For some categories, Vista x64 support is still scarce

A reader asks if Microsoft ever plans to support its own desktop fingerprint reader on Vista x64. This is yet another example of the little incompatibilities and annoyances that exist in the 64-bit Vista ecosystem. And when I went looking for Vista-certified biometric devices, I didn't find much.

From the Ask Ed mailbag:


Do you know whether Microsoft ever intends to release a 64-bit driver for their fingerprint reader?

I have the Fingerprint Reader/Wireless IntelliMouse combination where the Fingerprint Reader is part of the IntelliMouse Receiver. It is a real waste if there will be no 64-bit driver because otherwise I've had no real issues with Vista Ultimate x64.


Good question. Fingerprint readers are becoming fairly common in business-class notebooks. I have one on my Asus Tablet PC, which runs the 32-bit version of Windows Vista Business Edition, and I've grown to enjoy the convenience of using a swipe of the finger to log on and connect to e-mail servers and websites. I'd love to have the same functionality on my desktop, where I'm running Vista Ultimate x64. But this is yet another example of the little incompatibilities and annoyances that exist in the 64-bit Vista ecosystem. When I looked through the Windows Vista Hardware Compatibility List just now in search of a biometric device with the Certified for Windows Vista label, I couldn't find a single one - for x86 or x64 editions. There's nothing on the lesser Works with Windows Vista list, either.

Not until you get to the very bottom level of the Hardware Compatibility List do you finally see a handful of products, all designed for Windows XP, that are brusquely described as compatible with Vista x86 and x64. In fact, the detail page for Microsoft's Wireless IntelliMouse Explorer with Fingerprint Reader says that both x86 and x64 drivers are "available as part of Windows Vista."

Well, yes. That's technically true. But biometric control software originally written for Windows XP won't work on Vista. And the DigitalPersona software for capturing and storing fingerprints and managing their association with logon credentials is available only for Vista x86, as this download page helpfully explains.

The x86 software isn't all sunshine and lollipops, either, judging by discussions like the one in this thread on Microsoft's TechNet forum.

My gut feeling is that if Microsoft had planned to write an x64 driver and software package for this device it would have been done already. DigitalPersona's 32-bit Password Manager 2.0 was shipped, with a bit of fanfare, at CES 2007, almost exactly one year ago. I suspect someone looked at what it would cost to port the software to a 64-bit Vista version and decided they would never sell enough fingerprint readers to earn back the investment.

From a usability point of view, fingerprint readers are an excellent idea for notebooks. Integrated into the notebook design, they cost a fraction of what you would have to pay for a functionally equivalent external device that has to be sold and supported in the retail channel. Maybe someone someday will create a reliable, consumer-friendly biometric device that will be cheap enough for everyday use with a desktop PC. Maybe it'll turn up somewhere at CES 2008 in a few weeks.