Having experienced everything that Windows Hello has to offer, I’ve come to a surprising conclusion about Windows 10’s biometric sign-in. You may want to just give it the finger.
That is, while tech enthusiasts are always busy racing off to embrace The Next Big thing, I’ve come to understand over the years that the tried and true, well-tested and well-understood, solutions of the past often work better than the shiny new bauble. And so it is with Windows Hello, where the lowly fingerprint reader is in fact your best option.
As you may recall, Windows Hello supports three forms of biometric identification: a fingerprint reader (which can be swipe- or press-based), an LED facial recognition camera or an iris scanner. The latter two are camera-based, and work similarly (for the end user) in that you’re signed in to Windows as you appear in front of your PC.
And that is part of the problem. When configured correctly, camera-based Windows Hello authentication is so fast that many people feel like they’ve made some kind of mistake, and perhaps had forgotten to properly lock their PC previously. Worse, you may not want to sign-in to Windows, but if you appear in front of your PC, it happens automatically.
Perversely, the other issue with camera-based Windows Hello sign-ins is the exact opposite problem. And this is one I’ve now encountered on more than one occasion: Despite having gone through the Windows Hello enrollment process several times, Windows Hello can’t “see” you properly and refuses to let you sign-in that way. So you end up typing a PIN anyway after frustratingly bobbing your head around hoping it will recognize you.
(That second issue has to do with the position of your head relative to the camera at enrollment. On one occasion, I had configured Windows Hello while lying on a couch, so when I sat in front of the laptop used normally on a desk, the camera couldn’t recognize me unless I scrunched down.)
To avoid unintended sign-ins—and worse, publicly embarrassing moments of increasingly silly-looking head-bobbing—my advice is skip out on camera-based Windows Hello schemes and use a fingerprint reader instead. Don’t have a fingerprint reader? Then just use a PIN.
The nice thing about a fingerprint reader—and, for that matter, a PIN—is that the act is purposeful. When you intend to sign-in to your PC, you press (or swipe) the reader. Intent is followed by action, and that action is very quick and, as iPhone users and those with fingerprint readers on PCs know, works very reliably.
This is doubly true of purchases and other instances in which Windows Hello would invoke. Remember, Windows Hello isn’t just about signing in.
So I say give Windows Hello the fingers. Using a camera to sign-in to your PC is just as dumb as using a Picture Password. Actually, it may be even dumber.