What is that square icon on the Windows 10 sign-in screen?

When logging in to your Windows 10 device, you might have noticed a square icon in the on-screen keypad or keyboard. What does it do and what is it for? The answer might surprise you. Or not.

The square icon turns on and off highlighting of the onscreen keypad or keyboard when typing in your password. For example, if your pin number is 1234, the buttons don't light up when you tap then numbers. The square icon is located to the left of the number zero on the keypad and to the left of the spacebar on the keyboard. You don't see this option, when a physical keyboard is attached.

Highlighting on the keypad or keyboard provides feedback to the user that a button was pressed. Combined with sound, it feels almost as good as pressing physical buttons. However, some users might feel that it might be safer to turn off highlighting when typing in the pin code or password. We think it's nice to have that option even if most of us will probably not use it.

Do you use that square icon on the Windows 10 sign-in screen? Let us know in the comments!

Mark Guim is Video Editor at Windows Central. He switched to Windows because the MacBook Pro isn't Pro enough. You can follow him on Twitter at @markguim.

106 Comments
  • This was there in windows 8.1, what is the big deal?
  • So, not everyone had 8.1. In fact, lots of people ugpraded from Windows 7 considering how hated 8.1 was from consumers. So for them, it is very new.
  • They wouldn't have upgraded from 7 to 10 as there were no mainstream tablets for Win7
  • Once again, you are not thinking beyond what I write. You suppose there are no people who bought a Windows 10 tablet then? Or a new Surface preloaed with Windows 10? Stop for a moment and think about it. Pointing out the upgrade issue is missing the point here.
  • ive noticed this button since it was probably first introduced and never had an idea what it was for but didn't care enough to research it. thank you none the less, and i completely agree with you about people not being able to see beyond their own situation. the world doesn't revolve around 1 particular "geek"
  • "ive noticed this button since it was probably first introduced and never had an idea what it was for but didn't care enough to research it."
    lol, same here tbh
  • Does this button show up only on devices with touch screen keyboards only? because I don't seem to have it on my non-touch laptop when I enable the on-screen keyboard on the sign-in screen.   -- edit: I missed the note in the article that this is only on touch-screen devices without physical keyboard.
  • Ace! Thanks, didn't realise it was there all along. In 8.1, that is!
  • There were many Enterprise-grade Tablets that ran Windows 7 Pro such as the HP Elitebook 2700 series, IBM Thinkpad x201t, Fujitsu Playbook, Lenovo Thinkpad Helix, etc. Just because there aren't any Win7 Tablets at a retail store doesn't mean that manufacturers don't make them.
  • There were many Enterprise-grade Tablets that ran Windows 7 Pro such as the HP Elitebook 2700 series, IBM Thinkpad x201t, Fujitsu Playbook, Lenovo Thinkpad Helix, etc. Just because there aren't any Win7 Tablets at a retail store doesn't mean that manufacturers don't make them. Oh and thanks Daniel :)
  • Enterprise grade is not mainstream.
  • He is just pointing out that it exists. There are people who used those tablets, therefore there are likely people who upgraded one to Windows 10. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Actually there were. The Samsung Series 7 comes immediately to mind, but there were other mainstream tablets with Windows 7 as well.
  • If you owned a tablet with Windows 7, you would never have missed an opportunity to upgrade to Windows 8 since 8 tablet capabilities were heavily marketed.
    No one with a 7 tablet would've jumped straight to 10.
