How to Use USB Webcam with Chromebook

Over time, Chromebooks have become more and more popular.

The low price, simple system specifications, fast and user-friendly performance, and tight integration with the already massively popular Google ecosystem are all huge positives. And the market has shown a growing interest in Chromebook for these various reasons.

Most prominent laptop manufacturers now have a range of Chromebooks available at various price points, ranging from entry-level to premium.

However, there is one problem that Chromebook users might want a solution for.

Integrated webcams on Chromebooks, as they are on laptop computers, are not always the best in terms of video quality and resolution. In recent days, it has become all the more important to have access to a quality webcam at home for video conferences and meetings.

You might be happy with your Chromebook in every way possible except for the integrated camera, and that is where using an external webcam via USB can help a significant deal.

External webcams are popular as they promise better video quality, often on a budget. In laptop computers, connecting a webcam, as it is with any external peripheral using USB, is a plug-and-play process.

Correlating with this, it is a little different in Chromebooks. If you are considering the use of an external USB webcam with your Chromebook, you need to know if the investment would be worth your time.

You also have to learn how to connect and use an external USB webcam with your Chromebook.

Here, we will take a detailed look at both these points. Let’s start with whether buying an external USB webcam for your Chromebook makes sense for you.

Pros and Cons

As it is with any tech investment, it is important for you to know exactly what to expect if you use an external USB webcam with your Chromebook.

While there are many advantages, there are also some potential pain points that you need to watch out for.

Based on this, it’s fundamental to start by knowing that it is a simple and intuitive process to connect and use an external USB webcam with your Chromebook. As long as the webcam is compatible, there are no hurdles to speak of and the ease of use alone can easily offset your investment.

Better Video Quality

The main reason why many users would choose to purchase an external USB webcam for their Chromebook is the noticeable jump in video quality.

Internal webcams, while functional, usually lack in this exact area. The video can be grainy and low resolution, the field of view can be less than optimum, and the integrated microphone can produce low fidelity audio. If you are frequently participating in online meetings and video conferences, the results can leave a lot to be desired.

With an external USB webcam, you should, in most cases, be able to see a remarkable improvement.

Since these webcams are built as standalone units, the hardware components do not have to suffer from a constraint of space that usually plagues internal webcams. These devices are larger and have better hardware. You will get better sensors and lenses, a wider field of view in most cases, and better microphones.

Some modern webcams even come with advanced features like movement tracking or face tracking, beam-forming microphone arrays for clearer audio, and noise cancellation.

Therefore, from a purely quality standpoint, it can make a lot of sense to invest in an external USB webcam if you want better video and/or audio quality.

The Only Option

If your Chromebook is one of the few that do not come with an internal webcam, or if the internal webcam on your Chromebook has started malfunctioning, the best option is to go for an external USB webcam.

The cost, in most cases, will be lower than getting your faulty internal webcam repaired from the manufacturer and the quality will be leaps and bounds better.

If you have an old Chromebook model that did not come included with an integrated webcam, this can be a remarkable way to extend the functionality of your device and get a few more years’ worth of usage out of it, instead of investing in an entirely new Chromebook.

Potential Pitfalls

Correlating with this, there are certain pitfalls that you need to watch out for before thinking of using an external USB webcam with your Chromebook.

First, you need to make sure that an external webcam will actually deliver better results. If you have an entry-level Chromebook, purchasing an external webcam will be an upgrade in most cases.

However, if you have a premium-quality Chromebook with an enhanced internal webcam, using a cheap external one might actually be a downgrade in quality.

Similarly, before purchasing an external USB webcam, you need to watch out for compatibility issues.

While USB devices are generally compatible with Chromebooks, there can be some webcams that are not directly compatible.

Before purchasing one, you need to read reviews and ascertain whether the model you are looking at actually works with Chromebooks. This will save you the trouble of buying a USB webcam only to find that it does not work with your brand and model of Chromebook.

Plugging in and Using USB Webcam with Chromebook

If you have considered the previous points and come to a decision that purchasing and using an external USB webcam will be an upgrade for your Chromebook, you need to learn how to go about connecting and using the webcam with Chrome OS.

