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How to disable your laptop's webcam and microphone on Windows 10

Most laptops today come with a built-in webcam — some with a standard camera used for Skype and other web-conferencing, some with IR cameras for Windows Hello facial recognition. And pretty much all laptops also come with a built-in microphone to be used in conjunction with the camera.

If you're someone who never uses their camera or microphone on their laptop, you might be wondering how to disable them. Why? Some malware can take control of the hardware and let it work even when you aren't using it. Even if you're just concerned with your ever-eroding privacy, these steps will show you how to disable the built-in webcam and microphone on your Windows 10 laptop.

Scan your computer for malware

If you think your computer might be infected with malware, scan it before doing anything else. Even if you have your webcam and microphone disabled, you don't know exactly what the virus is targeting.

Windows Defender comes standard on Windows 10 PCs, so that's a great place to start. If you want an alternative antivirus solution, you can keep things free, or you can check out one of the available paid options.

Check which apps are using your webcam

If you run into a scenario where you notice your webcam's LED is on but you're not using any apps, it's good to know how to check which apps are using your webcam. All you need to do is download Process Explorer, find your webcam's device name, and search for it. To get you through the process, we created a complete guide.

Complete guide to checking which apps are using your webcam

Disable your webcam and microphone through Device Manager

Disabling your webcam and microphone using the Device Manager is the quickest way to do things, but it isn't entirely secure — advanced malware that targets your devices can turn them back on without your consent. Nevertheless, it's not a bad idea to know how to disable your webcam and microphone through Device Manager.

How to disable your webcam

The process of disabling your webcam through Device Manager involves a small number of steps.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click Device Manager.

  1. Click the dropdown arrow next to Imaging devices.
  2. Right-click Integrated Camera — note that this could change depending on the hardware in your laptop.

  1. Click Disable.
  2. Click Yes.

If you'd like to enable your webcam, just run through the steps again, but this time click Enable instead of Disable.

How to disable your microphone

Disabling the microphone in your PC follows almost the same steps as disabling your camera.

  1. Right-click the Start button.
  2. Click Device Manager.

  1. Click the dropdown arrow next to Audio inputs and outputs.
  2. Right-click Internal Microphone — this label can change depending on the hardware you have in your PC.

  1. Click Disable.
  2. Click Yes.

To enable your microphone, just follow the same steps, but click Enable instead of Disable.

Disable your webcam and microphone through the BIOS

To take things one step further, some laptops allow you to disable the webcam and microphone on the system level from the BIOS. The steps to do so will differ between machines, but you generally want to disrupt the boot process by hitting a corresponding Function key, then search through the BIOS for your camera and microphone.

In this case, on a Lenovo ThinkPad, the integrated camera and microphone options are located in the I/O Port Access section of the Security tab. After disabling both options, you can save and exit the BIOS and your PC will cycle again through the boot process until Windows starts.

Remember, the BIOS in your PC might be quite a bit different, but the end result is the same. If you head into your Device Manager after disabling the camera and microphone in the BIOS, they will not show up.

To enable your devices again through the BIOS, repeat the same steps as you took to disable them, but change their property to Enabled.

Cover your webcam

When it comes to disabling cameras, some people will go so far as to open up their PC and disconnect the webcam's cable. While this is an extreme option for anyone who can get into their laptop or AiO PC — especially without voiding the warranty — a better physical solution is to just cover the webcam.

Many people use sticky notes or electrical tape as a cheap and immediately-available cover, but other people prefer something a bit more professional. In those cases, you'll want to check out a cheap little accessory that slips over your webcam and has a slide for when you actually do want to use it.

This webcam cover keeps you private without looking tacky

Privacy?

Keep in mind that only the only way to guarantee the camera or microphone is disabled is to do so physically, either by removing it entirely or just disconnecting the internal cables. Odds are you won't have to personally go that far — yet — but remember that for the future.

Have you ever been victim to malware that took control of your webcam or microphone? What were the circumstances, and what did you do to fix the problem?

