Best Fingerprint Scanners

Updated November 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

27 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
376 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best fingerprint scanners

Last Updated November 2019

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.

Fingerprint scanners operate using one of three different methods to map fingerprints: optical (light), capacitive (electrical), or ultrasonic (sound).

Key considerations

What they do

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.

Design and size

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.

Connection

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.

Installation

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.

Operating system

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.

Reliability

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

Accidentally cutting or otherwise damaging your finger can affect your ability to successfully use one of these scanners.

Fingerprint scanner features

Number of prints

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.

360° detectability

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.

Cable

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.

LED light

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.

Fingerprint scanner prices

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.

DID YOU KNOW?

A decent fingerprint scanner can also serve as tokens for Google phone verification.

Tips

  • Check compatibility. If your USB ports are older, check with the manufacturer to verify that the fingerprint scanner will work with your ports. If you have limited access to your USB ports and use a hub, be sure that any fingerprint scanner you’re considering will work with the hub.
  • Scan more than one of your fingers. If your scanner can store multiple prints, be sure to include more than one of your fingers. This could come in handy if you injure your original sign-in finger.
  • Moisturize your hands. If you have excessively dry hands in the winter, this can affect the ability of the scanner to read your fingerprints. Using a moisturizer will help, but be sure that the moisturizer has dried fully to avoid residue buildup on the fingerprint scanner.
  • Don’t press too hard.  Pressing too hard on the fingerprint scanner screen can distort your print to the point where the scanner may not be able to read it.
  • Clean your scanner carefully. Liquids can damage fingerprint scanners. The best ways to clean fingerprint scanners are either with a soft, dry cloth or with cellophane tape that can be used to lift fingerprint oils from the scanner screen.
  • Have a backup. Sometimes a scanner just won’t be able to read your fingerprint. Check to verify that the manufacturer uses a secondary method, usually a password or PIN, that will allow you to unlock your device when the scanner doesn’t work.

Other products we considered

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.

Scanners generally don’t record and store a complete fingerprint but only significant areas of a print, called minutiae.

FAQ

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.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Peter
    Peter
    Writer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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