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Working with the Lock Screen

The very first time you start Windows, and anytime you shut it down, restart, or let the machine go idle for long enough, you're greeted with the lock screen.

You can get through the lock screen by doing any of the following:

  • Swiping up with your finger, if you have a touch-sensitive display.
  • Dragging up with your mouse.
  • Pressing any key on your keyboard.

You aren't stuck with the lock screen Microsoft gives you. You can customize your picture and the little icons (or badges). The following sections explain how.

Using your own picture

Changing the picture for your lock screen is easy. (See the nearby sidebar "Individualized lock screens" for details about the difference between your lock screen and the system's lock screen.) Customizing the picture is a favorite trick at Windows demos, so you know it has to be easy, right? Here's how:

  1. Click or tap the Start icon, the Settings icon, and then Personalization.
  2. On the left, choose Lock Screen.
    The lock screen's Preview window appears.
  3. From the Background drop-down list, first try Windows Spotlight, if it's available.
    Windows Spotlight images come directly from Microsoft - more specifically, from Bing - and change frequently. Microsoft reserves the right to put advertising on Windows Spotlight screens, ostensibly to tell you about features in Windows that you haven't used yet. Remains to be seen whether other, partners can purchase spots on the screen.
  4. From the drop-down list, choose Picture. This selection lets you choose which picture will appear. If you like one of the pictures on offer, click it. If you'd rather find your own picture, click Browse.
    You can decide whether you want your chosen picture to be overlaid with "fun facts, tips, tricks, and more on your lock screen."
  5. If you find a picture you want, click it. If not, choose Slideshow in the Background drop-down box.
    This option ties into the Albums in the Universal Windows Photos app or you can choose to turn a folder of pictures into a slideshow. If you decide to go with a slideshow, click the Advanced Slideshow Settings link to set whether the slideshow can be pulled from your camera roll, whether the chosen pictures have to be large enough to fit your screen, and several additional choices.
  6. After you've chosen the background itself, you can specify what apps should provide details that appear on the lock screen. See the next section for details about Badges.
    You're finished. There's no Apply or OK button to tap or click.

Test to make sure that your personal lock screen has been updated. The easiest way is to go to the Start menu, click your picture in the upper-left corner, and choose Lock or Sign Out.

If you read the Microsoft help file, you may think that Windows keeps one lock screen for all users, but it doesn't. Instead, it has a lock screen for each individual user and one more lock screen for the system as a whole.

If you're using the system and you lock it - say, tap your picture on the Metro Start screen and choose Lock - Windows shows your personal lock screen, with the badges you've chosen. If you swipe or drag to lift that lock screen, you're immediately asked to provide your password. There's no intervening step to ask which user should log in.

If, instead of locking the system when you leave it, you tap your picture and choose Sign Out, Windows behaves quite differently. It shows the system's lock screen, with the system's badges. Your lock screen and badges are nowhere to be seen. If you drag or swipe to go through the lock screen, you're asked to choose which user will log in.

If you change your lock screen using the techniques in this tutorial, you change only your lock screen. Windows' idea of a lock screen stays the same.

Adding and removing apps on the lock screen

Badges are the little icons that appear at the bottom of the lock screen. They exist to tell you something about your computer at a glance, without having to log in - how many email messages are unread, whether your battery needs charging, and so on. Some badges just appear on the lock screen, no matter what you do. For example, if you have an Internet connection, a badge appears on the lock screen. If you're using a tablet or laptop, the battery status appears; there's nothing you can do about it.

Mostly, though, Windows lets you pick and choose quick status badges that are important to you.

The programs that support the badges update their information periodically - every 15 minutes, in some cases. If you have a badge on your lock screen, the lock screen app that controls the badge has to wake up every so often, so it can retrieve the data and put it on the lock screen. Putting everything on the lock screen drains your computer's battery.

Here's how to pick and choose your quick status badges:

  1. Click or tap the Start icon and then the Settings icon.
  2. Choose Personalization. On the left, choose Lock Screen. On the right, scroll down.
    At the bottom of the screen are two rows of gray icons. The first icon points to a specially anointed app that shows detailed status information on the lock screen. You get only one. The detailed status app has to be specially designed to display the large block of information.
  3. Tap or click the detailed status icon, and choose which display badge you want to appear in that slot on the lock screen.
    Apps must be specially designed to display the badge information on the lock screen. You're given a choice of all the apps that have registered with Windows as being capable of displaying a quick status badge on the lock screen. As you add more apps, some of them appear spontaneously on this list.
    The second row, of seven icons, corresponds to seven badge locations at the bottom of the lock screen. They appear in order from left to right, starting below the time. In theory (although this doesn't always work), you can choose which badges appear, and where they appear, in order from left to right.
  4. Click each of the seven gray icons in turn, and choose an app to show its status on the lock screen.
    If you choose Don't Show Quick Status Here, the gray icon gets a plus (+) sign, indicating that it isn't being used. No badge appears in the corresponding slot on the lock screen.

The quick status apps have to be built specifically to show their badges on the lock screen.

You're finished. There's no Apply or OK button to tap or click.

Go back out to the lock screen - click or tap the Start icon, choose your picture at the top, choose Lock - and see whether you like the changes. If you don't like what you see or you're worried about unnecessarily draining your battery with all the fluff, start over at Step 1.