A photo of Microsoft Authenticator on the Google Play Store.
Microsoft Authenticator is a security app for two-factor authentication. It competes directly with Google Authenticator, Authy, LastPass Authenticator, and several others. You may run into the app when updating your Microsoft account settings or enabling two-factor authentication there. Alternatively, you may just want to have a TFA available for your own security purposes. Regardless, let’s talk about Microsoft Authenticator and how it works. Hit the button at any time to download the app. You can also find the iOS version by clicking here. This entire guide works for both the iOS and Android versions of the app.

A photo of Microsoft Authenticator's No Password feature

What is Microsoft Authenticator?

Microsoft Authenticator is Microsoft’s two-factor authentication app. It originally launched in beta in June 2016. The app works like most others like it. You log into an account and the account asks for a code. This app generates those types of codes. It’s extremely useful for quick sign-ins, it works cross-platform, and it’s faster than email or text codes. 

You can also use the app for no-password sign-ins for your Microsoft account. The app also features multi-account support, and support for non-Microsoft websites and services. 

A photograph of Microsoft Authenticator generating codes

How does Microsoft Authenticator work?

The app works like most other authentication apps. It generates a string of numbers on a rotating basis of about 30 seconds. In other words, it generates a six digit code every 30 seconds. You simply log into your app or service like normal. The site eventually asks for the two-factor authentication code. Go into the Microsoft Authenticator app to receive those codes. 

It works a little differently on Microsoft accounts than non-Microsoft accounts. You can actually just use the codes in this app to log in without a password for your Microsoft account. However, on all other account types (Facebook, Google, etc), you have to login with your username and password before you can add in the code.

Microsoft supports any website that uses the TOTP (time-based one time password) standard. Thus, the app can continuously generate codes and you use them as needed. This is different from the HOTP standard where a code is generated specifically for you a single time. Sites that use this method, such as Twitter and most likely your banking app, cannot use Microsoft Authenticator.

A picture of Microsoft Authenticator's account addition dialog

How to use Microsoft Authenticator:

The app setup is rather easy. Let’s go over setup with your Microsoft account. Simply download the app and open it to begin the tutorial.

Setup for Microsoft accounts:

  1. Log in with your Microsoft account credentials in the Microsoft Authenticator app. This should be your first prompt upon opening the app for the first time. Simply select “Personal account” or “Work or school account” to log into your Microsoft account.
  2. After a successful login, you have to authenticate the sign in with a code. You can have it send via text, email, or another method. 
  3. That’s it! Once you input the code, the app is linked to your Microsoft account and you use it for no-password sign-ins. Next time you log in, simply enter your username and then input the code generated by the app.

Setup for non-Microsoft accounts:

This varies from website to website, but the general idea remains the same. It’s a fairly straightforward process. You can prepare the Microsoft Authenticator app for the task by tapping the three dot menu button in the Microsoft Authenticator app and selecting the “Add account” option. From there, select the “Other account” option and prepare to follow the below steps.

  1. Return to the website where it should ask you if you want two-factor authentication via text and email or with an application. Select the application option.
  2. You will either see a QR code on your screen or a six digit code. Use the Microsoft Authenticator app to scan the QR code.
  3. Alternatively, the site may give you a code to enter instead of a QR code. Not a problem! Go back into the app and tap the “Or Enter Code Manually” option on the bottom of the page. Give your account a name first so you know which one it is and enter the code beneath it. 

That’s it, really. The Microsoft account setup is something you should only have to do a single time. Meanwhile, you can add whatever online accounts you want by repeating the non-Microsoft account steps on all of your other accounts. 

From there, using the app is very easy. You simply log in with your email or username and password on non-Microsoft websites and enter the six digit code from the Microsoft Authenticator app when prompted. Microsoft websites simply need you to add your username and it’ll then ask you for a code from the app. That’s about all this app does and that’s all it’s designed to do!

If we missed anything about Microsoft Authenticator, let us know about it in the comments! You can also click here to check out more tutorials!