Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

End users aren't your enemy! Kolide gets users to fix their own device compliance problems–and unsecure devices can't log in. Click here to learn how.

By Jason Snell

Touch ID on a Mac desktop, deconstructed

Keyboard underneath a desk
A keyboard lurks beneath my desk.

I’ve wanted Touch ID on my Mac for a long time. Here at Six Colors, we’ve wished for it since the earliest days of this site. But when it arrived, it was a strictly laptop-only affair.

Finally, in 2021, Apple gave desktop users what we had wanted, in the form of a new Magic Keyboard with Touch ID. Hooray!

Except… for the last few years, I’ve been using a clicky mechanical keyboard at my desk. (Currently it’s a Keychron Q1 built for me by my pal Myke Hurley.) I want to have it all! I want a mechanical keyboard and Touch ID! Money is no object!

…Which is good, because the Magic Keyboard with Touch ID costs $149 (a little less if you buy it used). But hey, I said money was no object. I wanted the sweet, sweet power of Touch ID on the tip of my finger.

Which, great, money exchanged for goods. A couple of days later, I had the keyboard. So now what? I don’t really want two keyboards on my desk. Taking another cue from Myke, I decided to attach some velcro tape on the keyboard and the bottom of my desk, positioning the keyboard so that the Touch ID sensor was at the very front of the underside of my desk.

It’s… fine? The biggest issue I’ve had with it is the accidental press of keys when I’m reaching for the Touch ID button. To solve that problem, I installed the free Karabiner-Elements, a powerful utility that lets you map keys on your Mac keyboards to almost anything.

Karabiner lets you map out keystrokes.
Karabiner lets you re-map—or in this case, map out—keystrokes.

I feel bad about using Karabiner to make a keyboard less productive, but that’s what I did: I re-mapped the keyboard’s keys to a useless function1, so that mistyped keys will have no effect.

Still, I don’t love the idea of having this enormous keyboard velcroed to the bottom of my desk just so I can have access to a Tiny Touch ID button. This brings me to a potential future project: separating the Touch ID button from the rest of the keyboard.

Myke Hurley’s deconstructed Touch ID button.

You might think this is an impossible feat, but it’s not! iOS developer Khaos Tian Z. actually got it to work. Separating the Touch ID button and motherboard from the rest of the keyboard isn’t too hard if you follow the instructions. Myke and I even did it live on YouTube a little while ago!

I’m about ready to do this. The one thing that’s lacking is a case to put it in when I’m done. Tian built one himself, and I might look into getting one 3-D printed based on his design. Until then, it’s just a big keyboard velcroed to the underside of my desk.

  1. Thanks to reader Allen F., who suggested the hilarious concept of “mouse button 32” as the target for all my errant keystrokes. 

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors