Microsoft has, over the last few versions of the client, made it much easier to log on to Windows. By introducing PINs, Picture Passwords, integrating logons with Microsoft Accounts they have given us a lot more freedom, while taking security quite seriously. I honestly think it is harder to hack into someone’s personal computer today than it was five years ago – at least, when users use the new options and do not store their passwords and PINs on sticky-notes.
When Microsoft introduced Windows Hello in Windows 10 I paid very little attention to it. Firstly, I am no longer with the company; secondly, I am no longer a Microsoft MVP, and so am not invited to share in the information ahead of time; and lastly, I was just too busy with other things… and frankly I think all of the years of living on the bleeding edge had gotten to me. I did install Windows 10 as an early adopter… but not as a very early adopter.
Even when I did move to Windows 10, back in the summer of 2015, Windows Hello was not a feature I was going to pay much attention to. My Surface Pro 3 was a spectacular device, and I was not planning on trading it in, or buying an external camera just so that I could be logged in by facial recognition.
What is it?
Okay, so let’s back up a little. Windows Hello is a new feature of Windows 10 that allows you to log on to your computer simply by being in front of it… but there is enough security that it has to be you sitting in front of it. It cannot be someone who looks a bit like you, and it cannot be someone who has a picture of you. In order to ensure this, the feature works only with Depth Cameras. According to Windows IT Pro Magazine:
A regular webcam will not work with Windows Hello. Windows 10 features Windows Hello, which provides new ways to authentication using biometrics including facial recognition. Since this is essentially 3-d detection, a camera with a specialized illuminated infrared camera is required.
These cameras are not available in most devices… in fact, according to PC Magazine, most of these cameras are simply too expensive to include in lower end laptops. (See article).
So when, several months after the release of Windows 10, I traded up to a new Surface Pro 4, I did not even remember that the feature was called Windows Hello (in the article I refer to it as “the new high-res camera logon”). It would be another month before I actually did get around to trying it.
So what do I think? I like it… It is easier than ever to log on. I sit down, my computer sees me, and it says “Welcome Mitch Garvis!”
Now here’s the issue… Yes, it is cool, and yes it is easier; but I have never in my life complained about having to type in a password. I have never complained about password complexity. I know that when I sit down at a computer I have to type in my password. Is that gone now that I have Windows Hello? NO! I use several computers, and most of them do not have Depth Cameras. I am going to have to type passwords on most of the computers I work with for the foreseeable future.
Still and all, it is a great feature. Would I have spent the money for it? No. However it is a ‘nice to have’ feature of Windows 10 with the Surface Pro 4.
If you do have a compatible camera, all you have to do is open the Accounts – Sign-In Options in your settings, and click on Configure Windows Hello. Nothing too technical about it. Good luck!