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Here's how to use Windows Hello, the best security feature you're not using

Windows 10 includes a feature called Windows Hello, which allows you to sign in using bio-metric data like fingerprints or facial recognition. Bio-metric logins are secure, fast, and easy to create, so there aren’t many downsides. If you’ve got the right bio-metric scanners, we’ll show you how to set up Windows Hello in record time.

Hardware required for Windows Hello

Like other bio-metric security, Hello requires a certain devices to work. These devices are typically baked in, so you don’t need to buy an extra accessory – although you do need a compatible computer. Currently, the products on the market with Hello technology include:

If you are wondering, “Can I just use a third-party or accessory scanner on an older computer?” the answer is “Not a good idea.” Those bio-metric accessories are not guaranteed to work with Windows Hello, and have a track record of being incompatible. Windows Hello probably won’t let you set up the feature at all.

Related: Want to log in to Windows with your eyes? Give Tobii a try

We should also mention that Hello will be more ambitious in the future. Currently, Hello is focused primarily on fingerprint scanning, facial recognition, and in some cases, iris recognition. But Microsoft has made it clear that its future plans for Hello include more advanced biometrics and “devices that can recognize your face and iris.” It’s only a matter of time before your security options increase.

Setting up Windows Hello

Hello Login

If you have the right hardware and Windows 10, you are ready to get started! Here’s how to turn on and set up Hello. From beginning to end, it should only take a few minutes.

Update your computer: Before you begin the setup process, check for any updates. Microsoft updates to the Hello software can remove bugs, improve accuracy, and add new features. To make sure that your computer is fully updated, you can go to or search for Settings. The Settings window will have a section called Update & Security. The first section in this window will be the Windows Update. If you do not have automatic updates turned on, this is where you can search for and install the latest updates, as well as see how long it’s been since your version Windows 10 was updated.

Find Windows Hello: When any updates have fully installed, head back to Settings, but this time head over to Accounts. In Accounts one of the top sections will be Sign-in options. Go here and you will find all the options to change your login, change your password or PIN…and activate Windows Hello. Choose “Get Started” when you are ready to start.

Choose a PIN: If you don’t already have a PIN to sign in, then Hello will probably prompt you to make one (this applies primarily to mobile devices, while PCs use a password). Windows wants you to have an alternative option if the bio-metrics malfunction and you still need access to your computer. Create a PIN if necessary.

Related: Windows Hello is the miraculous password killer you’ve waited for

Choose a bio-metric: Hello bio-metrics comes in three flavors: Fingerprint, iris, and facial recognition. They all require different scanning tech to use. Fingerprints naturally need a fingerprint scanner, iris bio-metrics requires an additional camera feature, and facial recognition requires (like Microsoft’s Kinect) a much more advanced infrared camera. Microsoft is excited about what iris technology can do with mobile devices, so you are most likely to see this pop up on smartphones. However, there aren’t many iris-ready models available outside of a select few devices like the Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, so your options will be limited. Fingerprint scanning is the most common thus far, and easy to find. Facial recognition is available through some Surface brand models, but is less common outside of Microsoft’s own computers. Fortunately, Windows 10 will tell you what capabilities you have, then allow you to pick from available options.

Run the scans: Here you will be inputting bio-metric data so that Windows can build up an accurate bio-metric profile for you. For fingerprint scanning you’ll need to put a finger or thumb on the scanner and hold there as directed. For iris scanning, it’s basically the same, but you’re holding your eye in front of a camera instead. For facial recognition, you’ll need to get close to your computer and stare at the screen for a while. Follow the on-screen prompts until the scanning is finished.

Finish or improve: You can either save your bio-metric profile and finish, or re-scan if the results seem poor. Every Improve Recognition scan will add more data points to your profile and make it more accurate, so it’s actually a good idea to run the scan a couple more times before exiting. For example, if setting up facial recognition, you can perform another scan with glasses on (or off). Select Finish when you are done, and log out to see how well Windows Hello works.

Related: Microsoft’s Lumia 950 and 950XL bring Windows 10 to big little screens

Hello doesn’t automatically limit your login options, either. You can still use passwords or PINs to log into Windows 10 if you want, and other people can set up bio-metric profiles of their own if they have a separate account. This is useful for letting friends or family onto your computer, although it does diminish the bio-metric security strength.

Privacy, data, and Hello guidelines

That’s a lot of data that Windows Hello is collecting from you, right? Microsoft knows that you may be worried what’s going to happen to this physical information about you. While we don’t know all the details, we do know three important points:

  • Microsoft can’t replicate or bring up your face (yet). Hello works off data points, and doesn’t have any capability to “make” your face, or even tell other people what you look like.
  • Bio-metric data doesn’t leave your computer. Hello will not ship off your fingerprints to Microsoft servers. The only thing that Hello tells Microsoft is what login options you are using and when…basically an automatic survey. It’s a little annoying, but nowhere close to stealing your identity.
  • Third parties cannot access your Hello data. Thus far, Microsoft has made it clear that no third parties can (legally) acquire any Hello data for any reason.