Windows Hello: How It Works

Log into your PC with your face, iris, or fingerprint

Facial recognition illustration

 teguhjatipras / Pixabay

Windows Hello is a more personal way to log in to Windows 10 devices. If yours has the required hardware, you can sign in by looking at the camera (using facial recognition) or with your fingerprint (using a fingerprint reader). You can use these biometric markers to log in to apps, other online devices, and networks as well.

Windows Hello also offers a feature called Dynamic Lock. To use it, you pair a Bluetooth device that you keep with you all the time, like your phone, to your computer. Once you (and your phone) are the required distance away from your PC, Windows will lock that PC automatically. The calculated distance is as far as Bluetooth can reach; perhaps 25-30 feet.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10.

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Identify or Install the Required Windows Hello Hardware

Screenshot of Sign-in Options in Windows Settings

Install a Windows Hello Camera

New computers often come with a Windows Hello compatible camera or infrared (IR) sensor already installed. To see if your computer has one go to Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-In Options. Read what’s in the Windows Hello section. You will either have a compatible device or you won’t.

If you do, skip to Step 2. If not, and you want to use facial recognition to log in to your device, you’ll need to purchase a camera and install it.

There are various places to buy Windows Hello compatible cameras including your local big box computer store and Make sure whatever you purchase is designed for Windows 10 and Windows Hello.

If you find that a camera is too expensive, you can still use Windows Hello with your fingerprint. Fingerprint readers cost quite a bit less than cameras.

Once you purchase a camera, follow the instructions to install it. For the most part, this includes connecting the device with a USB cable and positioning it as instructed, installing the software (which might come on a disk or download automatically), and working through any processes required of the camera itself.

Install a Windows Hello Fingerprint Reader

If you want to use your fingerprint to log on to Windows, purchase a fingerprint reader. Make sure whatever you purchase is Windows 10 and Windows Hello compatible. Like cameras, you can purchase these at your local computer store and online retailers.

Once you have the device, follow the instructions to install it. For the most part, this includes connecting the fingerprint scanner directly to an available USB port and installing the software. During setup you may be prompted to swipe your finger across the reader several times, or, you may not.

Whatever the case, make sure you choose a USB port on the side or front of your device so you can reach it easily.

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Set Up and Enable Windows Hello

Screenshot of Windows Hello Face Set up button

With a compatible device available, you can now set up Windows Hello. Follow these steps:

  1. From Settings > Account > Sign-In Options, select Windows Hello.
  2. Select Set-Up. (It will appear under the related fingerprint or face recognition section, depending on your connected devices.)
  3. Select Get Started and type your password or PIN.
  4. Follow the prompts. To set up Face ID, keep looking at the screen. For fingerprint recognition, touch or swipe your finger across the reader as many times as prompted.
  5. Select Close when the process is complete.

To disable Windows Hello, go to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. Under Windows Hello, select Remove. 

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Auto Lock Windows And Set Up Dynamic Lock

Screenshot of Dynamic Lock setup

The Dynamic Lock feature will automatically lock your Windows computer when you and a paired Bluetooth device, such as a phone, are away from it.

To use Dynamic Lock, you’ll need to connect your phone to your computer via Bluetooth first. Although there are several ways to go about this, in Windows 10 you do it from Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & Other Devices > Add Bluetooth or Other Device and then follow the prompts to make the connection.

Once your phone is connected via Bluetooth, set up Dynamic Lock:

  1. From Settings > Accounts > Sign-In Options, locate the Dynamic Lock section.
  2. Select Allow Windows To Detect When You’re Away And Automatically Lock The Device.

Once you’ve paired your phone with your PC, the computer will lock automatically after your phone (and presumably you too) are a minute or so of being out of Bluetooth range.

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Log in With Windows Hello

Windows Sign-in Options

Once Windows Hello is set up, you can log in with it. One way to test this is to restart your computer. Another is simply to sign out and then sign back in. At the login screen:

  1. Select Sign In Options.
  2. Select the fingerprint or camera icon, as applicable.
  3. Swipe your finger across the scanner or look into the camera to log in.