Many Dell all-in-one PCs and laptops come with an integrated webcam sitting just above the display. You can also add external webcam devices, whether built by Dell or other manufacturers, through a spare USB port. When it comes to activating and controlling your webcam, you have the choice of using Dell's own webcam utility or a third-party alternative.

Setting Up the Hardware

If you have an external webcam to go with your Dell computer, plugging it into a spare USB port should be enough to install the relevant drivers and get the device up and running. If you are using an internal webcam built into the display, all of the necessary connections and driver installations have already been taken care of. Open Control Panel (run a search for it through the Search Charm) and you should see the webcam listed under Imaging devices. Many internal webcams have a physical switch to cover the webcam when it's not in use, so make sure this is uncovered when you want to use the device.

Running Dell Webcam Central

Dell Webcam Central is the company's official webcam management software and in most cases will be already installed on your system. Check the icons in the notification area or look through your system from the Search Charm to find the application. If you can't find the program, you can download the latest version for free by logging into the Support section of the Dell website and identifying the make and model of computer you're using. Once up and running, Dell Webcam Central switches on your webcam and displays a live feed from it. You can use the program to record videos and photos to save to your computer or upload to the Web.

Third-party Applications

A wide variety of third-party applications can make use of your webcam, automatically activating the device when they are launched. Skype is one of the best-known programs for making video calls across the Web, but others include Oovoo, Camfrog and Yawcam, as well as browser-based messaging programs such as Facebook Chat and Google Hangouts. Any internal or external webcam compatible with your system can be used by these third-party programs, which will switch on your webcam when it's needed and turn it off at the same time as you close down the program in question.

Troubleshooting Problems

If you find your webcam cannot be identified in Windows or activated by any webcam software, double-check the connection to your computer or try a different USB port (if you're using an external model). If you are having problems with an internal webcam that can't be detected, a hardware fault or a corrupted Windows setting may be to blame -- visit the Dell Support website to find the latest drivers for the device, as installing these may be enough to reset the webcam's settings and its registration in Windows. If the webcam works in one application but not others, try reinstalling the program in question.