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You’re sitting in front of your computer, minding your own business, when you suddenly notice the webcam light is on. Something is looking at you — maybe even recording or broadcasting online. But what? You don’t have Skype running, and you close the browser just to make sure. The light won’t go off! What’s using that webcam?

Here’s how to tell.

First Things First: Use A Sticker

Let’s start with a low-tech solution. If your camera is on and you have no idea why, it is possible someone’s watching you right now. So first, just cover the camera with a reusable sticker or a piece of cardboard. It may not be pretty, but it works.

Camera Covered With Post-it Flag

You can get a pack of purpose-built stickers for covering your webcam on Amazon, which you can peel and reapply again and again. Don’t wait for those stickers, though – for now, just cover your webcam with anything you have to hand, and proceed.

Download & Run Process Explorer

To figure out what’s using your webcam, we will need a free Windows utility called Process Explorer. It was developed by Microsoft and is also part of their Sysinternals Suite, a collection of tools for IT Professionals.

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You can download Process Explorer and install it, or you can run the application straight from the server — this will grab just the EXE file directly from Microsoft’s Sysinternals site, and is the quickest way to start Process Explorer.

Find The Camera’s Object Name

Now we need to find what your camera is called internally by your computer. Start Device Manager (Windows 7: search in Start menu; Windows 8.1: search in Charms bar), and find the webcam in the list:


Double-click the webcam, and go to the Details tab.


Open the Property drop-down and click Physical device object name, then right-click and copy its value:


Find The Process Using The Camera &Kill It

Now go to the Process Explorer window (or run Process Explorer if it isn’t open), and hit Ctrl+F. Paste in the physical device object name, and hit Enter. You should get something like this:


In the screenshot above, it’s Skype, which means you can just exit Skype and there’s no reason to worry. But if it’s something nefarious, you’ll have to kill the process. Right-click the process in Process Explorer and click Kill Process.


You should see the camera LED blink out — there, now nobody’s watching you.

Uninstall The Offending App & Scan Your Computer

If this was an app you recognize and it really did start on its own, you might want to uninstall it. You can use the program removal feature built into Windows, or use the excellent Absolute Uninstaller Absolute Uninstaller: Don't Settle For The Default, A Better Solution For Software Removal [Windows] Absolute Uninstaller: Don't Settle For The Default, A Better Solution For Software Removal [Windows] When was the last time you wanted to uninstall something from your computer? Was it easy to do? Could you find the program to uninstall in the Windows default uninstall tool? Could you even find... Read More , previously-reviewed Advanced Uninstaller Pro Keep Your Windows Computer Clean & Tidy With Free Advanced Uninstaller PRO Keep Your Windows Computer Clean & Tidy With Free Advanced Uninstaller PRO Using a computer is not without its frustrations - things crash, load too slow, or behave in erratic ways. After all, a modern computer is a very complex beast. The final product we’re using represents... Read More , or one of these three great uninstallers 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them 3 Best Third-Party Uninstallers & Why You Need Them To uninstall a Windows program, you can’t just hit 'Delete’ -- you need to run the software’s uninstaller. Unfortunately, the 'Uninstall a program’ option in the Windows Control Panel does not always completely remove it... Read More .

Finally, it is always a good idea to scan your computer for viruses and have a solid virus protection product installed. You can see our current recommendations in the Best Windows Software page.

  1. crewjhn
    June 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Is there anyway i can find a log file for what were the applications used my Webcam in the past few hours or days?

  2. JJ
    May 6, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    what if it says 0 items found when I search in process manager?
    I tried to video call in skype and it says I cannot because another program is using I found this article and followed all steps to find what program is using the webcam -- and it says "0 items found"; yet my webcam light is still on...

  3. Max
    December 21, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Thanks! It's brilliant. It worked! But do you know why this method doesn't work for microphones?

  4. Mickji
    June 3, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    The removable sticker idea is good, but there is another problem with webcams...the mic. If someone can see you, they also can hear you and the same happens with your desktop. I have an antivirus and don't download any weird thing that I see around, the checking haven't showed any virus, and the scan shows sometimes numbers instead of a program name. To kill the process using the webcam every single time seems to not be sufficient in my case..

  5. robin waazenegger
    May 30, 2014 at 2:50 am

    got a penny dangled over my laptops camera

  6. wolf
    May 29, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I don't suppose you have a similar article for Macs?

  7. Daniel E
    May 26, 2014 at 4:13 am

    Looks like a mash-up candidate

  8. Morrison
    May 24, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Interesting article. Am a user of Sysinternals software, but didn't know you could search by device name. CORRECTION however - Sysinternals was not developed by Microsoft. See (for example)

    • Erez Z
      May 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Sorry, did not mean to imply that was the case -- i've been using Sysinternals software since before they were purchased by MS. Thanks for the link.

  9. Suleiman
    May 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    This is a serious top these days. Yesterday, a renowned news station in my city talked about webcam peeping problems and today you posted about it.
    My question is that will this peeping can happen to our cellphone cams too?

    Thanks for the posting, it was a great read with important infos.

    • Maarten D
      May 23, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Didn't think about that yet! Probably not possible with iPhones, but because Android is much more open, it is probably already happening!

    • Erez Z
      May 25, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Yes, smartphone cameras can be used to spy on you. My own phone's cameras (front and back) are both covered with removable, reusable tape. I remove it when I want to snap a photo.

      See for a technical writeup of how this can be accomplished on an Android phone.

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