Microsoft Fingerprint Reader

Microsoft Fingerprint Reader

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Update on 3/26/3009: I recently received an official communication from our hardware group that is germane to this old blog post:

Thanks for your interest in Microsoft Hardware products.  The Fingerprint Reader is no longer being manufactured by Microsoft but we recognize it may still be available from retailers and resellers.  The product runs on 32-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista. Microsoft will not be releasing any updates for the product to run on 64-bit versions of Windows XP or Windows Vista. The product is not supported on Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit).  To ensure this is clear to our customers, the product will not install on Windows 7 (the user is warned that the application will not run). 

If you currently use the Fingerprint Reader and are unable to use your product with 64-bit versions of Windows XP or Windows Vista or the Windows 7 beta release, please visit the following Web site for assistance:

For a couple years now, I've been happily using a DigitalPersona fingerprint reader. It was given to me at one of our internal events, and I had let it sit on my shelf collecting dust wondering why I'd ever need a biometric security device to logon to my machine. Then, one day, I ran across it while looking for something else, and I decided to plug it in and give it a try. Unfortunately, the personal edition of the DigitalPersona device wouldn't allow me to logon with my fingerprint unless I was using the Windows XP Welcome Screen option (and I prefer the Windows Classic Logon). So I was just about ready to disconnect it and put it back on the shelf to collect more dust when I read that I could use it to provide usernames and passwords for web sites I frequently visit. Interesting.

Basically, you visit a site that requires authentication, touch the reader with one of your registered fingers, then tell the fingerprint software what it should enter into selected fields on the web page. You can also indicate whether or not you'd like the "submit" button on the page to be pressed. That's it! Now, the next time you visit that web page, you just touch the fingerprint reader, and everything is done for you. It's really that simple, and it makes logging into secure sites a breeze. I suppose it could be used for any site that has fields you'd like to fill in, but I've used it exclusively for authentication.

I knew that we had recently come out with our own Fingerprint Reader, and I figured that I could use my new computer purchase as an excuse to try it out. So, even though the DigitalPersona reader had never given me a single problem (other than the Windows XP logon restriction), I purchased the newer, slimmer, and sleeker-looking Microsoft version. And guess what I quickly discovered? It's also made by DigitalPersona! I was very happy to learn this, although I wondered if our version would provide any benefits over the older reader.

The Microsoft Fingerprint Reader does allow you to logon to your machine, even if you're using the Windows Classic Logon screen like me. Plus, the interface that allows you to configure fields and buttons on a web page is improved and very straightforward. As you can see in the screenshot, the software highlights the field on the web page (in this case, a Hotmail password field) that corresponds to the field that you are registering. Then, you can tell it which button to use to submit your information. In my case, it automatically selected the "Sign In" button for me. After I press OK, I'll never have to type these credentials again...I can just use one of my registered fingers.

One word of caution. I've discovered that the reader will not work more than a couple times when plugged into a Belkin F5U237 Hi-Speed USB 2.0 7-Port Hub. If I plug it directly into my computer, everything works as advertised. The fingerprint reader appears to require 260mA of power from the USB port, and from what I've read, the USB specification states that devices may use up to 500mA before they need to provide their own external power source.

I'm not sure why it doesn't work reliably when connected to the Belkin hub, but I've tried a number of things to diagnose the problem: I've plugged the hub directly into the wall (instead of through a surge protector), I've tried all of the ports on the hub, I've tried another hub of the same make and model, I've upgraded all of my USB drivers, and I've spent about 30 minutes on the phone with Belkin technical support. Although the support person I spoke with was very helpful, we were unable to successfully resolve my problem. I'll probably try a different USB hub to see if the issue I'm having is limited to this specific make and model. Update: I installed an Adaptec USB card, and everything now works fine. It appears that the problem is with the USB chipset on my motherboard (VIA).

Regardless of this slight hiccup, I am very happy with the new reader. For around $41 (or $39.88 if you live near a Sam's Club), this is a nice piece of hardware that offers a lot of convenience. If you're looking for unique and useful gift ideas for the upcoming holidays, this is one I'd highly recommend.

