How to set up a webcam

  • We show you how to set up and use a webcam
  • Chat with friends and family around the world, face-to-face
  • Follow the Which? step-by-step guide to using Windows Live Messenger
  • Everything you need to know about using a webcam, from setting up to making a call

Which? Archive

This article, How to set up a webcam, was last updated on 29 May 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Technology articles.

Use your webcam to make free video calls

To talk face-to-face with distant friends via your PC, webcam, and the right software. 

Check out our webcams review to find Which? Best Buys that are right for you. We've used previous Best Buy Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 webcam as our example in this guide.

There's a wide choice of free video chat software available, including Skype and AOL Instant Messenger software. 

If you know your friends and family who use video chat already, check which software they use because to join in, you need to use the same software as them. 

All instant messaging programs allow you to exchange text, sound and video messages with other users – there’s no real benefit to using one over another. You can even install a number of different programs to ensure you can chat with all your friends.

We'll show you how to use Windows Live Messenger because it’s most widely used.

1Set up your webcam

step 1

First run the set-up CD included with the webcam. This will install the drivers that the webcam needs to work with your computer.

2Connect the webcam

Step two: connect your device

When prompted, plug the webcam into your USB port. Windows XP should recognise it and the Logitech software will set up the webcam's built-in microphone and the camera.

3Set up Live Messenger

Sign in to Windows Live Messenger

Download the Windows Live Messenger program. Click 'Get it free' and follow the steps. Click 'Run' to start Windows Live Installer. It will take a few minutes. 

Once it's installed, a Windows Live Messenger window (shown) will pop up on your desktop. This is the window you'll see each time you log in.

4Set up an account

Setting up a Windows Live account

Next you need to set up your Windows Live account. In the Windows Live Messenger window, click 'Sign up for a Windows Live ID'. This will open a web page. 

Choose your username and password. You may find you have to try more than one username if someone else has already taken your first choice. 

When you're done, enter your username and password into the Windows Messenger window to log in.

5Configure Messenger

Step 5

If you don't want Windows Live Messenger to run every time you start Windows, go to the Windows Live Messenger menu bar and click the icon (circled).

In the drop-down menu, select Tools > Options. In the drop-down box, select 'General', and untick ‘Automatically run Windows Live Messenger when I log on to Windows’. If you don't want a news pop up window each time you use Messenger, untick ‘Show Windows Live Today after I sign in to Messenger’.

6Set up your webcam with Messenger

Set up your webcam with Messenger

Now make sure the sound output (PC speakers or headphones), sound input (microphone in the webcam) and the video input (the webcam) are communicating properly. 

Click the same icon that is shown in step 5. Choose Tools > Audio and video setup. Follow the instructions and, when prompted, choose the entries that correspond to your webcam. 

You'll be prompted to speak to make sure the microphone is picking up your voice. In the next step you'll see the image that your webcam is seeing. This should be you! 

Adjust the position of the webcam until you're centred.

7Find your friends

Step 7

To find someone else using the same program, click the icon in the Messenger menu bar. 

Enter their instant messaging address > Add contact. A request will be sent to them. 

When they accept, they'll appear in your list. If they're online at the time, it may take only seconds.

8Make a call

Starting a video call

Agree with your friend when you'll be online. 

In the Messenger window, right-click on the friend’s name > Video > Start a video call to let them know you want to chat. When they click 'Accept', you should see each other. 

You can also send written messages. Double-click on their name. 

In the new window, type your message. Every time you hit return your words will appear immediately on their screen. 

This works without a webcam.