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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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webcam0-procexp

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 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.

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