Webcams have always been important in our online communications.
Whether you use your computer to video conference with your colleagues, talk to your family online, or chat with your fellow gamers, a webcam is essential for these activities.
If you’ve purchased a new computer, you’ll likely want to know whether it has a built-in camera or not.
If your computer doesn’t have an internal camera, you may need to purchase an external webcam, which can be costly.
Fortunately, learning if your computer has a built-in camera is pretty simple.
Does My Computer Have A Camera? (How To Check)
If you have a desktop computer, there’s a high chance it doesn’t come with a built-in camera.
The components of a desktop computer, including the case, monitor, keyboard, and mouse, can be purchased separately.
Since a camera is a feature of the monitor and not the actual computer, desktop PCs don’t necessarily come with a camera.
The internal camera can’t be installed on the actual PC because it goes under a desk or somewhere out of the way in most situations.
Plus, the best position for a built-in camera is on the monitor, giving you a perfect viewing angle.
There’s an exception, though.
All-in-one computers have built-in cameras located on the top edge of the screen.
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M70a is a great example of an all-in-one computer with a built-in camera.
However, laptop computers almost always have internal cameras.
That’s because the monitor is attached to the main board, and the design allows for a built-in camera.
However, not every laptop has one.
Here are some ways you can check to see if your computer has a built-in camera.
1. Perform A Physical Inspection
The easiest way to ensure your PC has a built-in camera is to check it physically.
Since it’s a piece of hardware added to the monitor, it’s easy to detect.
Laptops with built-in cameras have the component on top of their screen.
They usually look like a small hole with a lens inside.
The lenses look like the front-facing or rear-facing cameras on your smartphone, depending on the resolution.
So they’re difficult to miss.
Some of them may have a cover that slides if you want some privacy.
For example, if you have a Lenovo ThinkPad, there’s a high chance that your camera is under this sliding cover called the ThinkShutter.
2. Check The Computer’s User Manual
Although physical inspection is the most straightforward way to know if your PC has a built-in camera, it may not be the most reliable.
The reason is that even if a laptop doesn’t come with a camera, it may have a pinhole on the top edge of its screen that looks just like a camera hole.
However, it’s a dummy hole that does nothing.
In addition, you may not have bought the PC yet and want to ensure it has a built-in camera.
In both cases, you need to check the PC’s specs.
If you haven’t bought the PC, you can look online at the specs to see if it has a built-in camera.
You can go to the manufacturer’s website or simply Google the PC’s model number and get its specs.
If you have bought the PC, you can also check its user manual.
3. Check The Camera Software
If your PC has a built-in camera, it must have the software required to run and use it.
In this case, you can check different parts of your PC to see if it has one.
The first option is the Device Manager, which lists all the hardware connected to your computer.
The Device Manager installs, updates, and manages hardware drivers.
These drivers help hardware communicate with the operating system.
Since the hardware doesn’t work without drivers, you should find the camera among the list of hardware in the Device Manager if your computer has one.
To enter the Device Manager, type “Device Manager” into the taskbar’s search box and select the first result.
Go through the list to find Cameras or Imaging devices.
Expand the list, and you should see your built-in camera if it exists.
Another place that shows your built-in camera is Control Panel.
Again, search for “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search box and click on the first result.
Once in Control Panel, go to Devices and Printers, and you should see the camera.
Finally, you can use the Windows Camera app to make sure it has a built-in camera.
All Windows devices with built-in cameras have this app preinstalled.
You can easily find it on the Start menu.
Click the Start button and go through the apps and features organized alphabetically.
If your device has a camera, you can find the camera app under the letter “C.”
How To Set Up Your Camera
If your laptop comes with a camera, you may need to set it up if the manufacturer hasn’t enabled it already.
This is particularly true if you’re sure the device comes with a camera but it doesn’t work.
To do so, go to the Device Manager and expand Camera.
Right-click on Built-in Camera and select Enable Device.
If you can’t find the option, it’s already enabled, but your device isn’t working for a different reason.
In that case, you’ll find Disable Device.
Select it and then choose Enable Device.
Now, you can test your webcam and see if it works.
There are two ways to do that: offline and online.
1. Online Camera Test
Different websites allow you to test your camera online.
You can Google and find many of these websites.
They’re easy to use and have a button that you can simply click to test your camera.
For example, WebcamTests.com allows you to test your laptop camera after detecting it.
The only thing to remember is that you need to allow the web browser to access your camera in Privacy Settings.
To do so, open Settings by right clicking the Start button and finding it on the list.
Click Privacy and select Camera on the left panel under App permissions.
Under Allow desktop apps to access your camera, select your browser, and turn it on.
2. Offline Tests
If you don’t want to check your camera online, you can use the built-in Windows and Mac apps.
As mentioned, Windows has a camera app that allows you to take pictures and videos.
You can use it to test your camera, too.
Remember to give it permission to access the camera in the Privacy settings through the above steps.
Alternatively, you can change the permission settings through the app if it asks you to.
For Mac devices, you can follow the Finder > Applications > Photo booth path.
After opening the Photo Booth folder, you can see your camera’s feed and information.
Security Concerns About Cameras And Webcams
One of the biggest concerns about using webcams is security.
In fact, any device with a built-in camera, including smartphones, can be vulnerable.
If you connect to the Internet, hackers can access your webcam and spy on you.
If your system gets infected with viruses, it can compromise your security by giving access to criminals.
They can watch your activities through the lens of your webcam, listen to your conversations, and take pictures of you.
They can access your computers through security holes in software or through remote access Trojans (RATs).
