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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  • Hi! I'm running XP Pro SP2 and using the fingerprint reader (latest driver). I cannot access the Logon Manager to modify an incorrect password I enterewd by miatake. According to the instructions below I should be able to access this feature by simply clicking on the little hand icon in the top title bar. When I do nothing happens...

    Please help! Thanks!!

    From the driver Helkp file:

    Changing Fingerprint Logons
    To modify the account information entered by a fingerprint logon, click the hand icon on the logon screen title bar to bring up Fingerprint Logon Manager. Select the account and then click Change. On the Edit Fingerprint Logon dialog box, edit your existing account information in the appropriate text boxes and click OK. You can also change the fingerprint logon title and Quick Link settings.
  • will the fingerprint reader work as a fingerprint scanner for a biometric software package.
  • Glen...good question. It'd probably depend on the support of the specific biometric software package.
  • Just bought this product, question is, can this thing be backed up so I don't have to redo all the logins in the event of a format?
  • Is there any possibility to back up the fngerprint data in case of reinstalling WindowsXP?
  • I received a Microsoft fingerprint reader as a Christmas gift, installed it, and used it just long enough to become addicted.  After about 2 weeks it would flash, but would not recognize any fingerprints.  Reinstallation of the software did not help.  My computer is older, with only two USB1.0 ports so I use a port expander. Eliminating the expander, connecting the reader directly to the computer has not helped.  I exchanged the reader for a new one and the problem remains. Any suggestions?
  • This blog was very helpful -- I appreciate all the input from various readers.  I was ready to order the MS product, but thought I should check first.  Now I'm glad -- I resent the pressure created by the 'only works with IE' strategy, and I frankly do not believe that MS programmers aren't competent enough to make this product work with the major browsers.  Give me a break.
  • Darien: I fully agree that we're competent enough to make the product work with other browsers. However, it all comes down to time and resources, and although the popular view is that we're overflowing with money to spend on just about anything, the reality is that we've a cost-conscious company that is responsible to our customers and investors. In our case, a vast majority of our customers use IE, so that's where we work best.
  • Wow...i just bought this at office depot near seattle....yeah the big City near Microsoft itself.  I swear on any and everything I will never use IE again..other then the required computer Updates I have to do.  So after many Viruses, and attacks i switched to Firefox..  Seeing this product has been out for a few years and still no sopport to Firefox.  I think I need to return this, and tell allll the local stores in alll the major cities to spread the word the this particular product...reallly stinks.  I wonder if any Anti-trust, or Monopoly lawers would just love to get their grubby hands on this info.
  • Well ... I got me one of these little gizmos as well ... certainly not for logging onto web pages. Can't imagine there isn't something a bit more usefull for the device.

    To begin with, we have about 20 employees in our plant and no time clock. You can imagine the trouble this might cause some days, so I thought I could use it as a fingerprint time clock - providing I could find some software. Of course I did, but I have to buy their reader for them to function.

    Has anyone heard of a time clock software package for use with the Microsoft (persona) reader. Now that would be a usefull tool.

    Cheers
    RD
  • Same problem regarding the screensaver with password protection. I had to reboot the computer manually and finally gave up. I uninstalled the software and type the password the conventional way.
  • I use firefox and do domain logins to a samba box, but my MS fingerprint reader is not totally useless to me.  There is an SDK (and a fee version) put out by Griaule (www.griaule.com.  It allows developers to use it in their apps and it includes a login manager that works great with domain logins (I posted an item on their forum that allows you to use it without the digital persona software conflicting it).  RD - You could use it with a time clock app you write in C, VB, Java, etc.

    If I get some time soon, I'll try my hand at a firefox plugin with the SDK, but my plate is full for the next few weeks.
  • Am trying to write a project on this Fingerprint Reader with my friends in school before we found out it already has been invented, i cant go back in writing another project coz i have little or no time, please mail me if you have any idea on how the Fingerprint Reader was created, what it has in it. mail me at tukurbandito@hotmail.com
  • So actually i havent found any firefox plugin for it on the web. it would be very nice if you could  write one. Did you allrad begin working at it?
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