How to Log In to Your Devices Without Passwords

You might be used to typing out a lengthy password every time you log in to your computer, and it's essential that you have one in place—otherwise anyone could come along and get at your files and apps. But what if we told you there was a better way?

Both Windows and macOS support various biometric security options now for logging in to your user account, as we'll outline below. Not only are these options very convenient, they're also pretty secure: You can't steal a face or a fingerprint as easily as you may steal a password.
Similar options are available on phones, though in the case of Android and iOS you're only saving the time it takes to type out a PIN rather than a password. Still, it's very much worth getting face or fingerprint recognition set up.

Windows

Windows Hello gives you alternative options for signing into Microsoft's operating system. Screenshot: Microsoft via David Nield

Windows Hello is the name Microsoft gives you password-free access to your computer: It can include facial recognition via a webcam, fingerprint scanning via a sensor, and the use of a short PIN code. If your desktop or laptop doesn't have a webcam or a fingerprint scanner built-in, you can add one as an accessory—but it must be labeled as compatible with Windows Hello for it to work.

Assuming you do have at least one Windows Hello-ready piece of hardware attached to or integrated into your computer, open up the Start menu then click the cog icon to get to Windows Settings. Pick Accounts then Sign-in options to see what's available (any options that your device doesn't support simply won't appear).Pick from Windows Hello Face, Windows Hello Fingerprint, or Windows Hello PIN to choose an option and to get it configured—you can use several together if you want. Windows will take you through the process of recognizing your face or identifying your fingerprint, or prompt you for a PIN that's unique to the computer.

The next time that you come to the login screen, you can simply position your face in front of the webcam or place your finger on the fingerprint sensor—there's no need to wait to be asked—and you'll get dropped straight into your user account. If you're using a PIN, you do need to select your user account to bring up the PIN entry dialog.

Depending on your system, you might see one more entry on the Sign-in options screen: Security Key: This enables you to use a special device plugged into a USB port to verify your identity. These devices aren't expensive and are simple to configure, and Microsoft has more details on how to set one up here.

macOS

Setting up Touch ID on macOS.

Screenshot: Apple via David Nield