RATs are malware that enables the hacker to control your device remotely.
They can infect your computers through malicious links in email attachments, text messages, or social media posts.
When RATs infect your device, you may see that your device’s security features have been changed or turned off, detect unusual apps you don’t remember installing, or even find some files you haven’t seen before.
One of the most common signs that hackers have taken control of your webcam is that the camera light on your laptop or webcam is on while you aren’t using it.
To prevent these issues, remember the following:
- Install a robust and reliable anti-malware tool to keep your system protected.
- Keep everything updated, including webcam apps and drivers and your operating system.
- Practice cyber hygiene: avoid clicking on unsolicited links, use strong and unique passwords, and download software, music, or movies from trustworthy sources.
- Disable your microphone because hackers can also access your device and record your voice.
- Block access to your webcam by third-party apps and browsers. When you need to use your camera, grant access to the app and change the settings after you’re finished.
- Cover your camera.
This step is essential in ensuring your privacy isn’t compromised.
Even if hackers can access your webcam, you can prevent them from recording or taking pictures by physically obstructing their view.
You can cover the camera lens using electrical tape or get covers that stick to the bezel, and you can slide them open when you need to use the camera.
Built-In vs. External Webcams
Most desktop PCs don’t come with a built-in camera.
If you need a webcam for videoconferencing or gaming, you need to get an external webcam and connect it via the USB port.
However, what about your laptop with a built-in camera?
Can you use an external webcam instead of the built-in one?
Are there any differences between the two?
While you can get the job done with an internal camera, you may decide to go for an external webcam if you need to deliver high-quality pictures.
Here are the main differences between the two.
1. Image Quality
Built-in cameras generally have a lower picture quality than external webcams.
The main reason for this also applies to built-in devices on other items like cellphones: smaller components must be used so they fit into a compact space.
The smaller components in built-in cameras lower the picture quality compared to their external counterparts.
External webcams have more room to accommodate high-quality lenses with multiple pieces that allow for higher resolution, color balance, and light adjustment.
If you use your laptop in an environment with too much or too little light, you may not get good picture quality.
But external webcams allow you to adjust the light settings to accommodate different light conditions.
In addition, external webcams have autofocus features that allow you to use them at different distances, while distance can change the quality of pictures in internal cameras.
Even the microphones that come with the cameras have fluctuating levels of quality.
Both types of cameras have accompanying microphones to blend images and audio, but external webcams can give you a crisper sound because they have more freedom in their design.
Built-in cameras don’t come at an additional cost since they’re included in the laptop’s overall price.
However, if you want high-quality images and enjoy other benefits of external webcams, you’ll need to pay extra.
You can find a decent webcam for under $100, but more affordable options are also available with better specs than internal cameras.
3. Installation And Setup
You don’t need to set up an internal camera because it’s already installed and ready to use.
The manufacturer has already installed the drivers, and you don’t need to adjust its settings and physical features like height and direction.
It’s placed in the most suitable spot—the center of the bezel—exactly where your face should be.
However, external webcams have different setup steps depending on the model and features.
You may need to install software and drivers manually and adjust the camera’s direction and settings to suit your needs.
That said, these complex installation steps are necessary to give you the extra features and quality.
Webcams have more flexible installations; you can put them on a different part of the monitor or use them as standalone cameras on tripods.
That’s different from built-in cameras, which don’t allow you to adjust angles and require you to move the entire device if you need to show a different view.
Both internal and external cameras can be cause for security concerns, acting as gates that let hackers into your device.
Both require security measures to be taken to ensure your computer is protected.
However, external webcams can be more flexible because you can easily disconnect them from your computer without having to cover their lenses.
The only way to ensure the internal camera is off is to turn off your computer or disable the camera in Device Manager.
If you put your laptop in sleep mode, hackers can still wake the system and use the webcam.
External webcams are portable, giving you various possibilities for using different devices.
You aren’t limited to one device—unlike with internal cameras—and you can take it everywhere.
Since it connects to the PC with a USB port, you can increase your field of view by connecting it to a USB hub.
This portability is even better with wireless webcams that connect to the PC through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
It’s perfect for situations where you need to show many people or an entire room during filming or video conferencing.
This way, you don’t have to sit near your computer and can move the webcam as far as the cables allow.
Can I Use My Digital Camera As A Webcam?
If you have a digital camera and need a webcam, you may wonder if you can avoid the extra cost by using your digital camera as a webcam.
After all, digital cameras can give you high-quality and high-resolution pictures, and allow you to adjust settings to fit your purposes.
The answer is yes and no, depending on the device.
Some digital cameras have buttons that allow them to shift between a regular camera and a webcam.
Generally speaking, digital cameras and webcams have different designs because of their functions.
For example, a webcam doesn’t need memory because it doesn’t need to save pictures.
Instead, it sends them online or allows you to save pictures on your PC.
As a result, camera manufacturers don’t include features required to function as webcams.
However, since the demand for webcams has increased, manufacturers are trying to address this limitation by offering software to introduce webcam utilities.
That said, not every camera manufacturer offers these software packages, and not every camera can be used as a webcam.
For example, only modern SLR and mirrorless cameras can be used as webcams.
You can search for your camera model online and see if a webcam utility is available.
These software packages are available for Mac, Linux, and Windows platforms, and some of them are cross-platform.
That said, using digital cameras as webcams can be counterproductive.
You can connect the digital camera to your PC using a USB port, but they generally draw lots of power.
So, you can only keep them connected for a short time.
If you use them for long periods, they could overheat and get damaged.
And since webcams are less expensive than digital cameras, it’s not worth the risk.