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Fix: Fingerprint sensor not working on Android

fingerprint featured

There’s hardly a more convenient way to unlock your phone than with the fingerprint sensor. Yes, face unlock might be easier but is it safe though? Don’t think so. One piece of hardware that improved a lot through the years, becoming more reliable or getting a better placement. However, it’s not all laughs and giggles for some users. There are many reports about the fingerprint sensor not working.

If there’s no physical damage, this unpleasant predicament is caused by a few things. Learn how to fix the problem by following the steps we listed below.

What should I do if my fingerprint sensor is not working?

1. Remove and add the fingerprint again

The first thing you can try is to restart your device and look for improvements. If that doesn’t help, you can remove all enrolled fingerprints and add them again. This is a good way to reset the sensor and improve fingerprint recognition.

Here’s how to remove and add fingerprints on your Android:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Security.
  3. Select Fingerprints and enter your PIN, password, or pattern.
  4. Expand each added fingerprint and delete it.
  5. Add a new fingerprint (or multiple fingerprints) and test the sensor.

2. Add multiple fingerprints for a single finger

This is a go-to move for improving the fingerprint sensor’s responsiveness and recognition. Enrolling a single finger multiple times is a great idea. Especially on devices that have a side-side mounted capacitive sensor where you will usually use the right-hand thumb to unlock your device.

You can do so by navigating to Settings > Security > Fingerprints. Also, while there, make sure that the “Fingerprint unlock” and “Fingerprint always on” options are enabled. These exist on Samsung devices, but most OEMs in the current state of their Android skins, offer an option to disable unlocking and use the fingerprint biometrics for some secondary tasks solely.

Keeping your device up to date is also important. Navigate to Settings > System > Software update and install all available updates. Some devices were released with bugs. Those bugs were fixed later on and fingerprint unlocking was substantially improved.

If your Fingerprint sensor is still not working at all or you have a hard time unlocking the device, check the next step.

3. Remove protective glass for under-the-display sensors

Having a screen protector (especially tempered glass) is always a good idea. The display is the most sensitive part of your device and, considering the lack of bezels these days, cracking an expensive AMOLED display is easier than ever.

Moreover, besides the fall damage, tempered glass also prevents scratches and keeps the device in a pristine state. However, alongside obvious positives, there are some potentially negative things when it comes to handsets with under-the-display fingerprint sensors.

These new AMOLED-only optical biometrics use a little camera that takes an image of your finger and compares it with the image of the enrolled one. If they match, your device unlocks.

The ultrasonic variation works similarly, but instead of the under-the-screen camera, it uses ultrasound. This is a more premium technology and is definitely more precise and secure, but it doesn’t do well with screen protectors.

So, if you have a screen protector on a handset with an ultrasonic sensor, make sure that it’s supported. Also, make sure that the screen is clean before applying it. This goes for the optical sensors as well, albeit to a lesser extent as this technology is more tolerable.

4. Clear the capacitive fingerprint sensor

Capacitive sensors are usually much more reliable than cutting-edge optical and ultrasonic sensors. The latter might be more convenient for some, but the classic capacitive sensor is not only faster but more reliable. However, over time, they get dirty. Everyday use, sweaty greasy hands, dirt, and debris — it adds up and the sensor starts manifesting issues.

So, take a slightly wet cloth and clean the sensor. You’ll be surprised by the result. If that doesn’t help and you are sure there wasn’t any physical damage to the sensor, we can change the approach.

5. Wipe the cache partition

The next thing you can try if the fingerprint sensor is not working is wiping the cache partition from the Recovery menu. This is a system-only cache partition that, like in-app cache, can pile up a lot of data and this might lead to issues.

The procedure differs slightly on different Android skins but the gist of it is the same. You want to boot into a Recovery menu (instead of the system) and, from there, wipe the cache partition. Just watch out not to factory reset your device by selecting the wrong option.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Power off your device.
  2. Press and hold the Power button + Volume Up until the welcome screen appears. Let go of the Power button and keep holding the Volume Up button.
  3. Once you get into Recovery mode, use the Volume buttons to get to the Wipe Cache Partition option. Press the Power button to confirm the selection.
  4. Reboot the phone back to the system.

6. Reset your device to factory settings

Finally, if nothing worked for you and your fingerprint sensor is still not working or it’s not reliably unlocking the device, give the factory reset a try.

We already explained everything there’s to know about the factory reset on Android and how to back up your data before performing it. Check out the article, follow the instructions, and, hopefully, the problem will be gone after you start from a clean slate.

On the other hand, if even this doesn’t help, take your device for repair. There’s almost definitely some kind of malfunction at hand. Hopefully, your smartphone is under warranty.

Thank you for reading and feel free to share your thoughts or alternative solutions we omitted in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing from you.

Picture of Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Aleksandar Ognjanovic

Managing editor at Mobile Internist. @lemmingspain My fascination with mobile technology, particularly Android and iOS, began years ago and continues today. I'm captivated by the constant evolution in the smartphone industry and its impact on our daily lives, always anticipating the next big innovation. That’s the main reason why I found myself writing instructive content on the subject for users who are not as familiar with all the bells and whistles.
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