How to enable and disable the built-in camera on a Mac?

Privacy fears have more people than ever wanting to disable the camera on a Mac. Almost every Mac model has a built-in camera, which is connected to the mic, giving you audio and video whenever needed for FaceTime, Skype, or other calls using your Mac. 

However, for Mac cameras can also be used to snoop on people with illegal software. Such as spyware, or even key-logger viruses. Cameras can be used to bribe and blackmail people, and make everyone feel a little uneasy using our Mac’s knowing someone else could be watching. 

So to prevent this, you need to know how to disable the Mac camera. At the same time, you should also know how to enable it when needed again. In this article, we have a few solutions for both and cover some useful troubleshooting topics around this. 

How to disable the webcam on a Mac?

Firstly, let’s start with a simple non-technical solution that anyone can do. Cover it using tape. 

Security and intelligence chiefs and even Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are known for covering built-in cameras with thick masking tape, or scotch tape. You can even use the sticky part of a Post It note. Don't use clear tape, that won’t work. 

Using tape is simple, effective and cheap. It could, however, leave marks or scratches on your Mac, or potentially damage the lens, so it maybe isn't a long-term solution. Let’s take a look at other options: 

  1. Go to Settings; to disable audio and visual inputs, you need to open System Preferences (either via Siri, Spotlight, or the top-toolbar Apple menu icon.
  2. Open Sound.
  3. Click on Internal Microphone.
  4. Now switch the audio input slider down to zero, thereby preventing any sound inputs from getting in.

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to prevent the camera from being accessed. There are viruses, such as OSX/FruitFly, OSX/Crisis, OSX/Mokes, and others, that are known for being able to remotely take control and record camera activity. 

macos block camera

So you could either turn the audio down and tape it up, or there is another way to take control of the camera and avoid the risk of cybercriminals getting the benefit of these inputs. 

How can they spy on you? A high school story.

In 2010, a High School in Pennsylvania issued a MacBook to each of its 2,306 students, then remotely activated the webcams to spy on the students at home. It didn’t take long for this to be discovered. Parents were outraged, of course. This massive violation of privacy and trust eventually ended up in court, with the school district eventually settling the case for $610,000 with parents and students. 

How to disable the Mac camera within popular web browsers 

macOS Safari, the built-in Mac web browser, has advanced security and privacy settings that make this easier. To access these, open Safari, and now click on Safari Menu > Preferences. 

Within Safari settings, you can click on Deny to switch off the camera and audio inputs. Of course, with all of these changes, if you want to use it again, you will need to reverse these steps. 

Other browsers, including Firefox, have equally robust and user-friendly security settings. You can easily switch off audio and video access for every web browser you use, making it that much more difficult for malicious software to hijack access and keep an unwanted watchful eye. 

We hope the tips above about how to disable the camera were useful. But what about reconnecting it, when it is needed? 

Simply go back to the settings within whichever web browser you disabled it, or back to System Preferences, and if tape was used, take it carefully off the camera. 

What if, you can’t reconnect with the camera?

Start with deleting system junk. 

Over time, a Mac can get full of everything from out-of-date files, duplicate images and videos, games and apps you don't need or use anymore. In particular, old cache files can interfere with the camera. 

Use CleanMyMac X, a powerful Mac performance improvement app, to clear hard-to-find system junk, clutter and caches, to get your Mac camera working good as new again. Here is how you do that: 

  1. Download CleanMyMac X (download a free version here).
  2. Use the Smart Scan to quickly and easily identify system junk.
  3. It will also spot any third-party apps that could be interfering with the camera; these can be removed via the Uninstaller. 

Now your Mac camera and audio should be working normally again. Just remember to disable access via System Preferences or web browsers when it isn’t needed, to keep your Mac secure. 

Another troubleshooting issue CleanMyMac X can help with: 

Camera freezing or connection dropping off?

In this case you can use another tool that’s supplied with CleanMyMac X, it’s called Speed. 

It can find Heavy Memory Consumers and optimize your Mac. Use this to clear out systems and apps that are consuming too much memory or RAM. Remove any that you don't need, that are taking up too much space, and slowing your Mac down.

Within this tool (or rather a suite of tools) you can do various helpful optimizations:

CleanMyMacX free up ram

You can also Run Maintenance Scripts within the Speed tool. That way, the vital processes and systems that keep your Mac’s camera can be repaired and it should work as good as new again. 

Mac cameras are one of the many system features that are taken for granted. So much so that we forget they are there. Problem is, because of this, they've become a natural security weakness that is being exploited. Taking care to prevent unwanted intrusion is a necessity. We hope this article helps you do that. 

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