How to Use a Webcam on a Laptop

Written by m.l. browne
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A webcam is a digital video camera that creates output that can be viewed across the Internet. You can capture images into a file for later transfer and viewing (for example, video podcasting or webcasting), or you can stream the video in real time (for example, instant messaging and videoconferencing). Webcams connect to your laptop through a USB cable, and you can either attach them directly to the laptop lid when the laptop screen is open or set them on a flat surface to either side of the laptop so that the lens can be aimed at you. Newer laptop computers, subnotebooks, and netbooks often ship from the factory with a webcams built in. Even though different models of webcam exist, their usage is similar.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Laptop computer
  • Webcam
  • Webcam driver
  • Internet connection
  • Chat or videoconferencing program

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Instructions

    Built-in webcam

  1. 1

    Log into your account and position the laptop screen so that the lens is pointing in your direction. You can fine-tune the aim and focus once you start the webcam.

  2. 2

    Click the program icon to start the webcam utility. The monitor light will flash, and the webcam utility will open.

  3. 3

    Use the configuration settings menu to adjust focus, colour, brightness, saturation and image size, and move the laptop screen so that your face is completely within the shot area.

  4. 4

    Close the webcam utility, or if you are not planning to enter an instant messaging or videoconferencing session, you can record a video for later transfer and close the utility afterward.

  5. 5

    Start your chat or videoconferencing program if the program supports automatic connections. Note that you may need to configure each program separately to achieve the optimal webcam settings. When you exit the chat or videoconferencing session, the webcam will automatically shut down.

    USB-Connected webcam

  1. 1

    Log into your account, install the webcam program onto your laptop, and plug the webcam into an available USB port when prompted.

  2. 2

    Attach the webcam to the top of your laptop screen housing or position the webcam to either side of the laptop, with the lens facing you directly. You can fine-tune the aim and focus once you start the webcam.

  3. 3

    Click the program icon to start the webcam utility. The monitor light will flash, and the webcam utility will open.

  4. 4

    Use the configuration settings menu to adjust focus, colour, brightness, saturation and image size, and move the webcam lens so that your face is completely within the shot area; then close the webcam utility. If you are not planning to enter a instant messaging or videoconferencing session, you can record a video for later transfer and close the utility afterward.

  5. 5

    Start your instant messaging or videoconferencing program. If the program supports automatic connections. Note that you may need to configure each program separately to achieve the optimal webcam settings. When you exit the instant messaging or videoconferencing session, the webcam will automatically shut down.

Tips and warnings

  • Video files can grow very large, and it doesn't take a lot of files to use up all the space on a laptop hard drive, so it's a good idea to select medium-size, medium-resolution for your videos and periodically transfer your video files to other drives or media.
  • Before you buy a webcam, you should confirm that it will work with your favourite instant-messaging and videoconferencing programs. The program developers provide lists of compatible webcams on their sites and identify minimum requirements for hardware.
  • Avoid videotaping anything with a webcam that you would not want publicly broadcast. Webcam output is designed and optimised for Internet file transfer.

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