How do you use Touch ID, Apple's biometric fingerprint identity sensor? Here's everything you need to know!

Touch ID made the Home button smart. Instead of a simple mechanical switch, Touch ID lets the Home button identify who you are. That way, your iPhone or iPad know to unlock, to authorize iTunes, App Store, and Apple Pay purchases, to give you access to your password and banking apps, and more. And they know to keep other people out. Don't think of it as a security system — a strong alphanumeric password is still best for security — but think of it as a convenience. With Touch ID, you can stay relatively safe, but still make it quicker and easier than entering your passcode when you need to get into your iPhone or iPad.

Note: Touch ID works on iPhone 5s or later and iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 or later.

What is Touch ID?

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.

Built right into the Home button on every recent iPhone and iPad, Touch ID uses a highly scratch-resistant sapphire glass lens that protects the assembly and focuses the sensor, and a color-matched steel ring that surrounds it, waiting to detect your finger. When the ring is triggered, the capacitive Touch ID sensor activates and takes what's effectively a high-resolution snapshot of your fingerprint. The fingerprint is compared against what's stored in the secure enclave on the Apple A-series chipset, and if the unique characteristics in the arches, loops, or whorls match, Touch ID releases a "yes" token and you're instantly authenticated and your iPhone or iPad will unlock, your purchase will be authorized, your app will open, etc. If they don't match, Touch ID releases a "no" token and you're kept out.

What's more, every time Touch ID scans your fingerprint, it uses the data to improve recognition, so it should work more consistently from more angles over time.

There are some cases when Touch ID is automatically turned off to protect your security:

  1. If Touch ID hasn't been used in 48 hours, you'll need to enter your passcode or password to re-enable it.
  2. If your iPhone or iPad has been rebooted or reset, you'll need to enter your passcode or password to re-enable it.
  3. If a fingerprint isn't recognized 5 times in a row, you'll need to enter your passcode or password to re-enable it.
  4. If a remote lock has been sent via Find my iPhone, you'll need to enter your passcode or password to re-enable it.
  5. If your passcode hasn't been used to unlock in six days, and Touch ID hasn't bee used to unlock in six hours, you'll need to enter your passcode or password to re-enable it.

Otherwise it really is as simple as putting your finger on the Home button.

How to set up Touch ID on iPhone and iPad

You can register a fingerprint for Touch ID as part of the initial set up process on any new or restored iPhone or iPad. You can also set it up, or add additional fingers, at any time.

  1. Launch the Settings app from your Home screen
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode
  3. Type in your passcode for authorization, if asked. (Touch ID requires a passcode, so if you don't have one already you'll be asked to create one.)
  4. Tap on the Add a Fingerprint button.
  5. Place the finger you want to register on the Home button and leave it there until you feel a buzz.
  6. Lift your finger up and place it back down. Repeat each time you feel a buzz.

  7. Tap continue when Touch ID alerts you it has completed the first step and now requires peripheral data.
  8. Place the edges of the finger you want to register on the Home button and leave it there until you feel a buzz.
  9. Lift your finger up and place it back down. Repeat with a different edge until you've registered the entire surface of your finger.
  10. Tap Continue to finish.

Repeat for every additional finger you want to add, up to 5 total. You can register any combination of your and other people's fingerprints, including family or staff. You can even temporarily register a travel-mate just in case of emergencies, without having to give them your passcode or password.

How to identify a Touch ID fingerprint

If you registered a fingerprint with Touch ID but don't remember which one is which — i.e., is Fingerprint 1 your right thumb or left index finger? — you can check and find out. That's how you can make sure you rename and delete the right ones in the future.

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode.
  3. Type in your passcode when asked.
  4. Place your registered fingerprint on the Home button.
  5. Look for the label that changes color from white to gray.

How to label a Touch ID fingerprint

Rather than identifying your fingerprints each time you need them for something, you can label them to make it simpler and faster to find the one you're looking for. (And remember which and whose fingerprints are registered.)

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode.
  3. Type in your passcode when asked.

  4. Tap on the Finger you want to rename
  5. Type in a new, more recognizable name for your fingerprint. (i.e. right thumb.)
  6. Tap on the Done button.

Repeat the steps 4-6 until all your fingerprints are labeled.

How to delete a Touch ID fingerprint

If you have given someone fingerprint access to your device for an emergency, or for a specific reason, and you don't need that person to have access anymore it's a good idea to delete their fingerprint. Also, if a fingerprint becomes glitchy, you can remove it and redo it. That's because deleting Touch ID fingerprints is even easier than adding them!

  1. Launch the Settings app on your Touch ID capable device.
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode.
  3. Type in your passcode when prompted.
  4. Tap on the fingerprint you want to delete.
  5. Tap on Delete Fingerprint.
  6. Tap on Done at the bottom right.

Repeat steps 4-6 for each fingerprint you want to delete.

How to turn off Touch ID for the Lock screen

Touch ID is meant as a convenience. If you prefer more security on your Lock screen, like a strong alphanumeric password, you can turn Touch ID off.

  1. Launch the Settings app from your Home screen.
  2. Tap on the Touch ID & Passcode button.
  3. Enter your passcode when prompted.
  4. Switch iPhone/iPad Unlock to Off

How to turn off Touch ID for Apple Pay

Apple Pay typically requires Touch ID to authorize credit or debit payments at retail. If you'd rather enter your passcode instead, you can turn Touch ID off.

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode.
  3. Type in your passcode when prompted.
  4. Switch *Apple Pay to Off

How to turn off Touch ID for iTunes and App Store

Touch ID can replace your password for authorizing iTunes and App Store purchases. If you have other people's fingerprints registered to Touch ID — for example, your kids — you may prefer to turn Touch ID off and keep your password on.

  1. Launch the Settings app.
  2. Tap on Touch ID & Passcode.
  3. Type in your passcode when prompted.
  4. Switch *iTunes & App Store to Off

Touch ID, especially the second generation Touch ID found in the iPhone 6s, should work reliably under normal circumstances. If it doesn't work for you, here are a few things you can try:

  1. If there's moisture or liquid on the Home button, dry it off. Liquid can interfere with the scan.
  2. If your hands are dry or damp, moisturize or dry them off. Changes in skin condition can make your fingerprints unreadable to the sensor.
  3. If you have continued problems, delete your fingerprint(s) and register again.

Any Touch ID questions?

If you have any trouble setting up or using Touch ID, or any additional questions, drop them in the comments below!