As Spy Cameras popularity increases more and more people want to set up and use one.
However what if money is tight?
One option is to use an old android phone as an Android Spy Camera.
Another option is to turn your WebCam into a Spy Camera.
And the best thing…….
Most computers already have a webcam and the software is free so the cost is ZERO.
There is a lot of software that claims to be able to do this. However, the quality varies.
What is the best software?
I found the best software to be ispy.
This software is easy to install and use.
Also, it has a lot of configuration options.
What equipment do I need?
All you need is a windows computer.
iSpy works on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, 8 and 10 (both x86 and 64-bit versions).
Windows XP was released in 2001 so if your computer pre-dates this I would be surprised (and recommend a new computer).
The software runs on .Net v4 Framework which is the same as most Windows software.
Undoubtedly you will already have this, if not it will be auto-installed.
Apart from a Windows PC, you will also need a webcam. Most laptops now come with built-in webcams.
Older laptops or Desktops will need a separate webcam but this can be bought for as little as £10.
How to test your built-in webcam
If like me, you have a built-in webcam but have never used it, you might want to first test this before starting the installation.
If we know the webcam is working okay, any issues encountered later can be put down to software configuration.
The example below uses Windows 10.
Step 1 – On the start bar click the magnifying glass (shown in the red box below).
Step 2 – Start to type the term ‘Camera’ in the box below (shown in the red box below).
Step 3 – Select Camera – window store app (shown in the red box below).
You should now see yourself.
Once we have some confidence that the camera is working, we can then proceed with the installation.
Step by step guide to installing ispy
Step 1 – Navigate to the ispy website and download the latest software.
If you have a newish computer then I would recommend – ispy 64bit – latest.
Step 2 – When the file is downloaded, this will be in zip format.
To run this and install it on your computer you need to extract the file.
The first step to extracting is to right click on the file and select ‘Extract all’.
Step 3 – This will start the extraction process.
The first question will be the location where you want the files extracted to.
Unless you have a preference, I would advise keeping the default.
Step 4 – This will only take a few seconds. Once complete the extracted file will be displayed.
Now the file is in a suitable format to run. Therefore double-click the file to start the installation process.
Step 5 – It varies from computer to computer but you might get a security prompt.
This is just to check that you are aware that the computer is about to install a new program.
This was designed to combat malware.
Regardless, click Run.
Step 6 – As always there are Terms and conditions.
I would recommend you read these but let’s be honest you’re not going to (I didn’t).
Ensure the tickbox is clicked and click install.
Step 7 – Put a cuppa on while the program installs.
Step 8 – After a short while, the program will be installed. To get stuck in and start the spying fun click Launch.
Step 9 – As we will discuss later, it is possible to control the software remotely.
If you intend to do this then make sure BOTH of the tick boxes are selected.
If you just wish the traffic to be contained to your personal laptop, just ensure the top tick box is selected.
Make your preference and click Allow access.
Step by step guide to configuring the WebCam with ispy
Once the installation is complete you can start the configuration.
Due to security and privacy reasons, almost all the configuration is set to off.
The software needs to you to explicitly select what you want to record.
This makes good sense as you don’t want your computer to start recording footage that you don’t want.
So to start, the first items we need to turn on are the camera and the microphone.
I did the camera first but the configuration can be done in any order.
Enable the Camera
Step 1 – To use the webcam then select the Add menu and then Local Camera.
Step 2 – The Local Device tab is opened. To start the webcam you simply need to click Ok and the webcam will start working.
My recommendation would be to always start with the default settings.
Chances are it will work straight away. You might be surprised how easy it is. I was!
If the webcam doesn’t work, then you can go back and make adjustments until you get the camera working.
You might be surprised to see it working straight away
Adding the microphone
Now the camera is working, the next step is to turn your attention to the microphone.
Again by default, this is turned off.
Step 1 – Select the edit menu and then ‘Cameras and Microphones.
Step 2 – Halfway down the page, there is a section for the microphone settings.
Click the box and a pop up will appear (again, as displayed below). Ensure New is selected and click the arrows to proceed with the configuration.
Step 3 – As with the camera, in the first instance I would always recommend just going with the defaults as in most cases these are correct and the microphone will simply work.
Click Finish to complete the setup.
The system is now all set up. Make sure everything is recording.
It’s a good idea to make multiple recordings in the location you intend to place the laptop.
The primary reason for this is to check for lighting. I personally found when I set up the laptop on the desk, the room was very dark in the corner and when I played back the footage I was unable to distinguish faces.
I subsequently decided to change the location of the laptop.
What configuration alterations can I make?
Once you have the feel for the basics, then you can dive into all the additional configurations.
As you will see below, the pure volume of options is eye-watering from the format of the files to limiting the CPU.
They also have support for additional hardware such as joysticks.
One of the most popular additional settings is web connectivity.
The allows you to connect to the webcam remotely to see what is going on without having to wait until you get home to check the hard drive.
This is particularly important for to a burglary. If your house is burgled then there is a strong chance they will take the laptop which could have all the much-needed footage.
Using this function you can watch as it happens.
As a footnote, this software does have cloud support so this in another way to avoid losing footage.
Pro’s and Cons of using a WebCam
There are many cons to using the webcam.
In most cases, the webcam won’t be great quality.
Newer models of laptops do have HD quality webcams but they are still not widespread.
Also, the technology that other cams use and discussed here Night Vision Spy Camera such WDR won’t be available.
This will particularly impact your ability to record at night time.
Another disadvantage is that it’s not very covert.
An open laptop especially if it is turned on is going to raise suspicion. There have been lots of articles in the news relating to hacked webcams so people know they are there.
So for covert spying, it might not be the best choice.
There are plenty of better options discussed here Best Hidden Spy Cameras
The pro’s are easy – it’s free. This one simple advantage might be enough to sway you and to discount all the cons.
It’s an obvious message which we have stated in the past but its one worth reiterating.
Nothing will beat buying a device built for the job, whether this trying to detect a spy camera Detect Hidden Cameras or trying to set one up.
That said, the ispy software is very versatile and allows you to take full advantage of the built-in spy camera.
If you only need something for a keeping an eye on the pets and/or kids it might be an easy cheap option.