Hold down the Windows Logo key and simultaneously press the ‘L’ key.


Press Ctrl-Alt-Del, then click Lock Computer. The Computer Locked window will open, reading that the computer is in use and has been locked.

Windows 8

1. Move your mouse to the upper right corner of the screen and click Start.

2. From the upper right-hand corner of the Start menu, select your account picture then click Lock.

Mac OS X

Note: Your screen saver must be turned on in order to use this method. To find out how to turn on your screen saver, look for Turning a screen saver on or off under Help > Mac Help on your computer. Once you have turned on your screen saver:

  1. Go to Apple Menu > System Preferences….
  2. In the System Preferences window, click the Security icon.
  3. In the Security window, select the Require password to wake this computer from sleep or screen saver check box.

Note: For either Windows or Mac, use your User Account password to unlock your computer and resume your work. The User Account password is the one that you use to log in to your computer every morning.

Enable Screen Saver Passwords


Windows 7 & 8


  1. Right-click anywhere on your desktop background, and select Personalize
  2. Select the Display icon from the Control Panel. The Display Properties window will open.
  3. In the Display Properties window, choose the Screen Saver tab.
  4. In the Screen Saver tab, you can change your screen saver. Check the box marked On resume, display logon screen.


Mac OS X


Locking the screen also locks your screen saver! You’re all set!

Create Passwords to Open Files

To protect confidential information, we recommend that you use the Passwords to Open option for your Microsoft documents. Please remember that Microsoft Passwords to Open:

  • Are not stored on your computer: without a password, you cannot open a password-protected file, even if you are the owner of the document.
  • Are case-sensitive: make sure you remember which characters you capitalize.
  • Can be up to 15 characters long and can include any combination of letters, numbers, spaces, and symbols. See Password Guidelines above for more information.

To create a Password to Open for a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet:

  1. Open the document.
  2. In the main menu, go to Tools > Options….
  3. In the Options window, click the Security tab.
  4. On the Security tab, under File encryption options for this document, in the Password to open field, enter a password (maximum 15 characters) for this document.
  5. Click OK to open the Confirm Password window.
  6. In the Confirm Password window, re-enter your password, then click OK.
  7. Once you close this document, anyone attempting to open it will be prompted for this password.

To remove the password requirement, simply open the document, go to Tools > Options…. On the Security tab, clear the Password to open field, then click OK.