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Privacy

How to disable your computer’s webcam and microphone

If you’ve been using your computer for video chatting more than ever, you’re not alone. Many of us pulled off that strip of masking tape and allowed our cameras and microphones access once we shifted to working from home.

Once the workday is over or you say goodbye to friends and family, it’s wise to make sure your camera and mic are shut down. To protect your privacy, disabling your camera and microphone is the safest thing to do.

Here’s how you can temporarily shut them off on your PC or Mac when you’re not using your computer. Once you’re ready to use your microphone and camera again, follow these same steps to turn them back on. Our recommendation: Shut down your webcam and microphone at the end of each day.

Disable your webcam on your Windows PC

Windows makes it easy to adjust your privacy settings through the Start menu. You can adjust options for specific apps or for the entire computer should you choose to.

Here’s how to disable your camera on your Windows 10 PC:

  • Click the Start menu and open the Settings.
  • Click Privacy (the one with the lock icon).
  • On the left-hand sidebar, scroll down and click on Camera.
  • Under Camera access for this device, if it’s on, click Change.
  • A toggle will appear. Click it to disable the camera.

In this same menu, you have the ability to disable the camera for various apps. This is handy for when you’re comfortable having your camera on but want to deny access to specific programs, like Zoom. Scroll through the list of apps and click the toggles on the right-hand side to disable their camera permissions.

Repeat the same steps to turn your webcam back on, but make sure the toggle is switched to On.

Disable your webcam on your Mac

Macs ask for your permission by default any time an app uses the camera, so disabling it works the same way. In your Mac’s settings, remove permissions for specific apps.

To disable your webcam on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. On your Mac, choose Apple menu and click System Preferences.
  2. Click Security & Privacy, followed by Privacy.
  3. Select Camera.
  4. Click on the checkbox next to specific apps to disable or enable camera access.

If you turn off access for an app, you’ll be asked to turn it on again the next time that app tries to use your camera. Follow these same steps to re-activate your webcam. Just click the checkboxes.

Disable your microphone on your Windows PC

To disable your Microphone on a Windows 10 PC, follow these steps:

  • Click the Start menu and open the Settings.
  • Click Privacy (the one with the lock icon).
  • On the left-hand sidebar, scroll down and click on Microphone.
  • Under Microphone access for this device, if it’s on, click Change.
  • A toggle will appear. Click it to disable the Microphone.

Just like with the camera, you can disable the microphone for specific apps. Scroll through the list of apps and click the toggles on the right-hand side to disable their mic permissions.

Related: Tap or click here to see how to stop your smart home devices from listening to you.

Repeat the same steps to turn your microphone back on, but make sure the toggle is switched to On.

Disable your microphone on your Mac

You can go about this one of two ways: Restrict access for apps as you did with your Mac’s camera or mute the microphone’s input volume to shut it down system-wide.

To disable your microphone on a Mac, follow these steps:

  1. On your Mac, choose Apple menu and click System Preferences.
  2. Click Security & Privacy, followed by Privacy.
  3. Select Microphone.
  4. Click on the checkbox next to specific apps to disable or enable microphone access.

Once you’re ready to use your mic again, follow these same steps and click on the checkboxes again to re-activate.

To mute your input audio:

  1. Open System Preferences again and click Sound.
  2. Click the Input tab next. Here, you’ll see a volume slider.
  3. Drag this all the way to the left to mute the microphone across your Mac.

McGyver tip: Plug in a pair of cheap headphones and cut them off

Here’s a smart way to trick your computer into thinking a microphone is available when there isn’t — effectively disabling your mic.

You can do this using a cheap pair of headphones with a built-in microphone. Any brand from Amazon, the dollar store, or a gas station will do. Cut the line below the attached microphone port and plug the headphones in.

This will convince your computer a mic is plugged in, but the lack of input means there’s no active signal. This will prevent any use of the microphone as long as your headphone stub is plugged in.

Make sure any wires that remain do not touch each other, as this can potentially cause electrical issues. And do not cut the cord while it’s plugged into your computer. Safety first!

Bonus: Shut down your mic and camera for specific websites

Your web browser is your direct pathway to the internet, which is where you’ll have the most opportunity for things to go wrong with your microphone and camera. If you only want to pause your mic and camera for the web, removing access will prevent any websites from seeing or hearing you.

Related: Tap or click here to see which web browser is the best to use in 2020

To disable your camera and microphone in Chrome, follow these steps:

  1. Click the three-dot icon and click Settings from the dropdown.
  2. From the left-hand sidebar, click Privacy & Security.
  3. Look for Camera and Microphone in the list at the bottom of the page. Click the one you want to adjust.
  4. Make sure “Ask before accessing” is enabled. Choose from the list of websites below to select which platforms you want to block. This means they’ll no longer be able to access the camera until you turn the setting back on.

To disable your camera and microphone in Firefox, follow these steps:

  1. Click the menu button and select Options, then select Privacy & Security from the left menu.
  2. Scroll down to the Permissions section.
  3. Click the Settings button for the Camera or Microphone option.
  4. Enter the website URL in the Search field for the site that you want to access your camera. Hit enter.
  5. The website displays in the list below. You can remove it at any time by selecting it from the list and clicking the Remove Website.
  6. Select the Block new requests asking to access your camera checkbox if you do not want to give any other sites access to your camera.
  7. Click the Save Changes button.

To disable your camera and microphone in Edge, follow these steps:

  1. Click the three-dot menu for options.
  2. Select Settings from the list.
  3. Switch to the Site Permissions from the sidebar menu.
  4. Scroll down and choose the Camera or Microphone option within Site permissions.
  5. Toggle the button to turn OFF to block the camera access permission.

To disable your camera and microphone in Safari, follow these steps:

  1. Click Preferences, then Websites.
  2. The settings you can customize are listed on the left.
  3. For camera and microphone, choose from Ask, Deny or Allow.
  4. To apply a setting to a website on the right, select the setting, then choose the option you want from the pop-up menu next to the website.

With so many platforms hungry for your data, giving unrestricted access to your camera and mic can seem risky. While we haven’t seen evidence companies target you with ads based on the video chats you’re having, we wouldn’t be all too shocked if that became the norm. Tap or click here to see whether or not Facebook listens to you through your mic.

If you control your privacy settings, you hold all the cards. Keep tabs on what you share, and the internet becomes much less stressful. Plus, you won’t need to ruin your laptop’s clean look with an ugly piece of tape.

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