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I am looking for a tool to lock my desktop (Windows) but leave the actual windows or at least snapshot of them visible.

Any recommendations?

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Make a screenshot and set it as the login background? – Ivo Flipse Feb 17 '10 at 6:55

Lock My PC (shareware, S29.95) features custom lock screens and transparent lock screen options - your computer can be used as a presentation machine - the screen displays pictures or video, but nobody can touch your computer.

... and much more.

Transparent Screen Lock (shareware, from $24.95) enables IT professionals to prevent unauthorized system access, while maintaining the ability to view applications running on the desktop for monitoring purposes.

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Stick to Transparent Screen Lock PRO - the PRO version is much better than the base version. "Lock My PC" is not really a professional program and I was able to defeat it quite easily.

Transparent Screen Lock uses the user's actual username and password and does not store a password like Lock My PC does so it is much more secure.

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Try the Vista/Win7 Bubbles screen saver. Set require password to resume. For XP here is directions and download link. If you don't want the bubbles you can tweak to 1 small bubble or something.

Look for other screen savers like rain or snow that still show the desktop just a little messy.

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can I have a key combination to lock the screen and start the screensaver? – Art Feb 17 '10 at 1:02

I've no idea whether this works (since I don't have ahk installed at the moment), so, proceed with caution :) how-to-lock-your-computer-and-still-see-desktop-autohotkey

Btw, you do realize that most of these solutions are generally not as safe as a switch user lockdown ?

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