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Tech tips

Tech Savvy: How to make phone calls from your laptop

You just arrived at your summer vacation destination. Ah, life is good.

Not so fast. Before unpacking your suitcase, do yourself a favor and check for hidden cameras. I once found more than a dozen in an Airbnb. Tap or click for the easiest way to spot surveillance cameras.

Now you can make yourself at home. If that includes signing into your streaming services on the rental’s TV, there’s a vital step to take before you check out. Tap or click for a simple security mistake too many vacationers make.

And then you pick up your phone to send a text or make a call and … No bars. Dang. Luckily, making calls from your laptop is easy. Here’s how.

What you need

To make calls from your laptop, you need a few things. A laptop, of course, along with a reliable internet connection, and a microphone. A headset or earbuds work great, but your laptop’s built-in mic can do the job in a pinch.

A headset is a smart buy if you plan on making many calls from your computer. This affordable option from Cyber Acoustics works well with PCs and tablets. Just make sure your device has a 3.5mm jack.

With a Mac, AirPods are hard to beat. Apple products work seamlessly with each other. I use these often with my MacBook without problems.

Once your equipment is sorted, it’s time to talk about software.

MORE DIGITAL SMARTS: You can text from your computer, too. Here’s how.

Software options for making calls

If you have a Mac, FaceTime is free and easy to use. You only need to have your computer and iPhone connected.

Skype and Google Voice are great choices if you have a Windows PC. Both are free to download and allow free Wi-Fi to Wi-Fi calling. That means if you call another computer, it’s free. Nice.

Unlike FaceTime, however, you might be charged if you call a phone number using these programs. Google Voice allows free calls within the U.S.

Tap or click here for instructions to set up a Google Voice number and a few smart ways it can make life easier.

Skype charges by the minute, and international calls almost always cost money. The rates are a lot less than most phone plans, but it’s best to make sure whoever you call also has Wi-Fi calling to keep things cheap or free. See a breakdown of rates here.

Exclusive limited time offer: As a special thank you to my readers, you can get my free Windows and Mac guide full of tips, tricks, and great downloads. Claim your free Windows or Mac guide now at my website at Komando.com/FreeGuides.

How to make a call

To use the microphone in your headset or earbuds, first, plug them into your computer, or connect them via Bluetooth. Tap or click here for ways to fix annoying Bluetooth pairing problems.

Now, go into your computer system settings, and find the Sound section. Find the Input tab. This controls what microphone your computer picks up sound from.

Select the “external microphone” or headset/earbuds name option that should appear in the Input list. You can usually test the microphone and ensure your computer is picking it up on this screen.

With your microphone working, log in to your call software. For FaceTime, that should involve opening the app. For Skype and Google Voice input your username and password.

Can’t grab your computer? Tap or click here for ways to boost signal strength when your calls won’t go through.

To call someone through your computer on FaceTime:

  • Open the FaceTime app. Click the New FaceTime button, which looks like a camera.
  • Type in the phone number, email address, or name in your contacts of the person you want to call.
  • Click on the phone icon next to the number or name. Click the FaceTime button to 

To call someone through your computer on Skype:

  • Open and log into Skype.
  • To start a free call with another Skype contact, select the contact, then choose audio or video.
  • Keep in mind, calling a mobile number or landline requires a Skype subscription or purchase of Skype Credit.

To call someone through your computer on Google Voice:

  • Once you’re logged in on voice.google.com, go to the Calls tab. This is a phone icon.
  • Type in a name, if the person is in your contacts, or type in a phone number you want to call.
  • Click the name of the contact or the phone icon next to the number you typed in to start the call.

There you have it — a simple way to make calls on your computer. 

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