How to Set Up and Use Touch ID, the iPhone Fingerprint Scanner

setting up Touch ID on iPhone, step 1

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For years, iPhone security meant setting a basic passcode and using Find My iPhone to track a lost or stolen phone. With the introduction of iOS 7 and the iPhone 5S, though, Apple took security to a new level, thanks to the introduction of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. 

Touch ID is built into the Home button and allows you to unlock your iOS device simply by pressing your finger onto the button. Even better, if you've set up Touch ID, you can forget retyping your password for every iTunes Store or App Store purchase; a fingerprint scan is all you need. Read on to learn how to set up and use Touch ID.

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Introduction to Setting Up Touch ID

To begin with, you need to be sure your device has Touch ID. As of late 2017, the feature is available if you're running iOS 7 or higher on:

iPhone iPod touch iPad
iPhone 8 & 8 Plus 7th Gen. iPod touch iPad Pro
iPhone 7 & 7 Plus 6th Gen. iPod touch iPad Air and Air 2
iPhone 6S & 6S Plus 5th Gen. iPod touch 6th Gen. iPad 
iPhone 6 & 6 Plus   5th Gen. iPad 
iPhone SE   iPad mini 5
iPhone 5S   iPad mini 4
    iPad mini 3

Where's the iPhone X, XS, or XR you ask? Believe it or not, there's no Touch ID on these models — and that's because they scans your face to make sure it's you using it, via (you guessed it) Face ID.

Assuming you've got the right hardware, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app on your home screen.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Touch ID & Passcode. If you've already set a passcode, enter it now. Otherwise, you'll continue to the next screen.
  4. Tap Fingerprints (skip this step on iOS 7.1 and up).
  5. In the Fingerprints section about halfway down the screen, tap Add a fingerprint.
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Scan Your Fingerprint With Touch ID

At this point, your device will ask you to scan your fingerprint. To get a good scan of your fingerprint, do the following:

  • Choose the finger you want to scan. Depending on how you tend to hold your device when you pick it up, it probably makes sense to use your thumb or forefinger (you can add other fingers later).
  • Lay the fleshy pad of your finger lightly onto the Home button, but don't press the button or it will cancel your scan.
  • When the device vibrates, lift your finger off the Touch ID scanner and press it down lightly again.
  • Repeat this process, each time putting your finger onto the scanner in a slightly different way or at a slightly different angle. The more complete the scan of your fingerprint, the more flexibility you'll have in how you hold your finger when using Touch ID later. The red lines on the onscreen fingerprint represent your progress.
  • When the main scan is complete, you'll be asked to scan the edges of your finger. Repeat the same process as before, using the sides, top, and other edges of your finger to get the best scan.

When the scan is complete, you'll be automatically moved on to the next step.

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Configure Touch ID for Use

When you've finished scanning your fingerprint, you'll be taken to a Touch ID settings screen. There, you can do the following things:

iPhone unlock: Move this slider (which has different titles on different versions of the iOS) to on/green to enable unlocking your iPhone with Touch ID

Apple Pay: Move this to on/green to use your fingerprint to authorize Apple Pay purchases (only present on devices that support Apple Pay)

iTunes and App Store: When this slider is on/green, you can use your fingerprint to enter your password when buying from the iTunes Store and App Store apps on your device. No more typing out your password!

Change fingerprint name: By default, your fingerprints will be named finger 1, finger 2, etc. You can change these names if you'd like. To do that, tap the fingerprint whose name you want to change, tap the X to delete the current name and type the new name. When you're finished, tap Done.

Delete a fingerprint: There are two ways to remove a fingerprint. You can swipe right to left across the fingerprint and tap the Delete button or tap the fingerprint and then tap Delete Fingerprint.

Add a fingerprint: Tap the Add a fingerprint menu and follow the same process you used in Step 2. You can have up to 5 fingers scanned and they don't all have to be yours. If your partner or kids regularly use your device, you can scan their fingerprints, too.

Using Touch ID

Once you've set up Touch ID, it's simple to use.

Unlocking Your iPhone
To unlock your iPhone using your fingerprint, make sure it's on, then press the Home button with one of the fingers you've scanned and let the button up. Leave your finger on the button without pressing it again and you'll be at your home screen in no time.

Making Purchases
To use your fingerprint as a password to make purchases, use the iTunes Store or App Store apps as you normally would. When you tap the Purchase, Download, or Install buttons, a window will pop up asking if you want to enter your password or use Touch ID. Lightly lay one of your scanned fingers on the Home button (but don't click it!) and your password will be entered and your download will continue.