Touch ID

If you own, or have owned, an iPhone 5s all the way up to an iPhone 8, you've likely used Touch ID: It's Apple's built-in privacy system for unlocking your device and authorizing Apple Pay. Here's how to set it up and use it on your Mac!

How does Touch ID work?

Touch ID is the name of Apple's fingerprint identity sensor. It's a form of biometric security that's meant to be more convenient than entering a passcode or password, especially on iPhones and iPads we use hundreds of times a day. You can register up to five fingerprints on the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, with a maximum of three fingerprints per user account.

Once you add your fingerprint to your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, you'll be able to do the following:

How to set up and manage Touch ID on your Mac

You'll be asked to register a fingerprint for Touch ID as part of the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro setup process. You can register additional fingerprints at any time, though. You can have up to three fingerprints per user account on your Mac, five in total across accounts. Those fingerprints are then encrypted and stored offline in the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro's Secure Enclave.

How to add your fingerprint

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select the Touch ID preference pane.
  3. Click on Add a fingerprint.
  4. Enter your user password.

How to name a fingerprint

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select the Touch ID preference pane.
  3. Press the Tab key to cycle through each fingerprint option, or click directly on the name of the fingerprint.
  4. Rename your fingerprint.
  5. Press the Return key.

How to delete a fingerprint

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select the Touch ID preference pane.
  3. Hover over the fingerprint icon you wish to delete until you see the X in the upper left corner, then click on it.
  4. Enter your password.
  5. Press Delete to confirm.

How to change your Touch ID settings

After you've set up your fingerprints, you can choose what you'd like to use those fingerprints to authorize. By default, all three options are checked, but you can manually change this by unchecking the box next to each option.

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.
  2. Select the Touch ID preference pane.
  3. Check or uncheck the options you prefer.

The "Use Touch ID for" options include:

  • Unlocking your Mac
  • Apple Pay
  • iTunes & App Store

How to use Touch ID on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

As with Touch ID on the iPhone and iPad, when you first boot up your Mac, you have to use your password when you log in. After that first login, however, you're free to use Touch ID whenever waking your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro from sleep, switching users, authorizing store purchases, or via Apple Pay.

How to log in with Touch ID

  1. Open your closed MacBook Air or MacBook Pro (or press the Touch ID button).
  2. Rest your finger on the Touch ID sensor.

How to switch users with Touch ID

If you have multiple user accounts on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, you can register different fingerprints with each; once each account has been logged in once after initial boot, you can immediately return to that account by using the Touch ID sensor.

  1. Open your closed MacBook Air or MacBook Pro (or press the Touch ID button).
  2. Rest your finger on the Touch ID sensor.

How to use Touch ID to authorize App Store and iTunes purchases

Although the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Touch Bar support Touch ID authorization of both App Store and iTunes purchases, setting it up can be a bit of a process. Here's how to get Touch ID working with each app.

How to use Touch ID with Apple Pay

If you do a lot of online shopping on your Mac, Apple Pay lets you authorize payments made on your Mac via the Touch ID sensor on your MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPhone, or via Apple Watch — as such, you can say sayonara to typing your credit card information into every site that needs it.

How to reboot your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro

Touch ID replaces the old power button on the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro but it can serve the same purpose at times. For example, to power on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, push the Touch ID button. Same when you want to reset your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro. That can come in handy if the display won't show what's on screen or if the keyboard or cursor is frozen, or if the entire system becomes non-responsive.

  1. Press and hold down the Touch ID button.
  2. Keep holding it until you see the bootup screen.

How to reset your Touch ID data

If for some reason, your Touch ID stops working, and even after you delete your fingerprint or you keep getting a prompt that your fingerprint limit is reached, you may have to reset Touch ID to erase any current fingerprint registrations at the root level. Here's how.

  1. Restart your Mac and hold down Command+R while it's rebooting to enter Recovery Mode
  2. Launch Terminal.
  3. Enter the following:

    xartutil --erase-all

  4. Press Return.
  5. Type Yes when prompted to confirm.
  6. Press Enter.
  7. Quit Terminal.
  8. Restart your Mac in normal mode.

Questions?

Other questions about using Touch ID on your MacBook Air or MacBook Pro? Let us know below.

Updated November 2018: Updated for MacBook Air (2018).

Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide.

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