Security

How to enable phone sign-in for your Microsoft account

Microsoft recently made a new feature available that allows users to authenticate with their smartphone. Here are the details, and how to turn it on.

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Image: iStockphoto/Blackzheep

Microsoft users will now be able to use their smartphone to sign into their accounts, according to a blog post from the company posted on Tuesday. The feature is now generally available, after a soft launch occurred last month.

The feature is meant to save users from one of the most common issues handled by IT helpdesk employees: Forgotten passwords. Good password hygiene often requires complex strings of characters, but with the phone sign-in, Microsoft wants to shift the "security burden from your memory to your device," the post said.

Once implemented, users will no longer need to manually enter a password. When they try to sign in, a notification will pop up on their phone that they will need to unlock their phone to access, and then tap Approve to sign in.

SEE: Guidelines for building security policies (Tech Pro Research)

The feature works with the Microsoft Authenticator app for Android and iOS (no Windows phone version yet), and it's pretty easy to set up. Since you're using a phone to sign in, which might also require a passcode or fingerprint, it could add an extra layer of security, the post said.

For users who already have the Authenticator app installed, the feature will need to be configured. Tap on your account tile to access the drop-down menu, and select the Enable phone sign-in option. Now, you should be good to go.

If you don't already have your Microsoft account linked to the Authenticator app, you'll first need to download the app from your phone's app store. Once installed, add your account credentials into the app, and Microsoft will automatically prompt you to set up the feature, regardless of whether you are on Android or iOS.

Once you set up phone sign-in, you will begin receiving notifications to sign into your Microsoft account on your smartphone. However, your preferences can always be changed.

"A link at the bottom of the confirmation page lets you choose to use a password instead if your phone isn't handy, or you can switch back from your password to the Microsoft Authenticator," the post said. "Either way, we'll remember your preferences next time you sign in."

For more information, check out the Microsoft Authenticator forum.

As cybersecurity breaches grow in prevalence, utilizing alternative identity management methods and two-factor authentication is a good practice. In addition to features like phone sign-in, Microsoft has also been exploring biometric security with features like Windows Hello.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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