Biometric identification is an emerging technology that can solve security problems in our networked society. A reliable and robust personal verification approach using dorsal hand vein patterns is proposed in this paper. The characteristic of the approach needs less computational and memory requirements and has a higher recognition accuracy. In our work, the near-infrared charge-coupled device (CCD) camera is adopted as an input device for capturing dorsal hand vein images, it has the advantages of the low-cost and noncontact imaging. In the proposed approach, two finger-peaks are automatically selected as the datum points to define the region of interest (ROI) in the dorsal hand vein images. The modified two-directional two-dimensional principal component analysis, which performs an alternate two-dimensional PCA (2DPCA) in the column direction of images in the 2DPCA subspace, is proposed to exploit the correlation of vein features inside the ROI between images. The major advantage of the proposed method is that it requires fewer coefficients for efficient dorsal hand vein image representation and recognition. The experimental results on our large dorsal hand vein database show that the presented schema achieves promising performance (false reject rate: 0.97% and false acceptance rate: 0.05%) and is feasible for dorsal hand vein recognition.