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What authentication and verification methods are available in Microsoft Entra ID?

Microsoft recommends passwordless authentication methods such as Windows Hello, Passkeys (FIDO2), and the Microsoft Authenticator app because they provide the most secure sign-in experience. Although a user can sign-in using other common methods such as a username and password, passwords should be replaced with more secure authentication methods.

Illustration of the strengths and preferred authentication methods in Microsoft Entra ID.

Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication adds additional security over only using a password when a user signs in. The user can be prompted for additional forms of authentication, such as to respond to a push notification, enter a code from a software or hardware token, or respond to a text message or phone call.

To simplify the user on-boarding experience and register for both MFA and self-service password reset (SSPR), we recommend you enable combined security information registration. For resiliency, we recommend that you require users to register multiple authentication methods. When one method isn't available for a user during sign-in or SSPR, they can choose to authenticate with another method. For more information, see Create a resilient access control management strategy in Microsoft Entra ID.

How each authentication method works

Some authentication methods can be used as the primary factor when you sign in to an application or device, such as using a FIDO2 security key or a password. Other authentication methods are only available as a secondary factor when you use Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication or SSPR.

The following table outlines when an authentication method can be used during a sign-in event:

Method Primary authentication Secondary authentication
Windows Hello for Business Yes MFA*
Microsoft Authenticator (Push) No MFA and SSPR
Microsoft Authenticator (Passwordless) Yes No*
Authenticator Lite No MFA
Passkey (FIDO2) Yes MFA
Certificate-based authentication Yes MFA
OATH hardware tokens (preview) No MFA and SSPR
OATH software tokens No MFA and SSPR
External authentication methods (preview) No MFA
Temporary Access Pass (TAP) Yes MFA
SMS Yes MFA and SSPR
Voice call No MFA and SSPR
Password Yes No

* Windows Hello for Business, by itself, does not serve as a step-up MFA credential. For example, an MFA Challenge from Sign-in Frequency or SAML Request containing forceAuthn=true. Windows Hello for Business can serve as a step-up MFA credential by being used in FIDO2 authentication. This requires users to be registered for FIDO2 authentication to work successfully.

* Passwordless sign-in can be used for secondary authentication only if certificate-based authentication (CBA) is used for primary authentication. For more information, see Microsoft Entra certificate-based authentication technical deep dive.

All of these authentication methods can be configured in the Microsoft Entra admin center, and increasingly using the Microsoft Graph REST API.

To learn more about how each authentication method works, see the following separate conceptual articles:

Note

In Microsoft Entra ID, a password is often one of the primary authentication methods. You can't disable the password authentication method. If you use a password as the primary authentication factor, increase the security of sign-in events using Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication.

The following additional verification methods can be used in certain scenarios:

  • App passwords - used for old applications that don't support modern authentication and can be configured for per-user Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication.
  • Security questions - only used for SSPR
  • Email address - only used for SSPR

Usable and non-usable methods

Administrators can view user authentication methods in the Microsoft Entra admin center. Usable methods are listed first, followed by non-usable methods.

Each authentication method can become non-usable for different reasons. For example, a Temporary Access Pass may expire, or FIDO2 security key may fail attestation. The portal will be updated to provide the reason for why the method is non-usable.

Authentication methods that are no longer available due to "Require re-register multifactor authentication" are also displayed here.

Screenshot of non-usable authentication methods.

Next steps

To get started, see the tutorial for self-service password reset (SSPR) and Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication.

To learn more about SSPR concepts, see How Microsoft Entra self-service password reset works.

To learn more about MFA concepts, see How Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication works.

Learn more about configuring authentication methods using the Microsoft Graph REST API.

To review what authentication methods are in use, see Microsoft Entra multifactor authentication authentication method analysis with PowerShell.