Free Home Camera Surveillance System

Use Skype to Build Your Own Surveillance Camera

Woman on cell phone
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Camera surveillance systems are quite expensive and relatively complex to set up. It is always best to have a professional surveillance solution for the ultimate security of your home or other premises. But there are moments when you just need to know what’s happening back home and see it for yourself. You may want to monitor the development of something or have an eye on a child, or a pet, or see how the new maid fares while you are out. Or maybe you are suspecting some ‘paranormal activity’ in your room and want to witness. You may also want to see which neighbor’s dog comes to dig (or do other filthy things) in your garden every day. You can achieve that for free thanks to VoIP.

In this article, we see how you can build yourself a home camera surveillance system for free. We will use Skype as a VoIP service. Skype is the most popular VoIP service offering video calls on the market, but you can, of course, use any other video-calling VoIP service for the purpose. You might even find some other better.

What You Need

  • A computer, preferably a laptop with an integrated webcam.
  • An Internet connection with good bandwidth, like an ADSL line.
  • A second set of those in your other location. You can have a mobile phone instead of a computer. Skype has apps for mobile phones as well.
  • A video call recording software (optional)


  1. Identify the place where you want to monitor. Determine the best location to place your laptop, one from which you will have the broadest and clearest view of your target area. Also, choose a place where your laptop will be safe, and discrete if there is ​a need for discretion. Bring up your camera software to check what you can see in that location.
  2. You might also want to make sure that your laptop is wired to the mains in case the battery won’t hold long enough for the duration of the surveillance.
  3. Mute all sound output on the laptop, but keep sound input to a high level. You don’t want your surveillance laptop to be noisy. Just muting the sound system won’t do because it would mute the sound input too. You can decrease the sound volume to speakers to 0 and increase that of the laptop’s internal microphone. This will allow you to hear what’s happening, but it can be done without.
  4. Create, if you don’t have them already, two separate Skype accounts. This is very easy: go to and register for a new account, twice.
  5. Download and install the Skype app on your laptop, and on the other machine that you will be using to view while you will be away. Here is an article on how to download Skype on different machines and platforms. You will also want to watch this video on how to use Skype.
  6. Log on to Skype on the laptop using one account and use the other account to log in on the other device. Then, add one to the contact list of the other, so that when comes the time for home surveillance, everything is ready.
  7. Configure the Skype app on your home laptop to automatically answer calls and to shoot up the webcam on any incoming call. You can do that by going to Preferences > Calls and checking the ‘Auto-answer calls’ option. Also, make sure that the option ‘Start video automatically at the beginning of a call’ is checked.
  8. You can now leave home and move away. Your home laptop is on and Skype is running. It is connected to the Internet.
  9. In your remote location, whenever you want to check, use your second device to make a Skype video call to your home laptop. Once the call is established, you will see through the laptop’s webcam everything happening.
  10. You might want to record the call and have it saved as a video file. Maybe you could need it as proof. For this, you can download and install a Skype call-recording software on your remote computer and use it. You can download Pamela for Skype, or try any Skype call recording tool.


Your DIY home surveillance system, while being helpful in many cases, has obvious limitations.

If you are monitoring people, know that they may notice and actually have access to your home laptop. They may try some foul play with the laptop itself or with anything vital to your call, like the Internet connection. Devise ways to be as discreet as possible. A tablet PC may help. Or you could hide the machine. You could use a detachable webcam and connect it to a hidden computer.

Monitoring is done only in line-of-sight, and for a limited period of time. Don’t use this as a professional tool.