Windows Hello is an unlocking feature on Windows 10 that uses facial recognition to secure your device. It’s been around almost since the day Windows 10 was released to the stable channel. Unfortunately, because it relies on face recognition technology, it only works with a few select laptops and webcams. This is understandable but it severely limits who can and cannot use the feature. How many people are willing to splurge on an expensive webcam just to unlock their PC? It’s also been reported that Windows Hello can, and has been fooled which means it’s not secure like Face ID on iPhone X. To remove the device limitation somewhat, Windows introduced Windows Hello companion devices. A Windows Hello companion device is a biometric or IoT (internet of things) device that you can connect to your Microsoft Account and use it to sign into Windows 10.

Windows Hello Companion Device

There are close to a 100 official Windows Hello companion devices. Microsoft has a modest list of manufacturers that are developing compatible devices but there are unofficial ones that work as a companion device. A Windows Hello companion device can be a fingerprint reader, an activity tracker, a smart card, or a USB key. There’s no limitation on what kind of device can be used as a companion device.

These companion devices aren’t limited to the manufacturers that Microsoft has listed. The company has released an open framework that allows any device manufacturer to develop their device as a companion device. There’s no need to use special or proprietary hardware with the device. The device needs only to support the framework which is mostly, if not completely, related to software.

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive list of unofficially supported companion devices for Windows Hello. If you’re about to buy a device such as an activity tracker, or smart card, you’re going to have to search online to see if there’s a way to use it as a companion device. Your device may not officially support Windows Hello which means the manufacturer will not advertise it as such on the product page. Third-party developers however may have come up with a way to use the device with Windows Hello.

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Adding A Windows Hello Companion Device

A companion device needs a UWP app to connect it to Windows Hello. It also needs to connect with your system either through Bluetooth, or a USB port. We covered one such device and app a while back; the Mi Band 2 which officially isn’t a Windows Hello device however, you can use it to unlock Windows 10. The app used to connect the device is an unofficial one that Xiaomi has nothing to do with but it works perfectly.

If you’ve just bought a device that you think should, in theory, be able to unlock Windows 10 via Windows Hello, then search for an app that can connect it. If you read the framework documentation, most authentication requirements needed to connect a device and services that need to run for it to work can all be taken care of by an app.