How Does Skype Work on a Desktop Computer?

Written by ben lingenfelter
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How Does Skype Work on a Desktop Computer?
With Skype, the phone may be a thing of the past. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Using Skype on a desktop computer is essentially the same process as using it on a laptop, except that many desktop computers do not have built-in webcams and microphones. Once you add these accessories, then Skype will work the same on a desktop as it does on a laptop that has these devices built in. You can go even farther if you want and add a Skype phone, which can eventually replace your land line service.

Using Skype on a Desktop Computer

Start up Skype on your desktop and look at your "Contacts" list to see if any of your contacts are online. To make a call, all you have to do is click on a name and click the green "Call" button (It looks like a phone). When the call window pops up, start your video by clicking the video icon under the picture and select "Start my Video" from the drop-down menu.

Microphones and Headsets

Right-click the Skype icon in the taskbar and select "Options." In the options panel, you will find a section called "Sound Devices" which will allow you to test your computer's audio capabilities -- both what you hear, and what sound actually gets through. Click "Make a Test Call" to find out if your microphone actually works or not. You have many choices in external microphones if there is not an internal mic on your desktop computer. Some of the leading brands are Sony, Logitech and Audio-Technica. Some microphones come built into headsets, so you can put on earphones with a swivel arm that contains a microphone. Some mics even come built into a webcam, so if your desktop requires both a webcam and an external microphone, you may want to purchase them as one item.


Webcams are essential if you want to make full use of Skype. Talking to someone face to face with thousands of miles between you is possible now and is one of Skype's leading features. You can plug a webcam into your desktop computer via a USB port, just as you do printers and microphones. When you plug a webcam into your computer, you should restart Skype to see if it picks it up automatically. If not, go back to the Skype icon in the taskbar and select "Options" again. In the Options panel, you will find another section called "Video Devices." Check the box that says "Start my video automatically when I am in a call." This will give you the optimal experience when you're using Skype.

Adding a Skype Phone

A Skype Phone is a VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) handset that looks and feels just like a phone, but is really just an extension of what you can already do with a headset. The difference is that to make full use of a Skype phone, you need to purchase a subscription with Skype so that you can call land line phones and cellphones, and even receive phone calls through your computer. Skype offers subscription plans for making calls and for receiving calls. Receiving calls is more expensive, since you have to purchase a phone number to associate with your Skype account.

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