While Touch ID has been part of the iPhone legacy since 2013, Apple waited until 2016 to add biometrics to its MacBook range, and it’s not that impressive. An iPhone with Touch ID can register up to five fingerprints, but Macs can register up to three per account. If that seems unfair, there’s an easy trick to double that number, meaning six of your fingerprints can unlock your laptop!
When we say ‘easy’ we mean easy. There are no utilities to download, no Terminal commands to mess around with, and it doesn’t take a powerful macOS user to squeeze more functionality out of Apple̵
How the doubling trick works on MacBooks
When you first set up a fingerprint with Touch ID, your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air scans each fingerprint multiple times to ensure macOS has a complete picture of your unique print. While this method ensures that most unlock attempts succeed, you can easily take advantage of those multiple scans to double fingerprints.
You would think that switching fingers during a scan would cause an error in macOS that will make you start over, but you can switch fingers without any problems during the scanning process. Essentially, macOS scans your two fingerprints as one, and all scans are encrypted and stored offline in the MacBook’s Secure Enclave.
The result? When the scan is complete, you can now unlock your Mac with one of the fingers you used to scan it. It only takes up one of your scan slots, so doing the same for the other two slots means you can store up to six fingerprints for Touch ID on one user account. Your Mac can store up to five fingerprints for all user accounts, but only three per account. Doubled, that means up to six for your account and up to four for another user.
If you share your MacBook and don’t have different user accounts for each person, you can use this trick to register different people’s fingerprints on one account.
Step 1: Add or remove a fingerprint
To try this out for yourself, open “System Preferences” on your Mac and click “Touch ID”. If there is an available fingerprint slot, click “Add Fingerprint” and enter your user password when prompted.
If all slots are full, you’ll need to delete one by tapping the (x) that appears when you hover the mouse over the scan. Enter your password when prompted, then click “Delete” in the popup. Then go back and click on “Add fingerprint”.
Step 2: Scan your two fingerprints
Choose two fingers to attach to this “single” scan and then start scanning one as you normally would. Once macOS tells you “keep capturing the edges of your fingerprints,” switch fingers and complete the scan that way. Once the scan is complete, you can simply select “Done” to exit.
You can also scan one fingerprint after another, alternating fingers between scans. Select “Done” again when the scan is complete. This method isn’t as easy as the first, but it seems to work just as well.
Step 3: Name your fingerprint (optional)
You may want to consider naming these fingerprints to keep things tidy. If you don’t, it can be difficult to remember which slot belongs to which two fingerprints.
Click on the text with ‘Finger 1’, ‘Finger 2’ or ‘Finger 3’ below each print. The editor will open and you can enter a new name for each. Click outside the text field or press “Enter” on your keyboard to save each name.
Step 4: Test it out!
Now all you have to do is make sure everything went according to plan.
Put your computer to sleep or open the lock screen and then try to scan with one of the fingerprints you scanned. You can also try to buy something in one of Apple’s apps, pay with Apple Pay, or use AutoFill to enter passwords for you (as long as you haven’t turned it off in the Touch ID settings).
If it worked, try a different fingerprint. If both work, you are all set. However, if something is wrong, you can retry the steps above to scan again.
This is by no means an official Apple method, but it has been working since the iPhone 5S., the first iPhone with Touch ID. If Apple hasn’t removed this functionality by now, it will likely always remain an inadvertent, hidden way to duplicate your fingerprints on any Touch ID device.
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