How to Guide: Setup a Common Access Card Reader on your Home Computer

Many of the Department of Defense websites authenticate with the Common Access Card, or CAC, to be able to access them.  This is fine when you are working on your government computer at the office.  But what if there is something you need to complete at home?  Simply purchasing a card reader and plugging it into your computer will not make it work.  This guide will walk you through the steps needed to have your Common Access Card usable on your home computer.

Need a Card Reader?

If you are fortunate enough that your computer has a card reader then you are in luck, just skip ahead.  But for the rest of us, our computers do not have them readily available.  So naturally, the first step will be to get a card reader.  Don’t worry, they are not expensive.  Here are two of my recommendations if you need one.

HID OMNIKEY 3121 USB Card Reader – I have a card reader on my laptop at work and it constantly errors out while I am working.  After I switched to the Omnikey, I have not had any issues.

SCM Micro Systems SmartFold Smart Card Reader SCR3500 – If you go TDY a lot, or travel with your computer, this is the card reader for you.  What I like about this reader is that it can fold up to about the size of a USB drive and easily attached to your key ring.


Windows 10 Computers

Now that we have an actual card reader, let’s move forward to getting it to work.  The Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA, has a great program called InstallRoot that will make the process easy.  You can get InstallRoot from DISA here.  

When prompted to, SAVE the InstallRoot file from DISA to your computer.  Then RUN the file once it has completed the download.  The InstallRoot Setup Wizard will begin, click “Next” when it comes up.


You will then be taken to the next page which wants you to choose the file location.  Leave this page alone and just click “Next”.

You will then come to a page for InstallRoot features.  Make sure the two boxes are checked, and you guessed it, click “Next”.

The next page will begin the installation of InstalRoot.  DISA got tricky here, they removed the Next button.  Go ahead and click “Install” this time.

It will take a couple minutes to complete the installation.  Hopefully, you will be told the installation was successful.  If so click on “Run InstallRoot”.

InstallRoot will then open and provided a Quick Start guide if you need additional help.  Within InstallRoot, ensure you have the tab for “Microsoft Current User”.  Also, ensure you have a green check mark on “Install DoD Certificates”.  If not, click the red “X” to get the green check mark.

If you got this set up correctly, then go ahead and click on “Install Certificates”.  There will be a pop-up asking if you are sure you want to install them.  Of course we do, so click “Yes” to close that window.  Click “Ok” on the following window once the certificates are installed.


You now have your Common Access Card reader installed on your computer.  You can verify that it works by selecting CAC access on any DoD site that requires authentication.  Unfortunately, you have lost your excuse for not working at home, so get back to your Webmail and Distributed Leadership Courses.

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