Apple MacBooks and desktops often include a built-in webcam. You can also connect an external webcam to your Mac via USB. If your webcam does not work, or seems to be disconnected or not available in macOS, there are several steps you can take to (hopefully) get it working again.
See if anything covers the lens
It is always best to check the basics first. It may sound obvious, but if your webcam is not working properly, the lens can only be blocked or covered with something. Many people cover their webcam when not in use to protect their privacy.
If you do not get any errors and all you see is a black screen, make sure there is nothing covering your webcam. It is easy to apply a lid and forget about it, especially if you do not use your webcam often.
Check the webcam̵7;s permissions
When you open an app that wants to access the webcam for the first time, macOS prompts you to let it do so. It’s easy (and often sensible) to deny access at first, but it can be a problem when it comes to video calls or recordings.
You can give any app access to your webcam by going to System Preferences> Security & Privacy> Camera. All apps that have requested access are listed here. If there is a check mark in the box next to them, they are approved. If the box is empty, permission was denied.
You can change any of these settings by clicking on the lock at the bottom of the screen and then verifying with your administrator password (or Touch ID or Apple Watch). You can then approve (select) or revoke (deselect) apps and try again.
Kill the VDCA Assistant and AppleCameraAssistant processes
Two processes perform web tasks that run in the background on your Mac: VCDAssistant and AppleCameraAssistant. Like all processes on your Mac, these can stop working properly at any time. When a process crashes, it usually starts automatically by the system.
Sometimes, however, this does not work. Fortunately, you can manually kill the processes with a Terminal command. To do this, start Terminal by either searching for it in Spotlight or going to Applications> Tools.
Type the following command, and then press Enter:
sudo killall VDCAssistant;sudo killall AppleCameraAssistant
Enter your administrator password to verify, then try using your webcam again. macOS should restart all processes that your webcam trusts to work.
If you are not comfortable using Terminal, just restart your Mac instead of running the above command.
Restart your Mac
If killing the above processes did not work, try killing the entire operating system instead. Some webcam problems are caused when several apps try to use it at once. You can solve this by restarting your computer and not opening all the same apps when it starts.
To do this, click the Apple menu, and then click “Restart.” In the window that appears, uncheck the box next to the “Open Windows again when you log in” option.
Click “Restart”, wait for your Mac to start, and then log in again when prompted. Restart the app that tried to use your webcam and see if the issue is resolved.
Reinstall the app you are trying to use
If you have a webcam problem with a specific app that has not been fixed by updating your permissions under the “Check your webcam status” section above, the problem may be the app itself.
Sometimes apps just stop working. Older people do not always play well with the authorization system Apple includes in newer versions of macOS. Try deleting the app from the “Applications” folder by dragging it to the Trash icon in the dock or selecting it and then pressing Command + Delete.
Then download and reinstall the app. Note how old the app in question is, as it may explain why you are having problems. If you reinstall the app and it does not prompt you to access the camera, it may be incompatible with the latest version of macOS.
See if there is an updated version of the app. Maybe someone has forked the app and continues the developer’s work? Alternatively, you can see if there is a similar app you can use instead.
Check your screen time states
Screen time is an important macOS feature that helps you monitor how you use your Mac. This is also how macOS handles parental controls, which can include restrictive access to the webcam and any apps that use it.
To check if screen time constraints are the problem, go to System Preferences> Screen Time> Content and Integrity, and then click “Camera.” Make sure “Camera” is also enabled under the Apps tab. If not, you can either verify and change the setting or ask the person setting the restriction to remove it.
See if your internal webcam is detected
If you use a MacBook or iMac, it has a built-in webcam. You can check if your computer detects the webcam correctly. To do so, click on the Apple menu at the top left, then click “About.”
Click “System Report” and then select “Camera” in the sidebar. You should see something similar to the “FaceTime HD Camera (Built-in)” listed, along with a bunch of numbers and model IDs. You can also check under the “USB” section and see if your webcam appears there.
If your internal webcam is not listed, a hardware failure or physical damage may have caused it to stop working. In that case, there is not much you can do other than let a technician look at it. But parts and labor will probably cost you more than just buying an external webcam.
Before you skip any jumps, however, you can try to reset the system management controller
Reset control for system management
If you’ve tried everything else (or your webcam is not included in the system report) you may want to try restoring your Mac’s system management controls (SMC). SMC is responsible for low-level settings, such as fans and LEDs, but it can also affect your internal webcam.
How to reset SMC depends entirely on your Mac. You can find your specific model and instructions for restoring SMC here.
RELATED: How (and when) do you reset SMC on your Mac
Problems with an external webcam
MacBooks, iMacs and iMac Pro all have internal cameras. However, you may need to purchase an external webcam for some Mac models, such as Mac mini or Mac Pro. It is also possible to use superior external cameras as webcams if you want to increase the video quality.
If you are using a USB webcam, make sure it is connected. If it is, disconnect it and then reconnect it. Try using a different USB port and cable, just to make sure none of these are causing the problem.
If your webcam is connected via a hub, make sure it has enough power. Try removing the hub from the equation completely and connect the webcam directly to your Mac. Does the webcam have any LEDs that indicate that it is in use?
You can also check if your Mac detects the webcam. Click the Apple logo at the top left, then click “About.” Click “System Report” in the window that opens and navigate to the “USB” section in the sidebar. Expand any of the options there and look for your webcam.
If there is no visible LED on your webcam or if it does not appear under “System Report”, it may be dead. Try connecting it to another computer and see if you can isolate the problem.
Most webcams do not need additional drivers to work with macOS, but some may. Go to the manufacturer’s website and download all the software that may be needed for your webcam to work on macOS.
If you are unable to get your internal webcam to work, you may want to consider reinstalling macOS from scratch just to make sure it is a hardware issue. However, be sure to back up your Mac with Time Machine before reinstalling, so that you can restore all your personal information.
In a pinch, you can use your iPhone as a webcam or use capture devices to turn your mirrorless or digital SLR camera into a high quality webcam.
If this does not work, you can always just buy a new external webcam.
RELATED: How to use your iPhone as a webcam