  • Not necessarily. Maybe they didn't want to buy a license. Some of us believe it or not don't like to spend money on a new license every few years. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • I'm so freaking tired of reading people like Director4u2c on this site. It's becoming really annoying to read these people always complaining and whining about everything and most of the times OFF TOPIC. Is it so hard to understand there are many people who are NEW TO THE OPERATING SYSTEM and, therefore, do NOT know what square icon means or is for? Geez, I just came from reading the article about Microsoft's apology for the Skype issue and the first comment was from this OMG-I-am-a-huge-troll guy whining because Microsoft doesn't apologize for not having made a flagship. I'm really sick of it. It's not nice to read this site anymore and it is because of such comments, not because of the WC team. Please, try to do something about it. Cheers, Dan!
  • I totally agree with everything you just said!
  • Ditto
  • I was on 8.1, and I never knew what it did. Never looked further for the answer.
  • Windows 8 was hated. 8.1 was an improvement for those that cared enough to try it.
  • hey Dan! its 2021 and I'm only noticing this now...thanks for your article.....and the well-designed title -that's exactly what I typed in google as well - "what's the square icon on windows sign- in screen"
    shows how good you guys are at anticipating what your customers want....
    Keep it up!
  • I didn't know. Call it a tip of the day. Nothing wrong with that, is it?
  • Ongoing issue we have here. People cannot, evidently, think beyone their own experiences to imagine what a new user to Windows 10 would experience. I blame it on a general lack of empathy, which can be extropolated to larger world problems, but I digress ;)
  • Thanks Dan and Windows Central for these articles - i'm one of those that went to 10 from 7 (on my desktop) and never noticed this feature.
  • You only see it in the touch input panel while a password box (or programmatically equivalent input elements) is in focus. Since you are using a desktop you probably won't even use this feature as you can't and won't use touch input.
  • Unless, like me, he is using an all in one desktop with a touchscreen.
  • It's becoming the new "wen in India"
  • Just STOP!
  • Thanks, Daniel, for this article.  I first noticed it on my Surface Pro, and I had no freakin' idea what it did.  I've been wondering for two years but, every time I've been to the Microsoft store, I forgot to ask.  I appreciate you clearing it up.
  • I can empathize with you there
  • I'm using Windows 8 since it launched and even when I asked me what was that never find it out until today.
  • I think it's part of their drive to get more "normal" people into the site through organic search and things. There's a LOT of how-to articles here that are obvious to Power Users but not necessarily to general consumers who may not have used Windows since Windows 7 or earlier. I think a lot of the readers here are those of us very interesting in technology, not really the average consumer, but I guess WC want to pull in as many readers as possible
  • Indeed, it is how we grow. Plus, it is providing a service for new users, as you mention. Everytime I pick up the iPhone, I have a dozen questions on what regular users would call "the basics". Technology is not very easy when you are new to the OS.
  • So the wc honcho moves from wp to iPhone! Let's see what happens after a few days........
  • Newsflash: I have had a few iPhones. And Android phones. And multiple phone lines. I explained all of this last week. I have not "moved from wp to iPhone".
  • Yes agree with you on that. I have used many Android phones and finally on the Lumia 930 (Windows Phone) and I haven't moved on or ditched WP just because one day I decide to use a LG G4 and the next day use Lumia
  • It means you are more along the lines of a tech enthusiast. You use it just to try it. I'm the same way. I have four virtual machines running operating systems most people have never even heard of. It's just fun to try them out. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Wow didn't know that's what it was for, nice to know
  • i still have windows 8.1 and i didnt know about this... might be because i havent used touch keyboard
  • Yea I've also been primarly on keyboard with windows 8.1... but since the surface 3, I didn't buy the keyboard just to use it more as tablet.  Besides, my SP3 keyboard works fine on it or my BT ones
     
