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What Is a Webcam Driver?

Computers with built in webcams are usually sold with a webcam driver already installed.
Webcam drivers are software that enable teleconferences to run on computers.
A webcam.
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  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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A webcam driver is a type of software file used by a computer to properly identify, connect to, and function with a webcam that is connected to the motherboard of the computer. Without proper drivers installed for a webcam, the webcam would likely not function properly and may not even be usable, as it would likely be an unidentified piece of hardware to the computer. A webcam driver allows the computer, specifically the operating system (OS) on the computer, to recognize a webcam that is attached to it and function appropriately with that webcam.

Drivers are computer files needed by an OS to properly recognize the various pieces of hardware interconnected to form a complete computer system. Different computers and different types of OS may use various drivers and require drivers for different purposes, but ultimately they allow a computer to fully operate and utilize each part of the computer system properly. A webcam is a type of camera that can be connected to a computer, usually through a universal serial bus (USB) port, and capture video images. These images can then be easily saved for replay or upload to various websites or broadcast live over the Internet.

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A webcam driver is a file that the OS of a computer uses to properly recognize a connected webcam and function with that device. Many types of OS now have certain drivers included with them and these default drivers are installed as part of the OS installation. This allows a device of a certain type, such as a basic mouse or keyboard, to be connected and used without further software installation. For other devices, such as a webcam, to gain the full benefit of the webcam, these default drivers are not always sufficient and a more specific webcam driver may be needed.

For a webcam, for example, that is connected to a computer for the first time, default drivers in the OS may be able to recognize the device and even use it in some ways. To utilize all of the abilities of the webcam, however, a webcam driver would likely need to be installed for that specific webcam to fully function as a part of the computer system. Without the proper webcam driver being installed, the webcam may not work with certain programs, or specific features may be unavailable. Most webcams come with a compact disc (CD) or digital versatile disc (DVD) that contains drivers for that product, and updated drivers are usually available on webcam manufacturer websites.

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Discuss this Article

MrMoody
Post 4

@David09 - One thing that I would like to point out is never to download webcam drivers from Internet sites claiming that they have all the drivers in one place.

I think you know what I mean. These are places that say they have all the website drivers in one location and all you have to do is find the right one and download them. In other words, these are not manufacturers’ websites.

Avoid these generic sites at all costs. You could possibly be downloading a virus or spyware and not know it. Only trust drivers available from manufacturers’ sites when you need to update your drivers.

David09
Post 3

@nony - I think the latest versions of Windows have all the webcam drivers either built in, or set up so that they can easily be downloaded off the Internet.

Once you plug the webcam into your computer you’ll see a message box saying that it’s initializing your webcam for use, and it will download any necessary drivers if needed.

If you find that the picture quality is not what you want, then and only then would I suggest that you visit the manufacturer’s website to see if they have the specific driver for your webcam.

nony
Post 2

@everetra - That’s certainly an expensive way to get dual functionality out of your camcorder but I wouldn’t go that route myself. It would be easy to tip over your camcorder and ruin a very expensive piece of equipment.

Webcams, as you said, are cheap – even the kinds that deliver high resolution picture quality.

everetra
Post 1

I would just like to point out that not all webcam drivers require webcams. Permit me to explain.

I have a piece of software that turns my ordinary digital camcorder into a webcam. I hook up my camcorder to the USB port and then I install software which has a USB webcam driver. It converts my digital camcorder into a webcam.

Of course, what I wind up in the process is a very expensive webcam, because my digital camcorder cost hundreds of dollars but the standard webcam can be bought for less than $40. However, you can’t beat the picture quality; it’s crystal clear.

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