How to Fix It When Touch ID Is Not Working

Clean the sensor, take off the case, or try a reset

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. Instructions apply to the following:

  • iPhone: 5S through 8 and iPhone SE (all versions).
  • iPad: 5 and later; Air 2 and up; Mini 3 and newer; and Pro.
  • MacBook: Air (2018 and newer), Pro (2016 and later).

Why Is My Touch ID Not Working?

Because Touch ID relies on both software (e.g., iOS) and hardware (sensors) to work, failures can come from a variety of sources, including:

  • The sensor – or your finger – is dirty.
  • You're moving your finger or pressing on the sensor too hard (or too softly).
  • A case or screen protector is interfering with the scanner.
  • You mis-scanned your fingerprint when you originally set up Touch ID.
  • Your version of iOS, iPadOS, or macOS is out of date.

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.

    Use a lint-free cloth to clear away anything 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 or screen protector. Exterior accessories might not only be in the way but could also trap too much heat and prevent 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. 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.

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

  7. Update your device. There might be a bug or other problem with Touch ID that Apple has already resolved through an update.

  8. Reset your device’s network settings. Some users have had luck resetting just the network settings to fix Touch ID not working. Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Network Settings (or Settings > General > Transfer or Reset iPhone/iPad > Reset > Reset Network Settings, depending on the version of iOS or iPadOS you're using).

  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.

What to Do if You 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 you'll have to try some other options.

  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.

  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.

  4. Restart your device. Whether you have Touch ID set up or not, a restart can resolve minor glitches.

  5. Update your device's software. Your trouble in initializing Touch ID may be a known issue. Using the most recent version of iOS, iPadOS, or macOS can clear it up.

  6. Reset your network settings. Touch ID communicates with Apple to confirm your fingerprint, so you can resolve issues by giving the network settings a fresh start. You'll find these under General in the Settings app, either under a Reset heading or Transfer or Reset iPhone/iPad.

  7. Contact Apple to learn about your repair options. You might have a defective or broken Touch ID sensor.

  • Where is Touch ID on a MacBook Air?

    On a MacBook Air and other Mac computers, the Touch ID sensor is located in the upper-right corner of the keyboard. While the touch ID sensor is in the corner for authentication and payments, there's also a larger Force Touch trackpad.

  • How do I set up Touch ID on a MacBook Air?

    Setting up Touch ID on a MacBook Air is the same as setting up Touch ID on an iMac. To configure Touch ID, go to the Apple menu > System Preferences and select Touch ID. Select Add Fingerprint, then place your finger tip on the Touch ID key on the keyboard and follow the prompts.

  • How do I set up Touch ID on an iPhone?

    To set up and use Touch ID on a compatible iPhone, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode and tap Add a fingerprint. Press and lift your finger on the Home button several times while holding the iPhone, and follow the prompts.

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