  • My wife had Windows 8.1 on her 2-in-1 ASUS and I upgraded her to Windows 10. It was the first time after the upgrade that I noticed that when I typed passwords the buttons didn't light up. I thought it was a feature (which is cool) in Window 10, but apparently it's a toggle, thanks to this article. Even though I am a power desktop user and a professional software developer, I didn't know about this feature when using the on-screen keyboard.
  • I have windows 8.1 and never knew what that icon was for, albeit never all that curious enough to find out either. Anyways, Thanks Mark!  One mystery down,... ;)
  • I didn't know xD
  • Dang!  Just accept it as a tip and be thankful.  If you have seen it before, just know that others may not have yet.  I have a SP3 and never noticed it.    
  • What a cock of a comment.
  • I always set my PCs to bypass the login, so it's news to me
  • The big deal is I have machines running Windows RT, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10, and had no idea what the button was for. Thanks Mark for the tip! Keep posting these kind of tips. Even veteran users can always gain new knowledge!
  • It was there since windows 8.1
  • As noted above, most people did not have 8.1.
  • Daniel, I've heard that this was there in 8.1.
  • I feel your pain Daniel :-). Most people doesnt read the article completely or go through the existing comments before typing their comments. 
  • I had 8.1 pro, and had never seen it. People need to stop being self centric; what may be blatant to them is not always the case with the next person.
  • i have windows 8.1 and i didnt know about this
  • Same here, I have 8.1 and I don't see such keypad when I sign in to my account. Where do I find it or how do I enable it?
  • interesting
  • Always wondered what that was for lol! Thanks for clearing it up.
  • Really? A whole article for just that? I get that these are "useful" little tips, but wouldn't it be best to aggregate 5 or 10 of them into just one article?
  • I'm sure some new w10 user will type the exact title of this article into Google or Bing or actually...yahoo.
    The issue seems to be the wc app design and layout of the site. It being just a list, at least the main page, there is no way for power users or assholes to just ignore things.
  • That's what SEO keywords are for.
  • SE algorithms change, plus a noneducated user would probably be more reassured they're in the right place when the title matches their search/thought/need.
  • Good point. We could actually put these into one of the ICYMI articles as you may literally miss some of these little features
  • What's your preferred cheese pairing to accompany fermented mango juice?
  • That's the opposite of how you make money on the internets. I'm sure it helps with daily quotas for new stories. Stop complaining about free content.
  • Stop complaining about my complaining.
  • More articles = More adds = More Money = Site keeps on functioning
  • I get the article, searches, growth, etc. ...but people disappoint me sometime. Like push it, see what it does. You can't break a computer in one button push. And if you did something and you don't like the result, push again.
    Oh wait... Some people learn by doing, by reading, by seeing... People are different. What?
  • True story. Just have a little faith and tap on the bloody screen to see what it does.
  • It's what I would do....but we are all different!
  • ^^^This^^^
  • I didn't know what it was to now, I tried figuring it out once, obviously not hard enough
  • Lol I thought you said "I tried fingering it once".
  • Thanks, even as a "power user" that was driving me crazy wondering what it was.
  • Hmm, not so much of a power user then
  • My pocket protector is bigger, so there.
  • Whether previously included in Windows 3.0 through 10, there is nothing wrong with refreshers for the seasoned or first timers.
  • Daniel, being an 'old' tester (25 years) - I for one appreciate ALL the Tips and Hints Available! The OS is getting so d@mned complex and doing so much more for us with very update.
  • I guess all the whining could easily be avoided by starting these articles with "for those new to windows 8.x or 10 ..."
  • Actually I am not even close to new to these and found this article helpful. Too lazy to research it in the past. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • It has one purpose: If your computer is connected to a projector, and you want to sign in without showing the world you PIN number, you turn it off.
  • Because knowledge is power! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Pattern mode or screen draw password mode
  • Something sort of a cliché..
  • I had no idea what it was for, thank you Windows Central.
  • Something sort of a cliché..
  • Not sure you know what cliché means...
  • I don't quite follow you...
  • ..
  • Quite funny that people complain that this article is a waste of their time and then waste even more time complaining in the comments.
    I like those Tips and Tricks articles. Many things I know already, but sometimes I come across a "ha, didn't know that" moment, just as with this article. Didn't even really notice this button until I read about it just now.
  • Thank you so much for clearing that up. Seriously.
  • What? I dont see it.
  • Great to know this tip.
    I see this button for many years and don't know the function
  • Actually, you to see this button when the Surface keyboard is connected. Thanks for clarifying what its for!
  • Nope don't use it. What bothers me about PIN sign in is if you use repeated digits, the on-screen PIN pad doesn't respond as fast as a keyboard.  
  • I like the feature to highlight or not. I would like to see a feature where the numbers are random in the keypad area, so prying eyes can't use the pattern to unlock. Just my two cents.
  • Need this box option on Windows Phone.
  • On a more important note... I just found $1.27 in the sofa cushions!!!
  • Lol, the comments here are more crispier than the article. Always fun to read when I have nothing else to do.
  • When I connect my tablet to a TV to show people something, I use that button when typing my password so people can't see what buttons I press on the TV.
  • This is on the full keyboard as well when typing into a password field.
  • I always wondered about that in my R/T, thanks Mark
  • How do you get it to show only the pin when signing in? Mine shows the whole keyboard
  • Yeah, it's been on the regular keyboard too.
  • I maybe should read through all the comments because I'm sure someone must have pointed this out but it's for when you're projecting your screen (as in a presentation) and you don't want the audience to see what you type.
  • If I had a touch screen, I'd use it but my laptop doesn't have one lol.
  • i didnt know that!
  • The fact that 7 years later someone was searching for this issue and came to this article - me - amazing!!! Thats why i love windows central- it really caters to needs of all kinds of windows users- from noobs to pros.