Ah passwords. The bane of our technological lives as well as perhaps the single most important piece of information we possess.
Every single time you type in Password123 to access your bank account, it is those few characters that keep your financial security in your own hands. Surely there must be a better way? Our phones are now scanning our faces or our fingerprints in an effort to keep our lives a bit more secure, but why aren’t we more concerned with our laptops or desktop PCs in general. After all, we access just as much sensitive information there. Maybe it’s work files or data, gigabytes of personal family photographs of the children that you certainly wouldn’t want to fall into nefarious hands or a whole host of other essential, private information.
The thing is, as humans, we seem to be programmed to share information about ourselves. This certainly does not fit with the concept of keeping a password secret. Granted, you might not actually openly share the word itself, but over the past few years, we have been socially engineered to basically hand out information about ourselves for free.
Within this information we give away usually in the guise of some post or other on Facebook we often subconsciously include all the information we base our passwords on.
Take a look at this image for an example. This survey has been doing the rounds on the social networks while people have been locked down and looking for something to keep them entertained. I saw it on a phenomenal amount of my friends’ walls, and I’m sure you have seen it too.
Have a read of the questions and answers, and it will hopefully illustrate just how easy it is to accidentally give your personal information away without even realizing it.
What you might not know, or have even heard of is a feature built into Windows 10 called Hello. It’s possible you may have seen it mentioned if you are the kind of person who trawls through settings on your machine, but chances are you haven’t paid any attention to setting it up once you realized you needed some extra hardware.
This is the easy bit. It’s an alternative way to log in to Windows without a password or PIN. Depending on what you add to your system, it can be as simple as a fingerprint or as complicated as facial recognition. It’s called biometrics, and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in everyday life.
Every time you pick up your smartphone and use your face to unlock it, it’s not just matching simple features, or you would be able to trick it with a photograph. Your face can chance – maybe you grow a beard, occasionally wear glasses, pick up a new Rambo scar. Facial recognition is a tricky concept for your PC to master, so you can’t just use any only camera.
We’ve already discovered passwords are, at best, a massive inconvenience and a worst an open window into your personal life, especially when you use the same one or variations, everywhere you need to log in.
Windows Hello gives you a handy way to dispense with them, improve your user experience, and toughen up your personal security to boot. What’s not to love?
Let’s see how Microsoft ultimately makes the operation sound bland and beyond the reach of the everyday user.
“Windows Hello lets a user authenticate a Microsoft account or a non-Microsoft service that supports Fast Identity Online (FIDO) by having the user set up a gesture such as a facial scan, iris scan or fingerprint to log into a device”, Anoosh Saboori, senior program manager lead at Microsoft said.
Wow. Count me in.
In not promoting this features more heavily to the regular Windows 10 user, Microsoft is undoubtedly saving time on technical help – introducing potentially external hardware issues to the masses is not a simple thing to do. Still, they are also potentially causing headaches for people who suddenly find their passwords have been compromised.
Taking all that into consideration, we now bring you the best devices to make your trip with Windows Hello and a more secure PC a reality.
Let’s see what’s out there.
Logitech Brio Ultra HD webcam
- HDR Technology
- Windows Hello
- Best in class webcam
- Expensive for the majority
Let's start with the expensive stuff. This is a pricey webcam and not the model you are generally going to choose if you are merely streaming games to your friends on Twitch. This is full-on conferencing standard beast that also happens to be Windows Hello certified to boot.
It's a 4K behemoth that you will struggle to beat in terms of quality. For our purposes, however, it also has the technology built in to be able to do face scanning, which is what we need to log into our PCs by merely sitting down.
We can't see a point in the future where you will actually need another webcam other than this. It's an investment that's for sure. And it's one of those cases where you can't really just buy another webcam and live with it because the vast majority will not work with Windows Hello.
There are cheaper options, as you will see below, but there aren't better options. It all comes down to how much you want to pay to stop typing passwords and keeping yourself more secure.
Kaysuda Face Recognition USB IR Camera
- Instantly recognized by Windows 10
- Never manually log in again
- Low-resolution actual webcam
Coming down to a price that the majority of us will be comfortable with is this Windows Hello webcam with face recognition technology from Kaysuda.
Promising a 1-second high-speed login via Hello it's IR camera might only be 720p but, generally speaking, that's enough for most of our webcamming requirements as we are not reaching out to millions of YouTube followers.
