How to set up Touch ID and use it to secure your Mac

How to set up Touch ID and use it to secure your Mac

Mobile user authentication methods have evolved rapidly over the years. Today we have fingerprint sensors and a Face ID for user authentication. Microsoft brought Windows Hello facial recognition functionality, which was in tandem with a fingerprint scanner on corporate notebooks. Apple’s MacBook 2016 lineup introduced Touch ID integration into macOS. Since then, there has been a constant struggle to configure the Touch ID and use it intelligently to secure applications on your Mac.

Unlike Windows, Touch ID hardware is tightly integrated with macOS. You can use it to authenticate in-app purchases, Apple Pay payments, the login system, and other aspects of the macOS system.

In 2020, Apple offers more reasons to buy a MacBook with a lower price and higher basic storage. If you’ve recently purchased one, I highly recommend activating and using Touch ID on the Mac. This will save you from adding an Apple ID password repeatedly and make the entire macOS experience seamless.

In this article, we will explain how to configure Touch ID on Mac and use the macOS aspects to secure applications and authentication. We will also list some of the limitations of Touch ID.

Where is Touch ID on my MacBook

As mentioned earlier, the Apple 2016 MacBooks have integrated the Touch ID to the right of the Touch Bar. Starting with the MacBook 2019 models, Apple provides a dedicated space for Touch ID. Check the image below to determine the location of Touch ID.

Touch id on macbook

Those with standard MacBook and new MacBook Air models, the Touch ID is in line with the function keys in the upper right corner.

How to configure Touch ID

Users mainly configure Touch ID when setting up their Mac for the first time. If you skipped the game, follow the steps below to activate Touch ID on your MacBook.

Make sure your finger is clean and dry. Remove any type of moisture, lotion, sweat, or oil with your fingertips.

Step 1: Click the Apple menu icon in the upper left corner and go to System Preferences.

2nd step: Click on Touch ID.

Tap id in the settings

Step 3: Click the “+” icon to add a fingerprint, then enter the user account password when prompted.

Add a fingerprint

Step 4: Follow the instructions on the screen. Make sure to cover the entire area with your finger.

Step 5: Use the check boxes to select the Touch ID features you want to use on the Mac.

Place finger

When adding a fingerprint, do not press the button. Slowly put your finger up and lift it up when asked. If you’re having issues with incorrect authentication, try adding the same finger twice.

How secure is Touch ID

Apple has developed a new T-series processor to store your fingerprints. To put it plainly, Touch ID is a great method for authenticating connections and payments. The T1 chip includes an advanced architecture called Secure Enclave, which is developed to protect your access code and fingerprint data. Touch ID does not store any images of your fingerprint and is based solely on a mathematical representation. It is not possible for someone to reverse engineer your actual fingerprint image from this stored data.

T1 chip

Your fingerprint data is encrypted, stored on the device and protected with a key available only for Secure Enclave. Your fingerprint data is used only by Secure Enclave to verify that the fingerprints match the registered fingerprint data. You can think of the Secure Enclave as your Apple device’s own safe.

Secure Enclave is not accessible by your device’s operating system or by the applications that run on it. It is never stored on Apple servers, it is never backed up to iCloud or elsewhere, and it cannot be used to match other fingerprint databases. This is how the iPhone has stored fingerprints for years.

Apple’s latest MacBook houses the T2 security chip which provides encrypted storage for fingerprint data and secure booting.

Where can you use Touch ID on macOS

Users can use Touch ID to unlock their Macs and make purchases from the Mac App Store or the iTunes Store. You can also make simple, secure, and private purchases on websites using Apple Pay.

Apple Pay never stores or shares your credit or debit card information with the merchant. In addition, it is useful for auto-filling passwords on certain applications that support Touch ID authentication.

Apple Pay Touch ID

For example, Touch ID prompts you when you try to view password-protected notes in the Apple Notes app. You can also use Touch ID in the Passwords section of Safari preferences.

Unlock notes with touchid

If multiple users set up Touch ID and log in to the same Mac, they can use Touch ID to switch accounts. Just press Touch ID, and your Mac switches to the connected user account associated with the fingerprint.

Note the limitations of Touch ID

You must enter your password instead of using Touch ID in the following situations:

  • When you shut down and start the MacBook from scratch (it’s quite irritating because I mainly use the Shut down option instead of the Sleep function).
  • You have logged out of the user account.
  • Your fingerprint is not recognized five times in a row.
  • You haven’t unlocked your Mac in more than 48 hours.
  • You have just enrolled or deleted fingerprints.

Secure your Mac with Touch ID

Touch ID is a fantastic security option offered by Apple users for Mac. It is a little disheartening to see that Apple continues to pack a 720p camera in the models of MacBook 2020. The next models of MacBook integrating Face ID and Touch ID are thus still in a few years. What is your experience with Touch ID so far? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Your MacBook can be the ultimate tool for organizing your life. Read the post below to find the seven best Mac apps to stay organized.

Last updated June 1, 2020

The above article may contain affiliate links that help support Guiding Tech. However, this does not affect our editorial integrity. The content remains impartial and authentic.

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