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  • I heard that you cannot use it to logon a system connecting to a domain. Is that true?
  • You're correct, Marc. From the online documentation: "You can log on to your Windows account using the DigitalPersona Password Manager logon screen instead of the standard Windows logon screen, if the computer is not a member of a domain and the Welcome screen is not enabled."
  • Why do I have to go the hardware route and "swipe" my finger. Why not just use one of the many password managers out there (including the one built into IE) (obviouslly this wouldn't work for the XP login - but for regular site browsing it should be just fine)
  • Hi AIM48, personally I don't have a fingerprint reader but I think the biggest difference is the fact that you have to "swipe" (?) your finger _everytime_ you need to log in to something. In comparison, for the password managers you have to "log in" to the manager once. After you have logged in, you (or anyone who has access to your _logged in_ account) can log in to the websites that you have info saved for. So fingerprint readers a bit more secure. :-/
  • I'm really disappointed that Microsoft has apparently disabled Netscape/FireFox support in DigitalPersona-- the wizard even pops up for these browsers, but it never saves!

    Funny how it works perfect in IE..
  • But why a fingerprint reader with a disclaimer that it's not for use with important data connections like banking ect? If it's only secure enough to log into Yahoo games, then a password manager is good enough and more convenient. I'll wait for a couple months until someone else enters the fray with a secure version.

    Interesting that out of all the reviews I've read the only one that didn't point this out was on a MS employee site. :) Of course, biting the hand that feeds you is a fool's game anyway; especially when the hand belongs to MS.
  • Seems 'funny' how DigitalPersona product almost identical to the one branded with microsoft works with firefox but the ms version doesnt?

    Why did MS cripple the sw so that firefox isnt supported? - Given that Firefox is securer than IE (perhaps just because less treats targeted at it :-| )
  • how about a 64bit ver i got this thing thinking it would work on any windows os!
  • Nicholas and Mr. O...although I'm not on the team that wrote the software, I doubt we "disabled" any support for third-party browsers. More likely, the desired integration may not have been possible to implement...especially given that we're experts in IE, not the other browsers. To my knowledge (and based on personal discussions with product teams), we'd never intentionally disable support for non-Microsoft technologies. Either we don't have time in the schedule to ensure support, or we're not experts in the third-party technologies, or any of a number of other reasons. I can tell you that our intentions are nowhere near as nefarious as the news media typically depicts them.
  • I have never used one of the fingerprint readers. I would like to know about the process of using it. Say I go to and it is asking for a logon. Do I just put my finger on the scanner and the software logons on? Or do I need to clip something or do some other action either before or after placing my finger on the reader.

  • got it. Of course, you have to register your finger once and enter your credentials the first time. But, after that, every other visit to the site simply requires a touch of the reader.
  • Thanks for the response. I have to get myself one.

  • It's utterly pointless. It doesn't work in Firefox so its a waste of money.
  • I accept that Microsoft is not the big bad that some media make it out to be or the *nux community wish but if the original manufacturer, and I assume who assisted in the latest revision of their product to float under the MS brand, could get it to work with Firefox first time then the product already had that knowledge imbedded in the software unless when Microsoft touched it, they broke it?

    Never-the-less I have brought myself the kit and am impressed - obviously some clever chap or someone with a lot of time on their hands will find the solution for firefox functionality and ie / firefox web form registration interoperability. (i.e. register once with either browser, use in both).

  • Well, it obviously has some sort of FireFox integration, since it's able to pop up the login wizard, just like it does on IE (and will even highlight the login boxes, check boxes, etc.. just like IE!). It even saves the XML formatted data for the wizard when you complete it (somewhere in your Application Data folders, I forget.) But when you go to "log in" to that site with your fingerprint, it's like the software completely ignores the previously saved data, and acts like you want to create a new registration.

    I e-mailed Microsoft tech support, and they informed me that the product is meant to work only with Internet Explorer. I have returned the product because of this fact, but if you like IE, then I suppose you'll like the fingerprint scanner.
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