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

Use simple biometric authentication to secure your iPhone

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.

Touch ID works in the currently supported iPhone 6s, 7, 7s, 8, and 8s ranges. In addition, it's available in several iPad and iPad mini models.

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Introduction to Setting Up Touch ID

Verify that 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

Touch ID does not appear on modern iPhone and iPad devices like the iPhone X or the iPad Pro 2018 — and that's because they scan your face to make sure it's you using it through the Face ID security tool.

Assuming you've got the right hardware, tap the Settings > General > Touch ID & Passcode. In the Fingerprints section about halfway down the screen, tap Add a fingerprint.

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Scan Your Fingerprint With Touch ID

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 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 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 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. Tap the fingerprint whose name you want to change, tap the X to delete the current name, then 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 to enroll another fingerprint. 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

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

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.

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. Should you run into problems, consult Touch ID Not Working? Here's What to Do.