How to Set Up and Use Touch ID, the iPhone Fingerprint Scanner

Use simple biometric authentication to secure your iPhone

For years, iPhone security meant setting a basic passcode and using Find My iPhone to track a lost or stolen phone. With iOS 7, Apple took security to a new level, thanks to the introduction of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. 

Information in this article applies to iOS 7 or later on iPhone 8 and iPhone 7 series and the iPhone 6s. It's also available for iPad mini 4 and 5, iPad Air 2 and 3, and the 1st and 2nd generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

Home Button Required

Touch ID is built into the Home button and allows you to unlock your iOS device by pressing your finger on the button rather than inputting your passcode manually. After you set up Touch ID, you can forget retyping your passcode for every iTunes Store or App Store purchase. A fingerprint scan is all you need.

Touch ID does not appear on current iPhone and iPad devices such as the iPhone 11 because they don't have a physical Home button. They support Face ID instead.

How to Set Up Touch ID

Setting up Touch ID on compatible hardware is easy.

  1. Tap the Settings app on your iPhone Home screen.

  2. Select Touch ID & Passcode and then enter your passcode. If you haven't already set up a passcode for your phone, you need to do it before you can set up Touch ID.

  3. Tap Add a fingerprint in the Fingerprints section about halfway down the screen.

    Add a Fingerprint on an iPhone
  4. Press and lift your finger on the Home button several times while holding the iPhone as you do when you use it. When the phone has a clear scan of the center of your finger, it moves to the next screen.

  5. Hold the phone as you usually hold it when you are unlocking it and touch the Home button with the edges of your finger rather than the center you already scanned. When the phone accepts the scan, the phone returns to the Touch ID & Passcode screen.

  6. Move the slider next to any of the four options you can control with Touch ID to the On/green position.

    Adding a fingerprint to Touch ID on iPhone

You should turn on Touch ID for the iPhone Unlock function, but you may also want to use it with other aspects of your iPhone. The options are:

  • iPhone Unlock: Move this slider to On/green to enable unlocking your iPhone with Touch ID.
  • Apple Pay: Move this slider to On/green to use your fingerprint to authorize Apple Pay purchases on devices that support Apple Pay.
  • iTunes and App Store: When this slider is On/green, you can use your fingerprint to enter your password when buying from the iTunes Store and App Store apps on your device. No more typing your password.
  • Password AutoFill: Use Touch ID to automatically enter your stored information, such as name or credit card number, in a web form.

In the Touch ID & Passcode screen, you can also:

  • Change fingerprint name: By default, your fingerprints are named Finger 1, Finger 2, and so on. You can change these names if you'd like. Tap the fingerprint name you want to change, tap the X to delete the current name, and then type the new name. When you're finished, tap Done.
  • Delete a fingerprint: There are two ways to remove a fingerprint. Swipe right to left across the fingerprint and tap the Delete button or tap the fingerprint and then tap Delete Fingerprint.
  • Add a fingerprint: Tap the Add a fingerprint menu to enter another fingerprint. You can scan up to five fingers, and they don't all have to be yours. If your partner or kids regularly use your device, you can scan their fingerprints, too.

Tips for Scanning Your Fingerprint for Touch ID

To get a good scan of your fingerprint, do the following:

  • Choose the finger you want to scan, depending on how you tend to hold your iPhone when you pick it up. It probably makes sense to use your thumb or forefinger. You can add other fingers later up to a maximum of five.
  • Lay the fleshy pad of your finger lightly onto the Home button, but don't press the button, or the phone cancels your scan.
  • When the device vibrates, lift your finger off the Touch ID scanner and press it down lightly again.
  • Repeat this process, each time putting your finger onto the scanner in a slightly different way or at a slightly different angle. The more complete the scan of your fingerprint, the more flexibility you have in how you hold your finger when using Touch ID later. The red lines on the on-screen fingerprint represent your progress. The more red lines you see, the better the scan.
  • When the initial scan is complete, the iPhone prompts you to scan the edges of your finger. Repeat the same process as before, using the sides, top, and other edges of your finger to get the best scan.

Using Touch ID

After you set up Touch ID, it's simple to use.

To unlock your iPhone using your fingerprint, turn it on and then press the Home button with the finger you scanned. Leave your finger on the button without pressing it until the Home screen unlocks.

To use your fingerprint as a password to make purchases, use the iTunes Store or App Store apps as usual. When you tap the Purchase, Download, or Install buttons, a window pops up asking if you want to enter your password or use Touch ID. Lightly position your scanned finger on the Home button—but don't click it—to enter your password and activate the download. Should you run into problems or you have trouble setting up or using Touch ID, consult Touch ID Not Working? Here's What to Do.