I own a mid-2009 MBP with OS X Mavericks installed. I'm a hi-tech enthusiast who wants to use the fingerprint scanning feature made available by many scanners on the market to login into my account after boot and unlock the screen after the screensaver has started.

The scanner I'm willing to buy is a DigitalPersona U.are.U-5160 which is not only FIPS 201 PIV certified, but it's also designed to work in harsh environments and situations. See: http://www.fulcrumbiometrics.com/Digital-Persona-U-are-U-5160-p/101106.htm

Please note that I've already read this article on StackExchange (How can I enable fingerprint authentication on a Mac? What compatible scanners are available?) which talks about the same, but I've found nothing interesting in it.

In particularly, supposed that I've gotten all the Smart Card Services/CAC Libraries:

  1. How do I switch from password login to fingerprint login?
  2. Can I use fingerprint login with FileVault 2 too? (i.e. decrypting the HD using my fingerprint, with no passwords to type)

I think these features require dedicated API's or SDK's, and Apple stopped deploying them since it bought AuthenTec. Now, all fingerprint-scanning feature are officially unsupported by Apple except for the iPhone 5S.

I've read somewhere that LastPass does a very similar job indeed, and is used for the purposes I've listed.

How can I achieve this?

10 Answers 10


I don't think you can do what you're trying to do. Firstly, the Digital Persona fingerprint scanner you mentioned is compatible only with Windows, Linux and Android - not Mac OS X. And secondly, it is important to remember that when you boot up with a Filevault 2 encrypted laptop, the OS is not loaded. You have to provide your credentials - which causes FV2 to load the encryption key so the drive is readable. Then the OS loads and logs you in.

So any biometric authentication scheme that is Filevault 2 compatible would have to have software stored in EFI (BIOS) or one non-encrypted hidden partition - and I think that would require Apple to come up with a solution for that.

  • 1
    good point about needing to enter a password prior to kexts loading to enable peripheral drivers loading. seems firmware passwords and FV2 would need to be disabled. additionally, Yosemite requires kext-signing as default unless it's disabled by eg. Trim Enabler. This has other issues associated.
    – thepen
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 2:58

I think this Mac OS Forge project might be your best bet – SmartCard Services.

My research leads me to believe Apple stopped putting 'official' efforts (documentation, etc.) after OS X 10.6.


After Yosemite, I don't think this will be possible with FireVault2. It could potentially work as a secondary verification but not on startup. As I understand, kexts loading is a prerequisite to non-native peripheral drivers loading.

Seems firmware passwords and FV2 would need to be disabled at least, and since Yosemite requires kext-signing as default unless it's disabled by eg. Trim Enabler. This has other issues associated. If you took this course (assuming it's possible with peripheral compatibility), it'd likely only work if login was disabled or as secondary verification.


As of 2021, there is now an official Apple solution. External Touch ID requires 2 components:

Unfortunately, there is none for Intel-based Macs.


To achieve something like this would take a lot of research but i am sure you can, you can install third party software that performs this and have the fingerprint reader as a second method of logging into the computer. I just googled it and there are fingerprint readers that work with mac the only trouble i think you may have is finding a third party software to run the scanner.

hope this helps.


I expect that any mac compatible fingerprint scanner will come with the necessary software and it should install automatically when you plug in the device or pop up and say you need to install the associated software. This would enable login by fingerprint and keychain unlocking by fingerprint and disk decryption by fingerprint as it replaces your password for these situations. To make sure your chosen device supports Mac OSX I would suggest you call them up or email them and ask about their Mac support and what software is included with the device.


If you have an iPhone 5S that is jailbroken (or an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus that you intend to jailbreak) then UnlockID is an option. UnlockID uses Bluetooth to connect to your Mac, and then allows your Mac to access the fingerprint scanner on your iPhone. Have a look at this Cydia link - http://cydia.saurik.com/package/com.barn.unlockid/


Now with OSX 10.13.3 High sierra, on a new macbook pro, I was prompted to set up fingerprint access. The help docs say:

If your Mac has a Touch Bar, use Touch ID preferences to enable your Mac to be unlocked with your fingerprint, add one or more fingerprints to your user account, and enable Touch ID to be used to make purchases with Apple Pay and from the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. To open this pane, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Touch ID.

To temporarily disable it, one just clicks in the area where the password prompt would be, and it becomes visible.

  • 3
    Completely irrelevant answer. The user asked for any external hardware, not inbuilt one. You have answered for TouchID login on 2016/17 MBP.
    – Pratik
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 6:05
  • @PratikaRana for SO to be useful over time, answers must keep up to date. This is the google hit for my question about fingerprint detection. The question of OP is from 2014 , long ago in internet time. So imho it is good to add answers for newbies who may not be aware that new hardware has this built in. Commented Feb 7, 2018 at 5:49

Since Apple opened up its Local Authentication Framework (using Touch/Face ID) on iOS devices it is now possible to obtain an app for a [non-jailbroken] iPhone/iPad that can be used to unlock your Mac using a fingerprint/face (or a knock). e.g. Unlox/MacID, Knock, Fingerkey.


I use a very useful tool, DriodID to unlock my Macbook Pro 2017 using my android.

  • 1
    Welcome to Ask Different. This answer is at risk of being downvoted or deleted due to several factors, including not having answers just be link-only and the link not working. See How to Answer for important info. - From Review
    – fsb
    Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 13:11

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