You might have heard of Windows Hello at some point. It has been around since Summer of 2015 and has grown significantly as more laptops, tablets and other mobile devices have been launching with built-in fingerprint readers or cameras that support Hello’s facial recognition. The whole idea is to be able to log into your system using a more modern method vs entering the same passwords we have been for years. Now you can simply face your device or touch a small sensor and you are logged in and ready to rock.
If you have a system or device that doesn’t come with one of these built-in options, you have the ability of using an addon device to make it possible. Facial recognition is still limited as there are only a few camera models that support it. You can dish out a lot of cash for something like Logitech’s BRIO camera, but it’s way too overpriced (average $170-$199) and isn’t a perfect camera (there have been a lot of issues with it since a Windows update last year). An alternative option is a USB fingerprint sensor, which is a more cost effective approach, and is a lot easier to use.
One affordable option is BIO-Key’s SideTouch fingerprint reader. A tiny USB reader that blends right in like a small mouse receiver, making it perfect for Windows laptops and tablets. Setup is a breeze is and you are ready to go within just a minute or two. Best of all, it will only run you $38.99.
The reader features a solid build to ti that feels like it will take on a lot of average wear just fine, and even comes with a cap for when you aren’t using it. It plugs into any standard USB port (regardless of which USB version the port is–from our experience) and works on any Windows 8.1 or 10 (or greater) device that support Windows Hello.
That last part (supporting Hello) is important as we found a few laptops that just wouldn’t do it (like the HP 11-e115nr), despite having Windows 10 loaded on it. In these situations, the setup button for Fingerprints (which we will explain in a second) remains greyed out regardless of how hard you troubleshoot the issue (Bios, driver, group policies, etc). This included any reader device we attempted to use, thus it wasn’t limited to just the BIO-Key (it was the laptop). So it helps to have a more modern system (within the last few years).
As long as your system supports fingerprint readers for Windows Hello, any troubles can be troubleshooted pretty quickly (and it isn’t the fault of the BIO-Key device thankfully). We will cover some of these tactics as well in just a second, but first I want to cover a perfect install.
Upon inserting the USB, Windows will find the best driver and install it. Once installed, it will/may open your browser and send you to a help page for setting it up further (which we will continue to explain).
The next step is to go to Windows Settings, Accounts, Sign-in Options, and look for the section that says Windows Hello. If it says Windows Hello is not available for this device, just wait a few seconds. A setup box should appear. If it is greyed out (unable to click on it), then you haven’t setup a pin (which is required for Hello to work). Scroll down slightly to the pin setup and create a pin for Windows. The fingerprint button should be clickable now.
Once you click that button, Windows will walk you through setting up a fingerprint. After the first read, it will continue to ask you to press your finger against the sensor multiple times so that it can best get to know that print of yours. When it finishes, a new option will be available to add another fingerprint, in case you want a number of your fingers to be able to unlock the system–or multiple users for the single login (although it would be more secure for them to each have their own user account on the PC). You can also remove your saved fingerprint data.
At this point you are setup and ready to go. To test it out, press Win+L on your keyboard or logout from the start menu (no need to reboot or shutdown). From the login screen, simply touch the sensor with the same finger (or one of the fingers if you scanned multiple) and it should log you right back into Windows.
Now if something goes wrong, here are a few ways to handle it. It is important to point out that we did NOT have any issues with using the BIO-Key reader (this is just based on other experiences users have had with readers in general)
- If you insert the reader into the USB port and nothing happens (Windows doesn’t automatically download the driver): Go to start menu and type “device manager”. Under “Other Devices”, you should see “BIO-Key SideTouch” with an exclamation icon. Right click and select “update driver” and it should download and you will be ready to go into Windows Settings to continue the other steps.
- If the driver installed fine and you’ve setup your pin, but the setup button for the Fingerprint option is greyed out: There could be a number of reasons, so try this checklist of items…
- Go to the device manager as I just pointed out in the last point, find and right click on the device, select “update driver”. Tell it to search online for a driver. It may or may not work, but it’s worth the try.
- Reboot the system and go into bios (usually by hitting F2 or F10 just as the system begins to turn back on). Look for an option for Biometrics or Fingerprint, and make sure it is turned on. If not, turn it on and exit bios while saving your changes.
- If on the Windows Settings page you see “Some settings are managed by your system administrator” in red text towards the top of the window, you may have a PC that is managed by a network administrator (usually a work environment). You can speak with them or if you are the admin of your system…search google for “Windows Hello Some settings are managed by your system administrator” to learn how you can change a few group policies around to possibly fix it.
The systems/devices we tested the BIO-Key reader on (that support Windows Hello), all took to the install and operation perfectly. As I pointed out, within a minute or two you should be up and running (as we were). As long as your fingers aren’t mulled, it should learn your prints effectively and log you into Windows just as quick.
In our experience, it took less than a second for Windows to respond when we tried to log in using the reader. A simple press and we were right into Windows. Of course most of our systems here are beasts, so it normally doesn’t take anytime to load to the desktop from boot. The time you are saving here is having to normally type something out on the keyboard. Now things really are “touch and go” (puns anyone?).
BIO-Key’s SideTouch is an affordable, functioning and tiny reader. It worked with nearly every machine we tested it on, and the few it didn’t work with, didn’t work with any other solution either (they simply wouldn’t support Windows Hello, thus we couldn’t get far enough to set anything up). As long as your system does support Windows Hello, this should be a great option for you if you prefer to keep a small profile with the reader. It can sit flat on a surface using a USB extension or looks great plugged into the side of your device. The price feels reasonable, and you have to admit…it’s pretty cool being able to log into your system using your fingerprint. Now you just replace your Windows login screen wallpaper with something military or secret agency-looking and you are set.
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*Average price is based on the time this article was published
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