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Q&A: How can I re-install my laptop’s webcam?


Rob Pegoraro, Different for USA TODAY 7 a.m. EST January 5, 2014


Q. My MacBook Air’s FaceTime and Skype apps insist there is no webcam put in. I guarantee you it can be proper there above the display. How do I restoration this?

A. This time round, the techno-sufferer was once me. I had to surrender on a Skype name with my brother when that app could not notice my MacBook Air’s iSight camera. Then I had to surrender on blaming Microsoft after I noticed that Apple’s personal FaceTime also denied the laptop webcam’s existence.

When a computer can’t see its own parts, it’s usually the result of a low-level software malfunction. And on a Mac, the troubleshooting that ensues — the OS X equivalent of a Vulcan nerve pinch — doesn’t exactly feature the point-and-click simplicity Apple extols.

Apple’s recommended remedy is to reset a component called the System Management Controller that regulates a variety of internal processes. On most Mac laptops, you do this through a complicated little dance with the keyboard: Plug in the laptop; shut down the laptop; hold down the left-side Shift, Control and Option keys, along with the power button; let go of all four keys; press the power button again.

(With desktop Macs, however, you only need to unplug the power cord for about 15 seconds before reconnecting and restarting. On older Mac laptops with removable batteries, you unplug the laptop take out the battery, hold in the power button for five seconds, pop in the battery, plug in the laptop, then reboot.)

The importance of this part becomes clear in the long list of symptoms beyond webcam denial that Apple suggests may be fixed with an “SMC” reset. A partial list:

• The computer’s fans run at high speed, although the computer is not experiencing heavy usage and is properly ventilated.

• The keyboard backlight appears to behave incorrectly.

• Battery indicator lights, if present, appear to behave incorrectly.

• The display backlight doesn’t respond correctly to ambient light changes.

• A portable Mac doesn’t appear to respond properly when you close or open the lid.

• The computer sleeps or shuts down unexpectedly.

I had been seeing my MacBook lapse back into sleep moments after I’d opened its lid. So I went through the SMC-reset drill; the resulting start-up took perhaps a few seconds longer than usual, and things seem to be fine now.

Another common remedy for mysterious Mac issues goes back to the pre-OS X days: resetting the “NVRAM or “parameter RAM,” a special store of memory that keeps some system settings. This is a simpler procedure: As you reboot the Mac, hold down the Command, Option, P and R keys.

Yet another start-up key trick — holding down the Shift key — boots a Mac into a <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com/?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsupport.apple.com%2Fkb%2FHT1455%22%3E"Safe Mode" that has OS X check the start-up disk for problems, then disables non-Apple start-up items.

Tip: Windows 8 provides a different route to “Safe Mode”

Windows has long had its own <a href="http://redirect.viglink.com/?key=11fe087258b6fc0532a5ccfc924805c0&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwindows.microsoft.com%2Fen-us%2Fwindows%2Fstart-computer-safe-mode%23start-computer-safe-mode%3Dwindows-vista%22%3E"Safe Mode" to boot a PC into its most basic configuration for troubleshooting purposes. The traditional way to invoke it has been to hold down the F8 key as you boot the PC — making sure you do so before the Windows logo appears.

This diagnostic feature remains in Windows 8, but Microsoft now lets you request a safe-mode boot or other alternatives to the traditional start-up routine in a slightly more obvious way.

(A humblebrag of a tech-support note explains that “Windows 8 PCs start up quickly so there’s not enough time to press F8.”)

To access this menu, start the computer but don’t sign in. At the log-in screen, you should instead hold down the Shift key as you click or tap the power icon in the bottom-right corner, then select “Restart.” Choose “Troubleshoot” on the next screen, then “Advanced Options,” then “Startup Settings.”

Click or tap the “Restart” button on that last screen, and you’ll be switched to a simple menu listing Safe Mode and other diagnostic and repair options.

Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington, D.C. To submit a tech question, e-mail Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/robpegoraro.


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