How to Fix Touch ID on MacBook Air Not Working

The MacBook Air’s Touch ID makes logging into your machine quick and easy. It also simplifies other tasks where you would normally use a password. No need to type it in every time you log in, perform an admin task, or make a purchase. But what if your Touch ID is not working?

If it has never worked at all, it could be that you just don’t have it configured, but if it has suddenly stopped working, the most common reason is that it is dirty or your finger is dirty. Some other related issues can cause it to fail, and most are easy to fix.

My name is Eric, and as an engineer, I love technology but know that it can sometimes fail. I often troubleshoot problems like this, and there are usually simple solutions to many like this. I can show you some of the most common issues to check.

Keep reading below if you want to hear more about what may be causing your Touch ID to stop working and see some of the solutions you can use to fix it.

What Kind of Touch ID Problem are you Experiencing?

There are two main areas where you may need help with your Touch ID. One is setting up your Touch ID, and the other is using it after it has been set up. We’ll look at both situations below.

First, I will assume that you have already set it up and are having problems using it, so if you have not yet set up your Touch ID because you are having problems getting it set up, you can take a look at the last section for tips on setting up Touch ID.

Problems Using Touch ID

Several things can cause your Touch ID to stop working after you have set it up and been using it regularly. As you will see below, most of these issues are easy to fix. 

1. It’s Been More than 48 Hours

If you haven’t logged into your system in over 48 hours, your Mac will require you to enter your password. In this case, you won’t have the option to use the Touch ID; your computer won’t do anything if you try to use it. 

This is one of the most common reasons for your Touch ID not working. To fix it, you will need to enter your password, and after that, you will be able to go back to using it normally.

2. Touch ID Not Enabled

You may have set up your Touch ID, but it is not enabled. You may have either deactivated it and forgotten, or you or an application inadvertently turned it off. You can check to ensure it is enabled with the following steps.

Step 1: Open system settings.

Click on the Apple symbol in the upper left corner of your screen and select System Settings.

Step 2: In the System Settings Search Window Type Touch ID

Type Touch ID into the search window in System Settings and then click on the Touch ID & Password search result. This will bring up the Touch ID and Password screen.

Step 3: Check for a fingerprint configured and Touch ID enabled

Check to ensure there is at least one fingerprint configured and that Touch ID is enabled for the tasks or activities you are trying to use it for.

If Touch ID is not enabled for the action or task you are trying to do with it, click on the switch to enable it. If no fingerprints are shown configured, you will need to add one by clicking on the Add Fingerprint button and adding a new fingerprint to enable it.

3. Wrong Finger

It may sound ridiculous, but it is not as uncommon as you think. Are you using the correct Finger with your Touch ID? It’s happened to me before, so I have to ask. Ensure you use the same finger you used when setting up Touch ID. 

If not, it will not work. Most people use the index finger on their right hand because this is the easiest to use considering the location of the Touch ID sensor, but if you have configured a different finger, make sure you use the one you used when you set it up. 

4. Dirt, Cuts, or Scrapes on your Finger

This is a common problem that can happen with any fingerprint detection technology. The device can’t read your fingerprint clearly if your finger is not clean or has a cut or scrape on your finger, which will affect the reading from the sensor.

If your finger has dirt, food, or anything else, it can cover your fingerprint, but substances like oils from your skin, sweat, or small amounts of moisture will also affect the reading.

Try cleaning your finger and drying it very well. You may even want to wait a minute to ensure it is completely dry. Try your Touch ID again and see if that fixes the problem.

If you have a cut or scrape on your finger, this can definitely cause problems with the sensor reading your fingerprint. Of course, a bandage will prevent it from being read, but the injury itself or scab will also cause problems.

Remove any bandages if you have one, and if the cut or scrape still affects it, you may have to use your password until it heals.

5. Dirty Touch Sensor

The Touch ID sensor itself may be dirty, especially if your finger was dirty and you have been trying to use it. You have probably transferred that grease and grime onto the sensor itself, or it could be dust or just build up from the oils from your skin.

In any case, a dirty sensor is another common problem with an easy solution. Just get a soft, lint-free cloth and gently wipe it clean. If that doesn’t do the trick and you notice debris still sticking to it, gently use a cloth dampened with water to wipe away the debris.

6. Tapping or Touching the Sensor too Quickly

It could be that you are not properly placing and leaving your finger on the Touch ID sensor for long enough. Touch ID sensors can be fairly sensitive, but if you are just quickly tapping on the sensor, your finger may not be there long enough for it to read your print.

Place your finger gently on the sensor and leave it there until the computer recognizes it and starts the action you are trying to do, such as login to your MacBook Air. Make sure you hold your finger as steady as possible so it can get a clear reading of your finger.

7. Finger not Properly Covering the Sensor

Like the previous issue, this one has to do with the way you place your finger on the sensor. If your finger is way off center, the reading may not match, and it will fail. Make sure you put your finger squarely on the sensor so you expose the central part of your fingerprint to it.

8. The System Needs a Restart

If you haven’t restarted your system in a while, you might notice slowdowns, or your system may be glitchy. This could also be affecting your Touch ID. A good restart is often a simple solution to many issues.

Try shutting your system down and restarting it. When it starts back up, you might be required to use your password to log in initially, but after that, you can try Touch ID again and see if it works.

9. Make Sure you have the latest macOS Installed

If you are running an older macOS, it’s possible it does not fully support Touch ID, or it has a bug causing it to stop working for one reason or another. Ensure you have the latest macOS installed; if you do not, update your system with the latest.

10. Your Fingerprint Has Changed

Did you know that your fingerprint can change over time? It doesn’t happen to everyone, but it is possible. In fact, I have worked for companies where we got fingerprinted every couple of years to ensure that our records were accurate and current if our prints changed.

Your fingerprints can change due to age, injuries, scar tissue, heavy usage in extreme conditions, and more. Thankfully Touch ID updates slight changes in your print every time you use it. So this is not usually an issue for gradual changes.

If a sudden change from something such as cuts, abrasions, scars, dry skin, skin conditions, etc., it may cause an issue. If your fingerprint is not being read due to some type of change, you will need to go into the settings and add a new fingerprint so that your current print can be read accurately.

11. The fingerprint Sensor is Failing

You may have a defective or damaged fingerprint sensor. Although it is not that common, it does happen. This could be your situation if the tests and solutions above do not produce any results.

A bad fingerprint sensor will likely require contacting Apple Support or making a trip to the Genius Bar, as a technician usually will need to fix this. Hopefully, your system is still under warranty, or you have Apple Care since this could be a costly repair.

Problems Setting up Touch ID

If you still need to get your Touch ID configured and working because you are having a problem getting it to work during setup, there are some things you can try to alleviate your problems. 

Fingerprint configuration can often be difficult, especially if it is your first time trying this. Below are some tips to help you get your fingerprint configured and working with your MacBook Air’s Touch ID.

  • Make sure you read and follow the instructions closely.
  • Ensure your finger is clean and dry before starting the process.
  • Ensure your MacBook’s Touch ID sensor is clean.
  • Use the finger (or thumb) that you are most comfortable placing on the sensor. You shouldn’t have to struggle or squirm while placing it there. You want it to be an easy, repeatable motion.
  • When configuring your fingerprint, place it squarely on the sensor with light pressure but do not push too hard, or you may distort the reading.
  • Be patient, and make sure you read and follow the on-screen instructions.


Touch ID is a very convenient feature of your MacBook Air, but it can be frustrating and disappointing when it is not working. I hope the information above has helped you get your Touch ID working.

As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you.

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