Worried about being spied on via your PC’s camera or microphone? Instead of hiding them with accessories, disable them in the Windows settings. You can easily reactivate them if needed.
- Disable the webcam
- Disable the microphone
- Reactivate the webcam or the microphone
You’ve probably already heard of webcam blackmail. It is a well-known scam that regularly hits the headlines and panics users who receive a ransom note via May. Although this scam exploits fear, it is based on a very real practice: webcam hacking. In fact, by introducing malware into a computer, hackers can spy on individuals remotely through their camera or microphone, seeing and listening to them without their knowledge. While the risk is statistically low, it does exist. But fortunately, there are simple ways to protect yourself against it.
One of the simplest and most effective is to simply mask the webcam’s lens and microphone hole with a piece of tape. This is a very popular technique that may make you smile, but it has proven its worth and does not prevent you from using your camera and microphone if necessary.
With a desktop PC, it is just as easy to unplug the microphone and webcam when not in use. But this is not possible on a laptop, as both elements are integrated into the computer. The technique then consists in deactivating them. This is a quick and easy operation, which is obviously not permanent: you just have to reactivate them when you want to use them. Of course, security experts will say that this solution is not an absolute guarantee and that a hacker could bypass it and remotely reactivate the webcam and microphone. But unless you have a completely wormed PC and do not use any security software, the probability is almost zero.
Note that this technique works in all versions of Windows since you just need to go through the Device Manager. We detail it here for Windows 10.
How to disable the webcam of a PC?
- In Windows 10, right click on the Start menu and then click on Device Manager.
- In the Device Manager window, identify the line mentioning the name of your webcam. It is most often found in the Cameras folder. Double click on the folder to open it
- Then right-click on the name of the webcam.
- In the contextual menu, click on Deactivate camera. Be careful, do not click on Uninstall the device, because you will not be able to use the camera at all!
- A warning window appears. Click Yes to confirm the deactivation.
Your webcam is now deactivated, but not uninstalled. You can reactivate it whenever you need it.
How do I disable the microphone on a PC?
- Stay in the Device Manager. If you have closed it, repeat the first two steps in the previous step.
- Locate your microphone in the list. It is usually in the Audio Inputs and Outputs folder. Double-click on the folder, then right-click on Microphone.
- Click on Disable Device in the context menu. Again, do not click Uninstall!
- Click Yes in the warning window to confirm.
Again, your microphone is disabled but not uninstalled. You can use it again whenever you want
How to reactivate the webcam or microphone of a PC?
If you need to use your microphone or your camera, you just have to reactivate them. To do this, you need to follow the same procedure as described above, the only difference being that you need to click on the Activate device option in the contextual menu associated with the right click.