This metal USB fingerprint scanner with a 6-foot USB cable is sleek and heavy, making it comfortable and easy to use. Windows Hello compatibility is a great feature. Compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10.
The 6-foot cable makes this scanner great for desktops but not so much for laptops. Driver installation can be a bit of a hassle.
Wide screen for improved scanning reliability. 360-degree detectability. Offers anti-spoofing and supports file and folder encryption. 10 fingerprints per account. Low-profile design. Affordable. Works with Windows 10.
Some buyers report that the scanner works poorly or not at all with their fingerprints.
High-precision algorithm guards against forged fingerprints. Compact design. Supports file and folder encryption. Up to 10 fingerprints can be registered. Works with Windows 10. 360-degree detectability.
Some reports of this scanner not working well when a computer wakes up from hibernation or sleep mode.
Rugged build with metal casing. Features a soft blue LED light. High image quality that's great for identifying difficult fingerprints. Long cable. For Windows and Linux.
Doesn’t ship with software or documentation, so you’re on your own incorporating it into your system.
A small scanner with 360-degree detection and compatibility with browsers and cloud utilities. Compatible with the iDOO Mini USB and with Windows Hello and Windows 7, 8, and 10.
Some customers reported issues with the scanner's website password functionality.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Long relegated to the realm of science fiction, fingerprint scanners have improved considerably over the past few years. They now offer a reliable and inexpensive way to secure your computer, files, and more.
The principle here is quite simple: you place or slide your finger on the scanner, which then compares it to the print(s) stored on your computer. If it’s a match, you’re in. By taking passwords and PINs out of the equation, you will have less to remember and hackers will have fewer opportunities to steal your files or compromise your system.
There are many features and other factors that you need to consider before buying a fingerprint scanner, and this guide can help you sort these out and find the scanner that’s right for your needs. We also examine the various price ranges for fingerprint scanners and share some of the models that we particularly like.
All fingerprint scanners act as a gate to guard access to your computer, but some do much more. Some can help to secure and encrypt folders and files, while others can be used to log into popular websites, such as Facebook. Quite often these scanners can also work with popular password managers, so you will have access to a wide range of websites with the press or swipe of a finger.
Whether you’re using it for the home or office, a fingerprint scanner should be rugged and durable. This is particularly true if you plan to use the scanner with a laptop for mobile computing. While the majority are constructed of sturdy plastic, some offer an all-metal design. If you’re worried about a fingerprint scanner being exposed to the elements, search for one that’s waterproof.
Scanners range in size from larger units for desktop computing to compact scanners that plug almost flush into a USB port. Some of the more compact models can also be attached to a key ring, so you will always have it with you.
As mentioned, some fingerprint scanners plug directly into a USB port. Others connect via a cable to your desktop or laptop computer. Choose the former design if you plan to take the scanner on the road with you often or you have space issues at your workstation. Note that those fingerprint scanners that do directly plug into a USB port may be difficult for some desktop users to access.
Some fingerprint scanners are simple plug-and-play devices that don’t require you to install a driver on your computer. Others ship with a driver on a disk or require you to download the latest driver from a website. A few companies just ship the scanner, leaving you largely on your own to find a driver and set up the scanner. The bottom line is that installation for these scanners can vary greatly. Always check the included documentation for the correct way to install your scanner.
Before shelling out cash for a fingerprint scanner, verify that it will work with your current operating system. While most of them are Windows-based, some only work with Windows 10 and Windows Hello. Less common are fingerprint scanners that work with Chrome OS, Mac OS, or Linux, but there are some out there.
This is more a frustration factor than anything else. Are you able to log onto your computer quickly with only a single scan of your fingerprint, or does the scanner more often than not require multiple scans to work? If you plan to use the scanner often over the course of a day, a less reliable scanner can quickly become tiresome. Check online user comments to find any problems with a fingerprint scanner’s reliability.
Accidentally cutting or otherwise damaging your finger can affect your ability to successfully use one of these scanners.
Some scanners can store up to ten prints, allowing multiple people to log onto a computer. This is a great feature to have for a family computer or one that multiple people use in a workspace. It’s also handy for storing multiple prints from your own fingers in case you need a backup.
A fingerprint scanner with 360° detectability can read your fingerprint regardless of how you place your finger on the scanner. In other words, you don’t need to match the finger alignment correctly every single time for the scanner to read your print. A scanner with 360° detectability is easier to use, particularly if you frequently use it from various angles.
If a fingerprint scanner uses a cable, be sure you know the length of the cable, because some are short and some are long. Shorter cables are better for use with a laptop, where you don’t need a lot of cable to easily access the scanner and extra cable would only be in the way. For desktop computers, a longer cable may be necessary. The best and most versatile option is to go with a fingerprint scanner that includes both a short and a long cable.
While not standard, some fingerprint scanners incorporate an LED light to help you use it in low-light conditions. If a scanner includes a light, be sure that it isn’t so bright that it becomes a distraction.
Rudimentary biometric security can be traced back to 500 BC when the Babylonians used fingerprints on clay tablets to record business transactions.
Prices for fingerprint scanners start at around $20 and can reach up to $100 or more for a single unit. If you’re in the market for several fingerprint scanners, such as for an office, search for companies selling multiple unit bundles, because you can save money purchasing scanners this way.
Inexpensive: In the $20 to $40 range, you can expect to find fairly simple fingerprint scanners constructed largely from plastic. These are used mostly for unlocking computers.
Expensive: At a higher range, $70 and up, you’ll find more rugged construction — usually all-metal — in addition to more advanced features, such as LED lighting and advanced unlocking of websites and files.
A decent fingerprint scanner can also serve as tokens for Google phone verification.
We researched a wide variety of fingerprint scanners while putting together this guide and want to share a few more that we really like. The PQI Mini USB Fingerprint Reader can recognize a fingerprint in a speedy 0.15 second and can store up to ten fingerprints at a time. It’s available for Windows 7, 8, 10, and Windows Hello. The TNP Nano USB Fingerprint Reader installs easily with no driver and offers automatic file encryption. It works with Windows 10 and can store up to five fingerprints. And while we’ve listed a version of this one above, this version of the Digital Persona 4500 Reader ships in a five-pack, which is great if you’re buying fingerprint scanners for an office.
Q. What is Windows Hello?
A. You might have noticed that some of these fingerprint scanners specifically mention working with Windows Hello. If you’re new to it, Windows Hello is biometric technology that is designed for use with Windows 10. With Windows Hello, you can more easily use biometric devices, such as fingerprint scanners, with your computer. Some scanners even require that you set up Windows Hello before using them. If you’re running Windows 10, you already have it on your computer. Navigate to Sign-In Options on the computer to set up Windows Hello.
Q. Can a fingerprint scanner be used with multiple computers?
A. Yes. So long as you’re running the correct operating system on each computer and have the correct driver installed, you can generally use these scanners for any number of computers.
Q. Do I press or swipe my finger to use these?
A. This varies by scanner. Some use a quick press or swipe. Others require you to leave you finger on the screen for two to three seconds while the scanner reads your print. Check the scanner documentation for more information on this or do some trial-and-error testing if the documentation is sketchy.
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