How to Turn off the Webcam Light on a MacBook
By David Weedmark
The webcam light located at the top of the screen on every MacBook Air and MacBook Pro comes on whenever an application activates the FaceTime camera beside it. Macs don't have a control to turn off the webcam light without turning off the webcam as well. To turn off this light, you must deactivate the webcam using the application's controls or quit the application using the webcam. The location of the controls vary with every app. Some applications like Photo Booth won't deactivate the webcam until you quit the application.
Press the "Command" key and then tap the "Tab" key. A mini-Dock appears in the center of the screen showing you all of your open applications. The icon on the left is the application currently being used. The other applications are running in the background. Use the arrow keys to toggle through the applications.
Press the "Right" arrow key until you highlight an application that may be using the webcam. Common webcam applications include FaceTime, Photo Booth, Skype, iMessages and iMovie. Any Web browser may also be using the webcam for chat websites like Facebook, Google Chat, and video chat rooms.
Release the Command key when the application is highlighted in the mini-Dock. The application window comes to the front of the screen. Click the webcam control button, which often looks like a camera or video camera icon. If the light does not turn off, or if there is no control button, quit the application.
Quit the application by pressing "Command-Q" on the keyboard. When the application closes, the webcam light should turn off. If it doesn't, repeat the same procedure to find the next likely application that may be using the webcam.
Press "Command-Option-Esc" if an application doesn't close after using the quit command. This opens the Force Quit Applications window. Click the application that isn't responding and then click the "Force Quit" button.
Click the "Apple" menu and select "Restart" if you are unable to find the application using the webcam. Clear the check box beside "Reopen Windows When Logging Back In" option. When the computer restarts, the webcam light should stay off. If it doesn't, "Control-click" any active apps in the Dock, select "Options" and turn off the "Open at Login" option. Restart the MacBook again. If the light turns on this time, the MacBook may be in need of repair.
- Some users have reported the webcam light comes on for no reason even after restarting. If this happens, try opening Photo Booth and then closing it. Photo Booth should take over the webcam and then release it when it closes, turning off the webcam light.
- Although it is rare, malware programs can hijack a Mac's webcam for the purpose of spying on the user. If you suspect this is the case, install an antivirus program designed for Mac computers like Sophos, Norton or McAfee.
- To quickly turn off the webcam, close the MacBook's lid.
- Information in this article applies to Mac OS X Mountain Lion. It may vary slightly or significantly with other versions or products.
A published author and professional speaker, David Weedmark has advised businesses and governments on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years. He has taught computer science at Algonquin College, has started three successful businesses, and has written hundreds of articles for newspapers and magazines throughout Canada and the United States.