Touch ID Not Working? Here's What to Do

From activation issues to failure somewhere else, try these tips

Picture of a man scanning his fingerprint on a scanner

Chin Leong Teoh / EyeEm / Getty Images

Touch ID is a method for authenticating your identify on an iPhone or iPad. When Touch ID isn’t working, you can’t use your fingerprint to get into your device, nor can you scan your fingerprint to make purchases through places like the App Store.

If you’ve already tried setting up Touch ID on your iPhone or iPad and it doesn’t let you complete setup or won’t let you scan your fingerprint, read on to learn what you can do to make Touch ID work.

How to Fix Touch ID Problems

A number of things have to be just right for Touch ID to work, and only one thing has to be off to cause problems. Follow the steps below in order, completing the easier things first before moving on to the more complex directions. Try Touch ID again after each step to see if it works.

If you’re unable to even activate Touch ID, skip down to the next section below.

  1. Ensure that the fingerprint reader, and your finger, is dry and clean.

    You can use a lint-free cloth to clear away anything that could be on your finger or device that’s interrupting the fingerprint reader. Sometimes, even a tiny bit of water or sweat can make it hard for your iPhone or iPad to read your fingerprint.

    If the Home button has lots grime, clean with a circular motion around the edge of the Home button, and then do it in reverse to clear out as much as possible.

  2. Scan your fingerprint properly: only lightly touch the Home button and give it a few seconds at most to read your print, don’t press too hard on the button, ensure that your whole finger is on the reader, and don’t move your finger around while scanning.

    In some cases, while unlocking your device with Touch ID, you might need to rest your finger on the reader and then press the Home button once to unlock your iPhone/iPad. You can turn this feature off and enable Rest Finger to Open in Settings > General > Accessibility > Home Button.

  3. Remove your case and/or screen protector if it’s in the way of the fingerprint scanner.

    The case might not only be in the way but could also be trapping too much heat and preventing the Touch ID sensor from accurately reading your fingerprint.

  4. Hard reboot your device. The Touch ID problem could be temporary and solved with a good reboot.

  5. Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and disable all of the options you see (the ones in the red box in the image below). Then, restart your iPhone or your iPad and re-enable the features you want turned on.

    For example, to unlock your phone with Touch ID, iPhone Unlock needs to be on, and to use your fingerprint to download apps from the App Store, the iTunes & App Store option needs to be toggled on.

    Screenshot of the Touch ID & Passcode screen on an iPad
  6. Delete your existing fingerprint and then restart your device. When the iPad turns on again, enroll a new finger. The initial Touch ID setup might not have completed successfully.

    Screenshot showing how to delete a fingerprint on an iPad
  7. Update your device, either wirelessly or via iTunes. There might be a bug or other problem with Touch ID that Apple has already resolved through an update.

    Screenshot of a pending iPad software update
  8. Reset your device’s network settings. Some users have had luck resetting just the network settings to fix Touch ID not working.

  9. Reset your device to completely erase all the software and start from scratch.

    Make sure you’ve tried all of the above before completing a reset. All of your apps, photos, videos, etc., will get deleted during this full reset.

  10. Contact Apple about a possible repair for a malfunctioning Touch ID sensor.

  11. Check for damages if you recently serviced the device yourself. For example, if you replaced one of the cameras or some other piece of hardware, and now Touch ID doesn’t work, you could have damaged the flex cable, a connector, or something else that’s necessary for Touch ID to work.

Can’t Activate Touch ID?

If Touch ID won’t activate and you’re getting an “Unable to complete Touch ID setup.” error, or Touch ID is greyed out, then many of the above troubleshooting steps won’t do you much good.

However, go ahead and reboot your device (Step 4 above) since rebooting is a helpful step in any troubleshooting scenario. Also complete any other steps from above that you can, like updating iOS and resetting the network settings.

When you've done all that you can with the directions from above, return here for additional help:

  1. Unplug your device.

    For whatever reason — be it an issue with the cable, overheating, or the iOS software — some users have had luck fixing Touch ID activation problems by simply removing the iPhone or iPad from power or from the computer’s USB port.

  2. Turn off your passcode via Turn Passcode Off in the Touch ID & Passcode area of the settings.

    When you disable the passcode, you’re giving your device a chance to do a soft reset of the security settings. You’ll have to re-enable the passcode again in order to use Touch ID, but during the process, things behind the scenes will do a sort of power cycle, which might be enough to fix Touch ID.

    Screenshot showing how to disable the iPad passcode in the settings
  3. Sign out of your Apple ID and then log back in.

    To do that, go to Settings, tap your name at the top, and then choose Sign Out at the bottom. Follow the on-screen steps and then log back in when that option is available.

    Screenshot showing how to log out of an Apple account on an iPad
  4. Contact Apple to learn about your repair options. You might have a defective or broken Touch ID sensor.