Troubleshooting a Fingerprint Reader That Is Not Working

By Nick Davis

A fingerprint reader is a security device available for Windows and Macintosh computer systems that allows users to access the computer without entering a password or completing another security screening. The device contains a control program that registers the user's fingerprint, as well as any other fingerprints from individuals authorized to use the computer. Fingerprint readers can develop problems, including not recognizing the fingerprint, taking an unusually long time to log into the computer system or presenting errors indicating a problem with the fingerprint or the device.

Things You'll Need

  • Cellophane tape
  • Mild ammonia-based glass cleaner
  • Soft cloth or towel

Cleaning the Fingerprint Reader

Step 1

Cut a one-inch piece of cellophane tape from a tape dispenser.

Step 2

Place the sticky side of the tape onto the fingerprint reader's window. Press the tape onto the window, then quickly remove it.

Step 3

Swipe your finger across the reader's window from top to bottom to access the computer. If the reader doesn't recognize the fingerprint or a "can't read" error occurs, proceed to the next step.

Step 4

Apply 1 tbsp. of a mild ammonia-based glass cleaner to a soft cloth or towel. Wipe the fingerprint reader's window gently with the cloth or towel. Use a clean area of the towel or cloth and wipe the reader again.

Step 5

Swipe your finger across the reader again to access the computer. If the reader doesn't recognize your fingerprint or slowly starts processing the fingerprint and then presents a "can't read" error, proceed to "Restarting the Fingerprint Reader."

Restarting the Fingerprint Reader

Step 1

Turn off the computer and unplug the fingerprint reader from the computer's USB port, if the reader is independent of the computer's case, keyboard or mouse. If the reader is part of the computer's keyboard or mouse, unplug the keyboard or mouse.

Step 2

Turn on the computer and reconnect the fingerprint reader, keyboard or mouse as the computer is starting up. Do not connect the fingerprint reader to a USB hub--these devices may not work properly with the reader. Plug the fingerprint reader directly into a USB port.

Step 3

Rub your thumb and one of your fingers together to saturate your finger with oil or moisture. Swipe your finger across the reader from top to bottom to access the computer. Be careful to not move your finger from side-to-side as you swipe it on the reader; this will lead to the reader not recognizing your fingerprint. If the reader doesn't recognize your fingerprint, proceed to the "Re-Registering the Fingerprint Reader" section.

Re-Registering the Fingerprint Reader

Step 1

Click "Start," "All Programs," the fingerprint reader's brand name, then "Fingerprint Enrollment Wizard," "Fingerprint Setup Wizard" or a similarly worded application in Windows. For a Mac, click the Mac's hard drive icon, "Applications," the fingerprint reader's brand name, then "Fingerprint Enrollment Wizard," "Fingerprint Setup Wizard" or a similarly worded application.

Step 2

Insert a finger into the reader when prompted to re-register your print. You can use a different finger than the one previously used to register the fingerprint reader. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the wizard application. Click "Finish" when complete.

Step 3

Restart the computer. Rub your thumb and one of your fingers to moisten it, then swipe the finger you registered across the reader from top to bottom to access the computer.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you still are experiencing problems accessing the computer using the fingerprint reader, remove the fingerprint reader's control program by using the "Add/Remove Programs" or "Uninstall a Program" tool within the Windows system "Control Panel." If using a Mac, drag the fingerprint reader's folder, present in the "Applications" folder, to the "Trash Can." Then reinstall the reader's control program.
  • If using Windows, perform a Windows Update by clicking the "Microsoft Windows Update" link in the Resources section to update the computer system's files that may be conflicting with the fingerprint reader.
  • If using a Mac, perform a Mac Software Update by clicking the Apple icon in the left corner of the screen, then clicking "Software Update." Enter your "Administrator account name" and password when prompted. The Mac will access the Internet and download any updates available.