What is Microsoft hello? Is Windows Hello safe? Windows Hello is a biometrics-based technology that enables Windows 10 users (and those who update to Windows 11) to authenticate secure access to their devices, apps, online services and networks with just a fingerprint, iris scan or facial recognition. The sign-in mechanism is essentially an alternative to passwords and is widely considered to be a more user friendly, secure and reliable method to access critical devices, services and data than traditional logins using passwords.
“Windows Hello solves a few problems: security and inconvenience,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “Traditional passwords are unsafe as they are hard to remember, and therefore people either choose easy-to-guess passwords or write down their passwords.”
It is not uncommon for people to use the same password (or variations) across multiple sites and applications. Windows Hello and other biometric authentication features like Apple’s Face ID or Touch ID are designed to offer an alternative to passwords that is unique and more secure because it relies on technology that’s harder to break.
What is Microsoft hello?
Microsoft Windows Hello is a biometric identity and access control feature that supports fingerprint scanners, iris scanners and facial recognition technology on compatible devices running Windows. The Hello engine allows users to securely log into devices that have the necessary hardware components without having to type a password.
To get started with Microsoft Windows Hello, the end user must use a wizard to teach the device to recognize the user’s biometric credentials. The user must also set up a PIN, which serves as a backup plan if any of the biometric authentication measures fail. When the end user signs in, Windows Hello identifies and authenticates the user and gives the user access to the Windows operating system. Hello also releases a stored credential that is used as a second authentication factor by Microsoft Passport. Passport gives the user access to services that support that supports the Fast ID Online (FIDO) standard, including Active Directory. If more than one user works with a specific device, the engine can differentiate between users.
The user’s biometric data is encrypted and remains on the biometric-capable device. To sign into a Windows 10 device with a fingerprint, the device must have a fingerprint reader. Hello’s iris-scanning programming works with most devices’ existing cameras. To use facial recognition for authentication, however, the device must have a 3D infrared camera built in. Windows Hello’s facial recognition authentication uses depth perception and infrared scanning to recognize a user’s face. As a result, a photo of the user cannot trick it. The infrared scanning helps the camera identify the user even if he or she makes a cosmetic change, such as growing a beard or getting glasses.
Does My PC Support Windows Hello?
To use Windows Hello with your face or fingerprint, your computer must include a compatible webcam or fingerprint reader that works with Windows Hello. You can also get a webcam or fingerprint reader that works with Windows Hello and plug it into your PC.
If Windows Hello is important to you when buying a laptop, be sure to get a laptop that supports it. For example, if you want facial recognition for fast sign-in on a Windows 11 laptop, be sure to get a laptop with a webcam that advertises Windows Hello support. Some laptops also have built-in fingerprint readers for Windows Hello sign-in
To check if your PC’s hardware configuration currently supports Windows Hello, head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in Options on either Windows 10 or Windows 11. You will see supported sign-in options here.
For example, in the screenshot below, we can see that our Surface Laptop 4 has “Facial Recognition (Windows Hello)” available, but that “Fingerprint Recognition (Windows Hello)” is “currently unavailable” on our PC. (We could activate it by plugging in a USB fingerprint reader that supports Windows Hello.)
The “PIN (Windows Hello)” option will always be available without any special hardware required.
How to Enable Windows Hello Sign-in on a PC
If you want to enable Windows Hello on a Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC, you can buy a webcam or fingerprint reader that supports it.
For example, some of the best webcams support Windows Hello—but not all of them do, especially the less expensive models. The Logitech BRIO is a solid webcam we like that includes support for Windows Hello. It can add facial recognition sign-in to your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC.
To add fingerprint sign-in to a Windows computer, look for a USB fingerprint reader—but make sure it says compatible with Windows Hello. For example, this inexpensive USB fingerprint reader from Kensington can add fingerprint sign-in to your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC.
Many laptops come with Windows Hello hardware integrated, but the peripherals are particularly useful on desktop PCs. You may also be able to find keyboards with built-in fingerprint scanners. For example, Microsoft once made a keyboard with a fingerprint scanner that was compatible with Windows Hello—the Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint ID—but it’s been discontinued.
Is Windows Hello safe?
Microsoft makes a point of saying just how safe Windows Hello is. The company says that you can use your fingerprint, face or iris to log in with “enterprise-grade” security with nothing that hackers or other nefarious individuals are able to steal.
Other people can’t watch you enter your pin or password and get access that way. They also can’t just use a photo of your face to trick the system as Windows Hello is intelligently designed to only work for real people.
Similarly, if someone steals your laptop, they won’t be able to log in to your device unless they can also use your face, fingerprint or iris to activate Windows Hello.
The user’s biometric data isn’t sent to the cloud either. These are stored on the device. So hackers can’t simply hack into Microsoft servers to get access to your data.
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