How to set up facial recognition to sign into Windows 10

You can sign into Windows 10 via your face, as long as your computer has a supported camera.

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Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Microsoft's Windows Hello offers a few different authentication methods so you can sign into Windows 10 without using a conventional password. You can adopt a PIN, a physical security key, your fingerprint, or facial recognition. The facial recognition option can be handy as all you need do is glance at your computer's camera to authenticate yourself. But, only certain cameras support Windows Hello facial recognition, and you have to set up the feature for it to scan and recognize your face.

On the plus side, if you're able to set up facial recognition, you can use it for more than just signing in to Windows 10. More websites are starting to support Windows Hello authentication, including your Microsoft Account page. Additionally, a few Windows 10 apps support the technology, such as OneDrive and Dropbox. Though the support is still limited at this point, more websites and apps will hopefully hop onboard.

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The main requirement is that your PC's camera must support Windows Hello facial recognition, such as those outfitted with Intel's RealSense 3D technology. The camera needs to be able to scan your face by measuring its depth and tracking its location and position. If you don't already have a compatible camera, you have two options:

  1. You can purchase a supported webcam for your desktop PC monitor.
  2. You can purchase a laptop or all-in-one computer with the right type of integrated camera.

Intel offers a RealSense overview page and a more general page on RealSense, both of which can steer you to different RealSense 3D cameras. But, you can find Windows Hello supported cameras from a few other manufacturers, such as Logitech. For laptops and other computers with built-in Windows Hello cameras, Microsoft's Windows 10 Computers page provides a list of compatible PCs.

The best place to check to see if your current camera is supported is the same spot you go to set up the facial recognition. In Windows 10, open Settings and click on the Accounts category. In the Accounts page, click on the setting for Sign-In Options. Look for the option for Windows Hello Face. If your camera doesn't make the grade, a message tells you: "This option is currently unavailable." If your camera is supported, the message says: "Sign in with your camera." In that case, click on the message and then click on the Set Up button (Figure A).

Figure A

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At the first Windows Hello window, click the Get Started button. Enter your PIN, which is required before you can set up any other type of Windows Hello authentication. Look at your camera and keep your face steady while it's scanned (Figure B).

Figure B

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If the scan completes successfully, the next screen tells you that you're all set and that you can use your face the next time you want to unlock your device. Click the Close button (Figure C).

Figure C

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The next time you need to log in to Windows or unlock your PC, the camera's sensor should start blinking when you're at the Lock Screen. Just glance at the camera, and Windows should then authenticate you via your face and sign you in.

If the facial recognition is not working, or your facial appearance changes in any way (glasses, beard, etc.), go back to the Windows Hello Face option in Settings. Select the option and then click on the button to Improve Recognition (Figure D). Click the Get Started button, enter your PIN, let the camera scan your face, and you should be set.

Figure D

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