In fact, you should always bear that in mind that really, cams like these are only doubling as a medium resolution webcam, and it is the IR security features that you are really interested in.
Software set-up is a breeze, and your Windows installation should recognize it immediately, and you will never have to log in again manually.
It also recognized different users, so if you share your PC with several accounts, that won't trip things up either.
PQI Mini USB Fingerprint Reader
- It just works
- Affordable solution
- Solid, reliable technology
- Tiny device
- Needs a clean finger
If you don't really feel you need to spend the money and go down the camera route for your PC security. The next step down is a fingerprint reader. By next step, we mean you will still actually have to go through a process to log in, just not one as cumbersome as a password, or as convenient as just sitting down in front of a camera.
USB fingerprint readers have been around for a good while now, so the technology is very stable. Ideally, they are aimed at the laptop market if you need that little extra security, but there is no reason you can't pop this tiny device into a convenient to reach USB port, maybe on the back of your keyboard or the top of the case.
You don't want to be clawing around the back of your machine to a motherboard port, though when you are trying to make things easier.
Due to the lesser technology fingerprint, readers are a much cheaper option when it comes to logging in with Windows Hello.
Multiple users are handled efficiently and it falls back to password entry if it can't recognize your fingerprint - if say, for example, you have filthy hands or have left your gloves on.
It's a small and very loseable, so you will want to keep it permanently attached if at all possible.
Intel RealSense Depth Camera D435
- Good multi-purpose scanning camera
- Very well built
- Pointless tripod
Mid-range in our look at Windows Hello capable cameras is this model from Intel. It's certainly a great camera for what we require it for, but it is also used by many to produce 3D scans with products such as RecFusion, which you can then go ahead and print out on a 3D printer.
Again, it isn't going to cut the mustard as a standard webcam, offering just 720p, but as a device for logging into your PC and maybe entering the world of 3D scans, it's nigh on perfect.
It has a modern, capsule-esque design, excellent support, and a great set of drivers. It also comes with a strange little tripod that you probably won't need unless you are actually scanning things other than your face.
It isn't exactly cheap, but it comes from a sold, reliable brand, and that will count for extra.
Tobii Eye Tracker 4C
- Cool as..
- Great for gaming geeks
- Not cheap
- Can't double as a webcam
- Not great for non-gaming geeks!
Ah, what's this? Finally, a device that we can go a bit gadget-crazy about while fulfilling our Windows Hello brief.
The Eye Tracker from Tobii is exactly what it says - it tracks your eyes! Why might you think? Well, you may have watched twitch streamers or even eSports events where the footage actually shows where the pro players are looking on the screen at any time. Clever gamers use this to teach themselves better techniques, and it's always in intriguing insight into how the worlds best are able to be so much better than the rest of us.
The extra, as far as we are concerned here at least, is the compatibility with Windows Hello.
Connect the Eye Tracker, sit down in front of your machine and you are in.
It isn't a webcam as such, so you aren't stuck with low resolutions on that side of things, and if you are a keen gamer, this is the device we would recommend is it offers something totally different to anything else on the market. There's even a twitch extension available, so you don't have to worry about getting all that side of things up and running.
This is by far the coolest device in our round-up, and it's also not the most expensive. Check it out on YouTube if you want a better idea of what it is capable of.
Do you need any of the items here? Technically not. Will they make your PC more user-friendly and more secure. Absolutely. You may decide if you want to go down this route that a fingerprint scanner will suffice. They are the cheapest option and still ultimately fulfill the brief of logging into Windows 10 with the minimum of fuss. For us though, it is pretty cool to be able just to sit down and be logged in without having to lift a finger. It costs more yes, but the technology is excellent.
Our choice here is also not going to be a webcam. We are going for the Tobii Eye-Tracker because we are all gamers at heart, and it offers something a little different. The cameras all offer medium resolution webcams as well. Still, ultimately, that doesn’t work for us and we don’t want two cams on our monitors, having to go for something like the Logitech C922 to fulfill our video calling needs.
Things to consider
What version of Windows do you have?
It needs to be Windows 10. Make sure you have Microsoft’s latest operating system and that it is kept up to date with drivers.
I wear glasses – will a camera still work?
In software setup Windows Hello will allow you to take images of yourself both with and without your glasses, so if you aren’t a full-time wearer you needn’t worry.