Microsoft needs to fix this problem with Windows Hello

Dell UltraSharp webcam
(Image credit: Future)

Today I sat down at my desk to fix what I thought would be a simple problem. I have two webcams at my desk, one built in to my laptop and another connected to a docking station. When I initially set up Windows Hello, I was in America and away from my normal desk, so I set up biometric unlock with my laptop's built-in webcam. I was surprised to discover that switching this setting to my external webcam took a bit of work.

At my desk sit three screens, my HP ZBook Studio G8, a main monitor, and an external monitor (Vissles-M) nestled below the main display. My laptop sits off to the side, powering the entire setup. Occasionally I'll have the laptop closed or use it as a third display for content I need to glance at.

While the HP ZBook Studio G8 has a stunning screen, I prefer to have it off to the side to leave room for my keyboard and mouse. Placing it next to my other devices also makes it easier to pick up the laptop when I need to take it out of my office.

Because of how my desk is set up, the IR camera in my laptop doesn't see me when I sit down at my desk. I figured I could just remove that camera in Windows Settings and set up my external camera with a couple of clicks. But no. I had to dive into the Device Manager and figure out a way to force Windows 11 to use the camera I wanted.

Removing my laptop's built-in webcam for Windows Hello was simple enough. Within the Settings app you can click a single button to do this. But when I tried to use my external webcam for Windows Hello my PC didn't give me the option to do so. 

I thought for a moment that I was mistaken and that my Dell UltraSharp webcam didn't support Windows Hello, but after checking the spec sheet I determined that wasn't the issue. Windows didn't show an option to toggle to a different camera within the Settings app.

After a quick web search, I learned that I would have to open Device Manager, disable the HP webcam and the HP IR camera, and then set up Windows Hello with my external webcam. After doing this, I re-enabled the HP camera and Windows Hello still uses my external webcam.

While I admit my specific desk setup falls into a niche category, I imagine I'm not the only person to want to use an external webcam to unlock my PC instead of a laptop's built-in camera. Doing this should require opening the Device Manager, disabling two cameras, setting up an external webcam with Windows Hello, and re-enabling the cameras.

Microsoft needs to add a simple way to select the webcam you'd like when setting up Windows Hello. For transparency, I'll note that I have only tried this setup with one laptop. There's a chance that the process works more smoothly with other PCs. That being said, Windows 11 should still handle it better.

Sean Endicott
News Writer and apps editor

Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com (opens in new tab).