How To Solve The Most Common Problems with Skype for Windows

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Skype: The App We Love To Hate

children using Skype

Skype is one of those programs that, when it first debuted, showed us just how miraculous the Internet could be. Here was a free program that let you make voice calls from your PC and before long it had video chat too. It was one of the earliest programs to offer free calling, and it's still one of the more popular choices to talk to friends and family from afar.

But it's annoying when Skype doesn't work properly. It can be so frustrating to set aside 30 minutes to talk to your sister across the country, but you spend half that time figuring out why the call can't connect, or why your sister can't see you.

Unfortunately, some Skype problems are due to problems on Skype's end, not yours. When that happens there's not much you can do. Nevertheless, it's still helpful to have a simple, multi-step process to figure out if the problem actually is on your end, and how to fix it.

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Heartbeat Check

Skype Heartbeat

The first thing you should do is make sure Skype is working properly. As I said earlier, there's only so much a computer user can do to fix their Skype problems. Since that's the case, it makes sense to check what's up with Skype first.

Skype has a website exactly for this called Heartbeat. The site used to have simple status icons right at the top for all of Skype's various services. Now, however, it's more of a blog listing the latest problems with Skype. 

When I checked Heartbeat for this article, for example, Skype was having problems with some text messages disappearing. Most problems are resolved relatively quickly, but there's a chance you'll be unlucky enough to be using Skype when a problem arises. If you do find a problem just keep checking back with Heartbeat to see if the problem is solved.

If Heartbeat isn't your style try out Down Detector for similar information.

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Check Your Connection


If Skype is humming along just fine the next thing to do is to check your home network and Internet connection. It should be fairly easy to see if you have an Internet connection or not. In fact, Skype should inform you that it doesn't have a connection.

Just to be sure you can also open up your favorite web browser and try to land on CNN, Facebook, Google, or any other popular website. If the site opens, then you have an Internet connection. If it doesn't maybe check on another device like a phone or tablet to see if that device is getting an Internet connection.

If it turns out your Internet connection is down check out Computer Networking's tutorial on how to deal with connection problems

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Check Your Home Network

Wi-Fi router
deepblue4you/Getty Images

If everything is fine with your home Internet connection. You may have a problem with your Wi-Fi signal. Try to get as close to your router as realistically possible. Or, even better, use an Ethernet cable during your Skype call to get a solid connection.

If that still doesn't help check to see what everyone else around the home is doing. If you've got two people streaming Netflix, and another playing an online game that could be part of the problem.

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Audio Settings

Skype Audio Settings

If everything is fine with your Internet connection it's time to check Skype itself. First, make sure your Windows device is configured correctly. Do this by opening Skype and going to Tools > Options.

When the Options window opens click on Audio settings in the left-hand navigation panel. First, just speak into the microphone. If it's working you'll see the volume indicator move back and forth. If there's no sign of activity, click the drop down menu in the microphone section and make sure your hardware (headset, webcam, external microphone) is selected and try again.

Under the next section labeled "Speakers" make sure the correct headphones or speakers are selected. Then click the little blue play button on the far right. If you hear a sound then everything's fine.

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Video Settings

Skype video settings

Navigate again to Tools > Options and then in the Options window select Video settings from the left-hand navigation panel. If your webcam is working you should see an image almost right away. If you don't then check to make sure your webcam is plugged in (if it's an external one). If that doesn't help check out this tutorial on how to connect a webcam.

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Test Call

Skype test call

Now it's time for one last check: the test call. The test call is audio only, but it's still worth checking to make sure it's all working. There are two ways to make a test call. The easiest way is to go to Tools > Options > Audio settings and then towards the bottom of the window under "Other things you can do" click Make a free test call.

The test calling service may also be in your Skype contacts. In the main Skype window set your Skype contacts to "All" and look for "Echo / Sound Test Service." Select that contact and make an audio call as you normally would.

During the test call you'll be asked to record a message, and then it will be played back to you. If you hear yourself being played back then everything is working fine. When you're done with the test call just hang up.

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Hello, Goodbye

Skype call

Those are the basics for checking Skype. There is one last thing you can do if everything is working properly, and your call is still not working. Check to see that while you're in the call that your microphone and webcam are activated. There are buttons for both at the bottom of the call window. You'd be surprised how many times a call doesn't work because of a muted microphone or deactivated webcam.