Once a unique and novel addition to home computers, webcams have become prosaic and unexceptional. However, with the advent of a global pandemic and unprecedented lockdowns, webcam usage has exploded, as have Chromebook sales. With Chromebook’s particular architecture—a Linux-based, Chrome Operating System—you may be wondering how the webcam works.

To use the webcam on Chromebook, simply click the app launcher icon, a small square that resembles a grid, in the bottom corner. This opens your available apps, among which will be a camera icon. The default camera application allows you to take pictures or video.

Depending on when you purchase your Chromebook, you may need to update to the latest software version, which may change the original grid icon to a circle icon for the app launcher. Given that the Chrome OS is very different from Apple and Microsoft operating systems, utilizing the Chromebook webcam and maximizing available features will also be different.

How to Use a Chromebook Webcam

If you happen to own an Android phone, then the Chrome OS will likely seem familiar to you. Despite the numerous manufacturers, Chromebook’s Minimalist operating system remains very similar across the board.

Once you’ve opened the launcher and clicked on the camera icon, you’ll have a few options on the right and left borders of the screen.

  • On the right, you can take a photo, record a video, or click “square” to take a photo with equal dimensions.
  • On the left border, you can set a photo timer, adjust the grid of the picture before you take it, or mirror the image.

Some Chromebooks also come equipped with a second external camera. If this is the case for your Chromebook, the option to flip to the external, built-in camera will also be available. If you purchase an external webcam, you’ll also have the option to switch between the two.

How to Use External Webcams with Chromebooks

Webcams are integral to Chromebook hardware, but they’re not always the best quality. For some of the lower-cost Chromebooks on offer, webcams are of minimal quality, with 720p resolution—substandard considering modern 4K and 8K norms. This may lead you to consider an external webcam, especially useful for making YouTube or Vimeo videos or personal blogs where quality is essential.

You’ll probably want to set your external webcam as your primary webcam. To do this:

  1. Plug your external webcam into the USB port on your Chromebook.
  2. In the Chrome browser, select settings > show advanced settings > privacy > content settings > media > camera.
  3. Once you select camera, there will be a drop-down menu that displays your new, external camera. Once you’ve selected it, the new webcam will now be your default.

Webcams are not all created equal. Fortunately, there are several quality options available, and all are used with the Chromebook in the same way:

Using Chromebook Webcams with Apps

Of course, there are a ton of different uses for webcams outside of taking pictures and videos. Teleconferencing, video calls between family, social media, personal blogs, and even security are some of the conveniences of a good webcam. Chromebook apps are accessed through the PlayStore, where you can find everything you need to enjoy the full capabilities of your webcam:

  • Zoom: Primarily used for teleconferencing, Zoom has exploded in popularity, especially as schools have switched to remote-learning during the pandemic
  • Skype: Great for video calls with friends and family; Skype is also useful for teleconferences and remote learning
  • Snapchat: Snapchat is a great social media tool for recording quick (snap) videos with various goofy options; you can then send these to friends and family.
  • Instagram: A very popular social app for sharing videos, pictures, and stories; it is also essential for blogging
  • Alfred Home Security Camera: Perfect for home security use, keeping an eye on your pets, or even as a baby monitor

Final Thoughts

Like Android phones, there are a variety of manufacturers of Chromebooks. The budget-friendly options are usually minimalistic in their webcam design, and the hardware can be a little underwhelming. With the recent upsurge in Chromebook purchases and a higher demand for quality webcams, Google’s Pixelbook Go and Pixelbook Slate offer far better quality, built-in webcams.

Whether you prefer an external or built-in webcam, Chromebook’s operating system is simple, with a minimalist approach to provide easy access to the webcam. Manufacturer or design choices all fall under the same operating system umbrella, creating simplicity in purchasing options. No matter what you decide, how you use a webcam on Chromebook will remain the same.