How to Use a Webcam as CCTV

How To Use A Webcam as CCTV

Would you like to build a surveillance system with your PC’s built-in or USB Webcam? In this article, we focus on how to use a Webcam as a CCTV, and be cost effective.

Protecting your home or property hasn’t changed over the years, but the technology to do so has. You want to monitor your property, but don’t want to invest in a costly security camera system. Well, then all you really need is a laptop or PC with a built-in camera, an inexpensive USB-connected, or wireless webcam. Several options to connect your phone, and computer exist to accomplish this task of monitoring.

Webcam & CCTV items you’ll need.

Here are the basics:

You will need a computer, and a USB connected or wireless webcam.  If you already have these, you are closer to achieving your goal.

If you need a computer, purchase one to fit your needs, and budget. One consideration in choosing your computer is it’s hard drive size, and processing ability.  Cameras can range from $20 to over $300 depending on the features you want. Choices for computers, and cameras are almost endless, and can be purchased at an electronics store, office supply store, or from the internet. Compare prices with several sources, this will enable you to setup a Webcam as CCTV that is cost effective.

Choices, choices….

Several choices of software exist that can record the feed from a webcam either continuously, or (more usually) when motion is detected. There are several good free applications, such as iSpy, as well as paid software such as uApexisCam. Many “free” apps allow you to upgrade to the paid version, and usually has more editing features than the free versions. Also, depending on your platform IBM (Android)or MAC(IOS), you will need to search your application store for a version that works on your platform. A myriad of options are available, and range from free to $20 or more.

Installation of Webcam as CCTV.

After installing your software, and connecting your camera(s), run the application. After initializing the first time, it will prompt you to set up information, internet connections,.etc… One of the screens will prompt you to add the Webcam(s). This screen will instruct you how to add or delete a device, and will provide a list of connected or connectable Webcam(s).

As you set up the camera options, one choice is to set the camera for motion detection, or continuous feed. Configure “zones” (or areas). These “zones” are rectangular sections that are within the webcam’s view for detecting motion. Some examples you might select: a kids playroom, a dog entry door, or your front entry door.


If you want to learn more about webcams and security check out our other great post “How to Secure a Webcam”

Tip: avoid selecting areas and objects that move, such as foliage/trees, or passing traffic on the road. If you do, you will end up with a lot of footage to review.

Software… The best tool.

Good software will provide a visual console that will allow playback of footage, and will show recorded clips on a timeline. You might have an option to send an email (along with an image), or a text message when a motion is detected. Options of uploading the clip to a website, or to an FTP server may be included. An option on some programs allow for playing a recorded message. Settings will allow you to record anything you wish, such as “get off my property” (this depends on camera choice too).

Once done, your CCTV using Webcam is complete and cost effective. Now you can now monitor to your heart’s content.

Evaluation of your webcam as CCTV

Using a webcam for security is also a good way to evaluate if you need to upgrade to an actual IP camera system for coverage.  You will be able to use the same internet connection you have, so you will not have to invest more money.

A drawback to using a webcam is that you’ll need to leave your PC on constantly.  Keep in mind, running a system continuously may shorten the life of your computer. One drawback is the need to invest in wi-fi extenders to cover areas where cameras are well away from the normal range of your internet connection. Another factor is length of USB camera cord length for hardwired cameras. A wifi signal can also be interfered with by a host of other digital signals. This is due to placement that is in an area that has a lot of electronic signature. Choose wisely grasshopper. There are even apps that will enable you to identify those problem areas as well.

Lastly, a major factor is how you mount the webcam. Having a camera that faces out a window, it may be blinded by direct sunlight, or reflections. Night time brings its own problem (with minimal or no lighting) you will not see anything. Both conditions may prove the Webcam(s) useless. When using Webcams indoors, interior lighting will help mitigate this problem.

If you choose use a Webcam as CCTV, your budget and equipment are really the limiting factor. As a last note, evaluate your use of your webcam as cctv. If you decide that you need more coverage and options, consider upgrading to an IP (hardwired or wireless) camera system which offers better quality of video.

Now go forth and monitor!

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