Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Why is my laptop's webcam light flashing on and off, sporadically? (Is someone watching me?)
May 21, 2010 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Why is my laptop's webcam light flashing on and off, sporadically? (Is someone watching me?)

I have a Dell Inspiron 1420. Adaware, Spybot, and McAfee report nothing amiss. What's going on?
posted by anthropomorphic to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
when it comes on does it just flash on then goes off or does it stay on?

when the light is on, have you done a screenshot of task manager and researched everything on the list?

what OS?
posted by nadawi at 6:21 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


it flashes on and off immediately. i think the length of time it's staying on is not the same each time but it's always extremely short. i don't see anything unusual in the task manager processes list. i'm running xp.
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:28 PM on May 21, 2010


this is really freaking me out.
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:35 PM on May 21, 2010


Put a post-it over the camera for a short-term solution if you haven't already done so.

Have you tried re-booting?
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 6:40 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sometimes websites load flash apps that turn your webcam on, such as this.

Leave all of your apps currently running open. Disconnect your PC from the internet (unplug the ethernet cable or turn off your PC’s wifi connectivity using Control Panel). Does the problem still happen?

Close all apps, with your computer disconnected from the internet. Does the problem still happen?

Reboot your PC with the internet still disconnected. Does the problem still happen?

Try using Skype temporarily to see if the webcam’s light will stay solid when you intentionally use it.

I realize that these are suggestions and not solutions, good luck!
posted by vkxmai at 6:41 PM on May 21, 2010


Try hijack this and Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool. Both are free and up-to-date on root-kits of the sort that a prankster might be using to freak you out. Alternatively, it could be a hardware glitch. Probably, it's just a camera software glitch that can be patched with a driver update.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:45 PM on May 21, 2010


Also, nadawi's suggestion is a good one - make certain there isn't something like Skype running in the background that might be grabbing the camera.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 6:46 PM on May 21, 2010


Did you install Adeona at some time in the past, perhaps after the Metafilter post about it? While it no longer works, it has similar behavior, flashing the camera to take a picture every few minutes or so.
posted by monocyte at 6:57 PM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


>Did you install Adeona at some time in the past, perhaps after the Metafilter post about it? While it no longer works, it has similar behavior, flashing the camera to take a picture every few minutes or so.

According to that website, only the OSX version has the option to capture pictures.
posted by Disinter at 7:26 PM on May 21, 2010


skype functioned just fine and now i haven't installed adeona.

i walked away from the computer for a bit, came back, intended to turn off internet connectivity to see what happened but before i did, i noticed the light hadn't flashed in a while. it's been ten minutes and still nothing - it was flashing far more frequently than this earlier today. i'm going to run the hijack this and the windows malicious software tool and see if anything comes up.

thanks for the help guys.
posted by anthropomorphic at 7:39 PM on May 21, 2010


It might just be bad wiring. I have a Dell M1330 and it has problems with the webcam/mic. The webcam will disconnect and reconnect randomly if there is any movement. Does windows make the USB plug/unplug noise when the light flashes on and off?
posted by aGee at 12:16 AM on May 22, 2010


I came across this post on howstuffworks yesterday. Go to the Website Storage Settings panel for Flash it mentions and tab through the different options in the Flash applet. There's an option to prevent Flash from accessing your webcam.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:22 AM on May 22, 2010


so it turned out that a few days ago i had accidentally uninstalled, and therefore was obliged to re-install, microsoft office 2007. when i did that, i guess i neglected to opt out of installation of "microsoft groove" which is a folder synchronization utility. i uninstalled that last night to get rid of an annoying context menu entry, and lo and behold the webcam problem stopped. i don't know what that was about, but yay problem solved.

any idea why groove would cause this problem? google-fu failed me.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:22 PM on May 22, 2010


« Older The song is called something l...   |  Tell me about the latest and g... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.