Biometric authentication methods such as facial or fingerprint recognition, are an effective way to keep your device secure and protect it from unauthorized access.
If you’ve purchased a laptop recently, there’s a good chance it has a fingerprint scanner, which you can use to enable fingerprint login. Unlike Windows, though, using the fingerprint scanner for login on Linux isn’t as straightforward, albeit it’s gotten a bit easier over the years.
Here’s how you can enable fingerprint login on a laptop running Ubuntu to secure it and protect your data onboard.
Set Up Fingerprint Login on Ubuntu
It goes without saying that to secure your laptop with fingerprint authentication, it must have a built-in fingerprint scanner. Most fingerprint scanners that come on laptops these days work just fine.
If you’d like to know more about which scanner your system has, open the terminal and run:
In the output, look for a device with an ID that ends with “Fingerprint Reader” in its name. This is the fingerprint reader your laptop is using. In our case, it’s Validity Sensors VFS5011 fingerprint reader, but this guide should work with any other fingerprint reader just as fine.
Follow these steps to enable fingerprint login on your Ubuntu machine:
- Open Settings and select Users from the left sidebar.
- Click the Unlock button and enter your password to authenticate your access.
- Under Authentication & Login, click on Fingerprint Login.
- Hit the Scan new fingerprint button and select a finger you want to use from the list to set up its fingerprint.
- Enter your password again to verify the action. Swipe the finger (you chose in the previous step) over the fingerprint reader on your laptop. As you do this, you’ll see it registering the fingerprint.
- Once the scan is complete, hit Done.
If you’re facing difficulty registering your fingerprint, clean your finger and try again. Similarly, ensure your finger isn’t too dry. Moisten your finger if it’s so to make it easier for the scanner to register your fingerprint.
You can also set up a fingerprint scanner on Ubuntu using PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules).
Verify if the Fingerprint Scanner Works
After you’ve added a fingerprint, you can verify if it was registered correctly and works fine by locking the screen and logging in again.
Here’s how to do this:
- Save all your open work and press the Super + L keyboard shortcut to lock your screen. Alternatively, click the top-right corner of the screen to bring up the control center and select Lock.
- Click or press any key to wake up the screen.
- Select your username on the login screen to bring up the password field.
- Scan your fingerprint for the finger you registered earlier on the fingerprint scanner, and you’ll be logged in and taken to the desktop.
Re-enroll a Fingerprint on Ubuntu
Depending on how accurate and sensitive your fingerprint scanner is, your experience with scanning and logging into your system may vary.
If, after trying to log in to your computer using your fingerprint, you’re finding the sensor a little finicky, i.e., it requires you to scan your finger multiple times to recognize it, re-enrolling the fingerprint can sometimes help.
Follow these steps to re-enroll a fingerprint on Ubuntu:
- Open Settings, go to Users, and click Fingerprint Login.
- Select the fingerprint you just scanned and hit Re-enroll this finger.
- Clean up your finger nicely and scan it over the scanner again to re-register your fingerprint. Make sure the swipes aren’t too short or too long.
- Click Done.
Lock the screen and try logging in using your fingerprint again.
Although fingerprint authentication is more secure and convenient than regular password-based authentication, hackers can still bypass fingerprint scanners.
How to Add a Second Fingerprint on Ubuntu
Most of the time, re-enrolling the fingerprint can solve scanning issues with your fingerprint reader. However, if it doesn’t work in your case, and you’re still facing issues trying to log in using your fingerprint, you can add a second fingerprint instead.
Here’s how to do this:
- Open Settings and go to Users. Tap on Fingerprint Login to proceed.
- Hit the Scan new fingerprint button and choose the finger you want to use as your second fingerprint.
- Authenticate yourself using your password. Then, swipe your finger across the scanner to register its fingerprint.
- Click Done to save the fingerprint and close the prompt.
Now, lock the screen again and, this time, use your second fingerprint to log in. You can register multiple fingerprints like this. All your fingerprints will continue to work as long as you don’t delete them.
How to Delete a Registered Fingerprint
At any point, if you wish to delete a registered fingerprint from your machine, you can do so with the help of these steps:
- Go into Settings and select Users. Then, select Fingerprint Login under Authentication & Login.
- Tap on the fingerprint you want to delete and select Re-enroll this fingerprint.
- Instead of scanning your fingerprint across the scanner, hit Cancel in the top-left corner of the window, and the fingerprint will be deleted.
- Alternatively, if you want to delete all your fingerprints, follow the first two steps, and in the Fingerprint Login window, click Delete Fingerprints. If prompted to confirm the deletion, hit Yes, and it will delete all your fingerprints.
- Enter the administrator password to authenticate yourself and confirm the action.
If you decide to delete all fingerprints, do note that it will also disable fingerprint authentication on your device. And subsequently, you’ll need to type in your password to log in to your laptop.
Logging In to Your Ubuntu Desktop Made Easy and Secure
Fingerprint authentication simplifies logging in to your Ubuntu desktop, as you can now simply scan your fingerprint over the fingerprint reader to unlock your computer. Not just that, though, but it also secures your system and prevents anyone from unlocking and accessing it, making it an ideal authentication mechanism for laptops.
If you’re running an older laptop or a desktop that doesn’t come with a fingerprint reader, there are USB fingerprint scanners for PCs and laptops that you can use to secure your system with fingerprint authentication.