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

34 Comments
  • disconnect after every skype video chat, game stream even microphone when not using Cortana just a habit of mine :)
  • But then you hurriedly run to update your status on Facebook, "Going for a jog in the park" or "Marty just checked in at Bijou with.." Please, privacy has not existed for anyone since the beginning of social media, broadband internet and mobile internet. You will all leave behind breadcrumbs for a professional tracker like the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc., with all and/or any action you do online. This article is only good enough to suggest that the CIA will not watch you jerking off in front of the PC.
  • ha well you still have choice to the extent you open your self to. p s thank you for laugh at wooo
  • LOL... disable in BIOS. Do you really think the CIA will let you shut off and disable any of this? Nothing more than empty toggle switches.
  • Yes it works, and it's the only effective way to stop a RAT gaining control over them. Check your favourite Linux distro if you don't trust Windows and list what devices are enabled for the OS.  The CIA (or any Alphabet agency) isn't a omnipotent god that can gain control over any device on the planet. Plus to get control over the BIOS would a extraordinary time and effort from mail interception or specific software to hardware bypass to get access to the BIOS (such as was demonstrated for the Evil Maid attack on Apple's Lightning port to UEFI). So I have a question; What are you doing that's so important to the CIA? I know it's popular to think there's a conspiracy to steal everything you do on your PC but realisticalliy you're not that interesting and if you are that interesting you've got bigger things to worry about it and there's easier ways to figure out to how tap your life such as Telco's and ISPs.
  • Speaking of which, what about the recent one from WikiLeaks about 'Fake-off' mechanism that turns even switched off smart devices, Active?
  • The best solution, just put some sticker on webcam & microphone. Malware can't remove that sticker haha xD
  • I think so too and use different stickers. Also I have USB Webcam which is lying on a desk so i feel safety =)
  • Keep in mind that only the only way to guarantee the camera or microphone is disabled is to do so physically agreed
  • Another way malware could record sound is by setting headphones to be able to act as microphones, so I'd also recommend removing headphones when not listening to anything.
  • Only safe thing is to open the device and physically remove camera and mics.
  • Then everything you type/do/view is recorded anyway. The only safe thing is to move to the wilderness, totally off-grid... but then there are satellites watching you. There is no real privacy, anywhere, anytime these days. I'm already over it frankly.
  • why would anybody spy on you in the wild? Who are you? :D
  • The only people with any privacy left are the Amish.
  • Even some Amish have cellphones that use reloadable minutes via cards.
  • Good timing. I just did this right before it was posted! You should add UEFI instructions, though
  • A lot of paranoid people here, lmao.
  • There's always gotta be one, the comment section seemed too realistic without you: https://www.dropbox.com/s/em38p2uizj1nllw/Paranoia%20(Sheeple).jpg?dl=0
  • People aren't running scared to the hills nor are they paranoid just because they're simply trying to make sure that the corrupt who are using the government to tax individuals is at least complying with the Constitution that its employees swear an oath to defend.  In any area that impacts privacy, obtaining a modicum of privacy in "your persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" has nothing to do with paranoia.  Obtaining a modicum of privacy is about preserving at least the minimum of rights that the government observes that the people have with or without the government.  Gang-vernment can only acknowledge those rights that it will or will not violate - it can't alienate nor can it bestow rights it never had to give in the first place.  The battle over encryption yielded this important (to me) example of sanity:  
    "We don't do encryption to hide things; we do encryption so that we can choose what to share. That's a profound choice we should all be able to make all the time." - Mark Shuttleworth
  • What's the point? A phone is always right here on the desk if not mine then someone else's. We are already too deep into it. :/
  • "You might get malware, so disable hardware on your laptop just in case". Ok.
  • Physically disconnecting the cables or removing the mic and camera are the only true guarantees that your privacy will not be violated through those means unless you can verify (you can't) that no one is able to reactivate the "disabled" mic or camera without your knowledge despite using the soft disable steps from the article.
  • And now Cortana is sad.
  • Last week the camera indicator on my SP4 was flashing while I had Instagram app open, immediately uninstalled..
  • Last week the camera indicator on my SP4 was flashing while I had Instagram app open, immediately uninstalled..
  • Instagram? An app for taking and uploading photos? Wonder why that would need the camera...
  • permissions were not granted.
  • The tin foil hat brigade are out in force here...
  • some people like their privacy, like security, have principles, and don't like being treated like a serf. Is there something wrong with us or is there something wrong with you to be so easily acclimated into being against those things?
  • Wow! This is so much faster and cheaper than the Dome of Silence & Blindness(tm) I built for my workstation!
  • cameras and mics can always be activated despite the tips. nothign beats blocking or just removing said device. You can also get a cheap mic and just cut the cord at the USB so that it's still recognized but incapable of functioning
  • selotape cardboard and cotton wool. does the job. see no evil hear no evil!
  • Dead drops only !
  • All they would see is me petting my cat.
    And would hear her purring.