How to Use an External Webcam on a Windows 10 Laptop

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Updated September 12, 2022

Most laptops now have built-in webcams, but many users quickly discover that the quality leaves something to be desired. Because of this, consumers who research the best webcams find that an external webcam is their bet to enhance visuals. So, for those with a new webcam device, we’ll help get you started by showing you how to use an external webcam on a Windows 10 laptop.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • External webcams are often more reliable and offer better video resolution than built-in webcams.
  • To set up an external webcam, install necessary software applications and set the new device as the default laptop webcam.
  • The internal webcam must be disabled so it doesn’t reset as the default device when the computer restarts.

If you haven’t purchased yet and are just starting to research which webcam is right for you, you can begin by reading our article that explains what integrated webcams are.

Insider Tip

You can also use the webcam to snap photos, record videos, and scan documents.

Using an External Camera on Windows 10

Figuring out how to install a webcam on a laptop or any other computer can be daunting at the outset. However, the required know-how is basic when you get down to it. That’s why we’ve compiled a step-by-step guide on all you need to know for how to do this for your Windows computer. And if your current webcam has a USB cord you’d rather leave out, you can take additional steps to learn how to make the webcam wireless.

Lastly, if you have yet to purchase something, many devices can convert into a decent webcam. For more on this, we have some great resources, like our explainer on how to use a DSLR as a webcam device. And for the adventurous crowd, you can try your hand at figuring out how to use a GoPro as a webcam.

STEP 1 Connect Your Webcam

Plug your webcam’s USB cable into the computer.

STEP 2 Install Software Applications

Most modern webcams come with automatic download instructions upon plugging the device in, but others might require the user to insert a disc to begin the installation. Whichever way, follow the instructions and complete the software installation.

STEP 3 Check for Webcam Connection

Go to your start menu, and in the search bar, type in “Control Panel.” Once you enter the control panel, find the option for “Devices and Printers.” After entering this, check to see that the name of our new USB webcam appears.

STEP 4 Set New Default Webcam

Right-click on your new primary webcam. In the drop-down list, select “Set as Default.”

STEP 5 Open Device Manager

Press “Windows Key + R.” In the search bar, type “devmgmt.msc” In the new device manager window, find the option “Imaging Devices” and open the dropdown menu.

STEP 6 Disable Built-in Camera

Double-click the option for your laptop’s built-in webcam and press the tab at the top of the screen that says “Driver.” Find the option that says “Disable Device” and click on it.

Warning

Although they’re safer than built-in webcams, hackers can still find ways to access external devices.

STAT: By 2026, The video conference industry is projected to be worth more than $50 billion. (source)

How to Use an External Webcam on a Windows 10 Laptop FAQs

How can I test my webcam on a PC?

Go into your camera app and record a video. Play the video to confirm that the visual and audio quality is good.

What are the primary things to look for in a webcam?

To get the right quality webcam, consider what type of video you're shooting and how detailed it needs to be. From there, you can review the differences in resolution and any additional features.

Is an external webcam safer than an internal webcam?

External webcams are considered safer because they can be unplugged as soon as any security issues arise.
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