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: http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/support/fingerprintreader.mspx.

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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  • DigitalPersona's Canadian Director of Sales, Tony LaMantia, was kind enough to reply to my question about Firefox incompatibility with the MS Fingerprint Reader products, which he confirmed. "Yes I understand this is true for the Microsoft biometric peripherals..."

    I also was on the verge of buying the MS keyboard w/fingerprint reader, but not now. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone now. How quickly this Firefox issue is resolved will show how serious Microsoft is about responding to its customers, but I will not be holding my breath thats for sure.
  • Tom..."I wouldn't recommend this to anyone now." Does that mean that you wouldn't recommend this to 85%+ of users who use Internet Explorer? I understand that the Firefox integration might not work, and that's good to know for people who use that browser. But I don't see what that has to do with someone like me who has no issues at all with IE.
  • is-it good with avant browser and other browser like this one?Is-it enough secure for bank password and transaction?
  • Michael, do you know if by chance the new Microsoft drivers will work with the old digitalpersona model? I have an old digital persona model and have never been able to get the software to save my passwords for websites, although it works fine for logon. Also, every time I remote in to the PC with a remote desktop connection, the next time I use the digital persona, it does not work for login, and I have to type the password manually. I figured, ah, new product, they will write better drivers for it someday... But it never happened. I am disappointed to hear that digital persona makes the Microsoft unit, as I believe their products to be poorly supported junk.
  • G.Wright...believe it or not, I had tried exactly what you suggest. I plugged in my old DigitalPersona device, but it wouldn't use the Microsoft drivers. So, based on my simple experiment, it looks like they need their own drivers.
  • do we need windows systeme pack 2 for using fingerprint
  • Will this thing work with Win2K? I see tat requirements state WinXP.
  • Michael, I wouldn't recommend this product out of principle. If it doesn't work with Firefox (10 million downloads as of Saturday), what else will it not work with? Is MS really telling us that its only going to work with MS apps only? This is unacceptable, and a very old and tired tactic that the public is not going to stand for anymore. Wasn't this stuff supposed to be addressed with all the anti-trust shenigans of the last 10 years? I guess not. Then it was software not working with software, now its hardware not working with software. Note: I am not asking, nor expecting, this device to work with *every* conceivable piece of software out there, but I don't think its too much to ask to have MS at least make it compatible with the 2 or 3 other top browsers out there. The people selling the MS hardware (input devices and the like) should have the attitude, "hey, lets make sure this works with all the major stuff out there.. that means more sales!" Instead, we have the attitude, "oh, lets just make sure this only works with IE". If this was a mom and pop outfit, I would sympathize with an excuse that "well, we can't afford the extra programming time to make this work...", but that simply doesn't fly with MS.
  • I am to a FireFox User, Just bought the reader today for 39.99 at Sam's Club. Though this would be a Cool thing but soon found out that It dont work with firefox, Very Disappointing. I Hope Microsoft Will Fix this Issue Soon. I Will Keep my Reader only to use it for Devolpment I want to see if there is something i can make for it to make it secure, is there a way in the registry to turn off the user logon screen? i know it sound hokey But Id like to make something that requires a Fingerprint to sign on make it to where your fingerprint is your identity.. im not tring to make a fort knox or anything cause anything and everything is hackable anymore i just want to make it easier for the end user but a little harder for the hackers. I Noticed alot of the older generation people at work have a hard time chaning there login passwords at work every 90 days they always seem to forget and have to call tech support 2 or 3 times till they remeber the password. if anyone hears of support for FireFox Id love to know. So Post it on here. Thanks!
  • I am really considering this, and wouldn't mind using IE while I was doing so, but the main reason I would use this is to "re-login" that is, to automatically put in my password to unlock my computer. every time I step away I hit [windows]+L to lock, but I have heard that the reader won't work in this situation. Can anyone verify this?
  • Chris...unlocking the computer with a fingerprint works fine. I tried it just now a few times to make sure I wasn't imagining things. :)
  • Just bought one. Just installed it. Works like a charm. Love it already. Sick of remembering passwords. Why would MS accept any liablility?
  • I am really considering buying this product but so far I have been unable to find the reader in any store.(Netherlands) So this is where my question comes in. is the cable attached to the reader itself one of those very short things where you will almost have to place the reader next to your computer of is it a fair length of cable?
  • Vincenzo...I just measured the cable. It's about 4.5 feet long.
  • Thank you
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