How To Find What Program Is Using Your Webcam

Ads by Google

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.

webcam0-procexp

Ads by Google

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:

webcam1-devman

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

webcam2-devdesc

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

webcam3-copy

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:

webcam4-find

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.

webcam5-kill

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, previously-reviewed Advanced Uninstaller Pro, or one of these three great uninstallers.

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.

Join live MakeUseOf Groups on Grouvi App Join live Groups on Grouvi
Windows Troubleshooting
Windows Troubleshooting
26 Members
Windows_10
Windows_10
32 Members
Windows Hacks & Customization
Windows Hacks & Customization
46 Members
Best Windows Software
Best Windows Software
28 Members
Ads by Google
Comments (9)
  • Mickji

    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..

  • robin waazenegger

    got a penny dangled over my laptops camera

  • wolf

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

  • Daniel E

    Looks like a mash-up candidate

  • Morrison

    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) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sysinternals#Winternals_Software_LP

    • Erez Z

      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.

Load 10 more
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.