What Is a Fingerprint Reader on a Laptop?

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Keeping a computer secure is serious business. Whether you are trying to protect valuable corporate information, or just want to keep prying eyes away from your personal photos, just using a password isn't enough. A laptop fingerprint reader is a special biometric device that limits access to a computer based on approved fingerprints. These scanners are a great way to improve security, and are generally very inexpensive.

What Is a Fingerprint Reader on a Laptop?
(Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media)

The function of a fingerprint reader is to encrypt your fingerprint as a specialized code that your computer can recognize as a passcode. When you use a fingerprint reader, you will have to set one (or many) authorized users, and each will need to scan in their fingerprint so that the scanner can recognize them as an authorized user. Once their fingerprint has been encrypted and labeled as authorized, then they will be able to simply place or rub their finger on the scanner in the future to gain access to the computer.

Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media

Many modern computers come with a fingerprint scanner built in. Generally these scanners are found in the touchpad area of the computer. There are several advantages to having a scanner built-in to the computer. First of all, you don't need to worry about being locked out of your computer if you lose the peripheral. Having a built-in fingerprint scanner can also deter potential thieves from taking your computer.

Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media

If your computer did not already come with a fingerprint scanner pre-installed, you can purchase a peripheral scanner that attaches to the computer via USB port. There are some advantages to having a peripheral fingerprint scanner (compatibility across multiple machines, price, etc.), but it is vital that you never lose the peripheral. Unfortunately, since these scanners are very secure, if you lose it you will not be able to get back into your computer, even if you purchase a new one.

Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media

Not all platforms have support for the type of encryption that fingerprint scanners use to lock your computer. If you are planning on using a fingerprint scanner, make sure you have Windows XP, Mac OSX, or higher installed on your computer, as lesser operating systems will not work with the scanner, and could crash if you attempt to use it.

Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media

Fingerprint scanners, when pre-installed on a laptop computer, will generally drive the cost of the machine up by about $100 or so. However, peripheral scanners are much cheaper, and can be found in electronics stores like Radio Shack and Best Buy for $20-$40. Some advanced encryption fingerprint scanners can be found for more than this amount, but these are designed for advanced users.

Adrián González de la Peña/Demand Media

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