Here are the steps you need to follow:

  • Find an empty USB port on your Chromebook and plug in the cable from the external USB webcam. Watch out for a notification on your Chromebook about the new device or the light on the webcam to start glowing, indicating a connection.
  • From the menu bar situated in the main screen, open up the Google Chrome browser on your Chromebook.
  • Click the “Settings” button situated in the top-right corner of the screen, and in the resultant menu that comes up, choose “Show Advanced Settings”.
  • Navigate to the part of the page that houses the privacy settings, and then click on “Content Settings”.
  • Scroll till you see a section called “Media”, under which you will find a drop-down list titled “Camera”. If all has gone well, you will see the model of your external USB webcam in this drop-down list. Select your webcam in the list to set this as the main camera your Chromebook uses for video applications.
  • Now, you can test your camera with your favorite apps. Open up Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, or any other video conferencing app of your choice and take your new external USB webcam for a test drive.

Further Tips and Tricks

Many webcams come with accompanying software that you can use to fine-tune the video parameters. As most of these programs are not meant to run on Chrome OS, you might not have access to those settings. For such situations, look into the individual apps that you are using your webcam with. Each app might contain a bank of settings that govern camera characteristics, which you can then customize and fine-tune based on your preferences.

If you want a further step-up in your video conferencing or meeting experience, you can also invest in an external microphone to go with your webcam. Webcam microphones, while they can be an upgrade over the internal microphone of your Chromebook, would still produce average audio quality in most cases. Choosing a quality lavalier mic can improve your audio game. Remember to attach it to your Chromebook, go back into your media settings, and choose it as your primary microphone to disable your webcam mic.

When you have an external USB webcam installed, you can use it with any app that is available to Chrome OS. This means that its usage need not be limited to chat, meeting, and video conferencing apps. It can also work well with photography and videography apps, or apps that you use for video calling.

If you run into issues with your external USB webcam, the first fix you should try is to disconnect and reconnect it to your Chromebook. If this does not solve the issue, you can try restarting your Chromebook. You can also try uninstalling and reinstalling the particular app or apps that are failing to recognize your webcam. As a last resort, you can also try completely resetting your Chrome browser.

To accomplish this, open Chrome Browser and navigate to its “Settings” panel as before. Choose the “Show Advanced Settings” option and navigate to “Reset Settings”. Here, you would be able to reset Chrome and its settings to their default state, which often work to resolve issues with external USB webcams.

How to Select the Right Webcam for Your Chromebook

When you decide to invest in an external USB webcam for your Chromebook, several factors will play a vital role in your selection. The following tips might be helpful in making the right choice.

Resolution: Webcams come in varying resolutions, with the most common being 720p (HD) and 1080p (Full HD). For professional use, 1080p (or higher) is recommended as it provides crisp, clear video. Some high-end webcams even offer 4K resolution, but that might be overkill for most users, not to mention that they can be quite pricey.

Microphone: Although many external webcams include built-in microphones, their quality can vary widely. Look for one that features noise reduction or noise cancelling technology for the clearest audio.

Compatibility: Ensure that the webcam you choose is compatible with Chrome OS. While most webcams support Plug and Play with Chromebooks, some might need specific drivers which are not available for Chrome OS. Always check product descriptions or user reviews to confirm compatibility.

Mounting Options: Depending on your workspace setup, you might prefer a webcam with flexible mounting options. Some can be clipped onto the top of your monitor, while others come with tripods for freestanding use.

Key Takeaways

The market is full of external USB webcams with a very affordable price tag.

New and advanced features, higher video resolutions, better audio quality, and much more can be easily accessible if you purchase an external webcam.

Overall, this can be a wise way to enhance the video communication experience on your Chromebook. This is one way to address one of the few issues that most Chromebooks might have, while dramatically increasing its utility in your life.


Can any webcam work with a Chromebook?

Not all webcams can work with a Chromebook. While Chrome OS generally supports Plug and Play, some webcams require specific drivers that are not available for Chrome OS. It’s best to check for compatibility before purchase.

Can I use an external microphone along with a webcam on my Chromebook?

Yes, you can use an external microphone along with a webcam. Just like setting up your webcam, you can select the external microphone in your media settings to use as your primary microphone.

What do I do if my Chromebook doesn’t recognize my external webcam?

If your Chromebook doesn’t recognize your external webcam, first try disconnecting and reconnecting it. If this doesn’t work, try restarting your Chromebook, reinstalling the app that’s not recognizing your webcam, or resetting your Chrome browser.

How can I improve the video quality of my external webcam on my Chromebook?

If your webcam comes with accompanying software, you can use it to fine-tune video parameters. If not, look into individual apps that you’re using with your webcam. Each app may contain settings that govern camera characteristics, which you can customize based on your preferences.