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How to freeze and lock your Linux system (and why you would want to)

How you freeze and “thaw out” a screen on a Linux system depends a lot on what you mean by these terms. Sometimes “freezing a screen” might mean freezing a terminal window so that activity within that window comes to a halt. Sometimes it means locking your screen so that no one can walk up to your system when you’re fetching another cup of coffee and type commands on your behalf.

In this post, we’ll examine how you can use and control these actions.

How to freeze a terminal window on Linux

You can freeze a terminal window on a Linux system by typing Ctrl+S (hold control key and press “s”). Think of the “s” as meaning “start the freeze”. If you continue typing commands after doing this, you won’t see the commands you type or the output you would expect to see. In fact, the commands will pile up in a queue and will be run only when you reverse the freeze by typing Ctrl+Q. Think of this as “quit the freeze”.

One easy way to view how this works is to use the date command and then type Ctrl+S. Then type the date command again and wait a few minutes before typing Ctrl+Q. You’ll see something like this:

$ date
Mon 16 Sep 2019 06:47:34 PM EDT
$ date
Mon 16 Sep 2019 06:49:49 PM EDT

The gap between the two times shown will indicate that the second date command wasn’t run until you unfroze your window.

Terminal windows can be frozen and unfrozen whether you’re sitting at the computer screen or running remotely using a tool such as PuTTY.

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