Relax, Windows Hello is NOT a Beta on the PC

Posted on December 14, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 32 Comments

Last night, Microsoft’s Dona Sarkar asked Windows Insiders via Twitter whether it was time for Windows Hello to exit beta. Fortunately, she was talking about Windows Hello iris recognition in Windows 10 Mobile only, not Windows 10 for PCs as I had originally feared.

With that said, here are my two updates and then the original article.

UPDATE: As a number of readers have pointed out, it is possible that Dona was speaking only about Windows Hello facial recognition on Windows phones, which is indeed in beta and would impact a much smaller audience. But … she did not write that in her original tweet.  So I hope that’s true. –Paul

UPDATE 2: Dona has confirmed that this was only about phone, thankfully. We can stand down. 🙂 –Paul

I find that confusing and distressing for a simple, easily-defensible reason: Windows Hello isn’t an app. It’s a security feature that is directly tied to the safety of your personal information and your personal data, and such an important feature should be clearly marked as “beta,” and thus “not actually known to be safe and secure.”

But it is not.

Stepping through the Windows Hello onboarding process in the most current, shipping version of Windows 10, I see no warnings at all about the beta status of this important security technology.

If you navigate to Settings, Accounts, Sign-In Options, you can see it for yourself (assuming you have Windows Hello-compatible hardware, like a fingerprint reader or specially-configured webcam). There’s no warning here about a beta.


Nor is there a warning when you select the Set up button.


And that “Learn more” link? It actually triggers a Bing search result, rather than directing you to the in-box Help information. Which is nuts in many ways too.


The thing is, I shouldn’t have to do research to find out that such a thing is a beta. And yet, when I do, I see no language to that effect anywhere.

The Microsoft support page for Windows Hello says nothing about a beta. (This is the exact same information you get in the in-box support app, called Get Started, by the way. No mention of a beta.) Neither does Microsoft Instant Answers.

This is irresponsible.

Am I missing something? Am I right to be alarmed that Windows Hello has been deployed to hundreds of millions of users with nary a warning about its incomplete, beta status? I’m not trying to exaggerate the issue here, really. But this just seems wrong to me.


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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Relax, Windows Hello is NOT a Beta on the PC”

  1. 1777

    The facial recognition on the PC is awesome. Just had to say that. :)

  2. 148

    Maybe she is referring to the Hello implementation in w10m (eye scan) which, I believe, is still labeled BETA. 

  3. 7018

    I Think she refers only for the WM10 mobile version where actually you find the beta alert . On the PC I don't think is in a beta stage 

  4. 4325

    Maybe it's in beta on insider builds? Also it might be the fingerprint/iris  detection technology not the encrypted security part. Depends If it's the whole thing that's in beta or just the unencrypted bit. Maybe not as bad as you think

  5. 5514

    Could this explain the lack of Hello specific hardware in shipping devices?

  6. 5767

    It's just typical of the half-baked nature of Windows 10. Seriously a bing search instead of a dedicated support page for Windows Hello?

  7. 5554

    The only device that Windows Hello seems to actually work on is the SP4.  Other than that - including Windows Phones - it's DOA.  Third parties also don't care to build hardware for it.  It's dead.


  8. 5554

    Wow Dona is some expert communicator /s

    I'd love to know how she even got that job. She seems completely clueless in video interviews.

  9. 6558

    The iris scan on Windows Mobile is pretty crappy though. I guess they've decided it's not worth the time to improve it

    • 5530

      In reply to mstrzelecki:

      i'm not sure how much of it can be attributed to windows mobile itself, because with our brief experience with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 showed us that the iris scanner wasn't a good experience on it either

  10. 5534

    Here's an idea. Maybe someone (Paul Thurrott, for example) who has connections inside Microsoft (Dona Sarkar, for example), could ask for clarification instead of creating controversy.

    This is irresponsible.

    Am I missing something? Am I right to be alarmed that Paul Thurrott would publish this story without simply asking for clarification about Hello's possible incomplete, beta status? I’m not trying to exaggerate the issue here, really. But this just seems wrong to me.

    • 54

      In reply to CompUser:

      As PeteB stated, and as has Paul on numerous occasions, Microsuck has a terrible habit of not explaining things, or explaining them very very poorly. Paul's reaction was warranted given the poor way that Dona phrased the question on Twitter, and in conjunction with the extremely lacklustre public notification of its original "beta" status anywhere else. I use Hello Iris recognition on my 950 XL, and I did not know that it was actually a "beta".

      Microsuck needs to go back to school and relearn how to use the English language, and express themselves better. MS is basically the tech company equivalent of an autistic kid (and I mean no offence to anyone with autistic kids, or anyone who is autistic themselves)...

    • 5554

      In reply to CompUser:

      Or maybe MS should improve its terrible communication and lack of transparency in this current metro era of suck.

    • 6558

      In reply to CompUser:

      When you have a company like Microsoft that frequently uses the same names for multiple products, I think that responsibility should fall on them.

  11. 1318

    Brings me flashback of this video:

    And yes, I cringe every time I think of this.

  12. 1561

    My Lumia 950 makes it very clear that Windows Hello is in beta, so I'm guessing that's what her tweet is referring to. I thought it pretty odd that a core security feature of Windows 10 Mobile has been in beta for over a year since the phone's release. I'm hoping this means it will start becoming more deeply integrated into the OS, so that instead of just using it to unlock my device and make purchases, I'll also be able to use it for app and website logins.

  13. 165

    I would think (hope!) that if it is still beta, it would be for the facial recognition part, and not the security part... 

    On my 950XL, the camera rarely does not recognize me. This is nice as it is cold out now in Canada! My SP4 Hello has worked well from day one.

    I have a fingerprint reader on my 2 PCs, and they work consistently (if I don't get peanut butter on them)

  14. 699

    I assume this means anything and everything can suddenly be touted as 'beta'?

  15. 1959

    On mobile I always took that to be their way of saying "this experience is probably going to suck a frustrating percentage of the time". And let's be honest... it did.

  16. 2039

    And here I thought the headline meant "wtf? it works so good, why beta?" but should have obviously expected different from Paul.

  17. 661

    not only "Am I write to be alarmed" but you are "right" to be alarmed ;)

    I think this question is a victim of 140 character tweet and Dona should be asked to clarify her question. Hello is a not just a convenience but it is a security feature protecting online purchases as well I believe.

  18. 5496

    Big deal. It's nothing to be concerned about.

    Gmail was in beta for like 10 years.

  19. 5767

    The Beta test is never over.