Poking around on one of my older test machines recently, I noticed no webcam was present. This is my 6-year-old Dell XPS 2720 All-in-One (Haswell i7-4770S, 16 GB RAM, 27″ touch screen). Although I can see the webcam lens every time I sit in front of this machine, there are no internal traces of a webcam in the system. Normally, the webcam would should up in Device Manager under one of two possible headings: Imaging devices, or Cameras. As you can see from this high-level DevMgr screencap from the XPS 2720, it shows neither category of devices in its listings:
No Cameras or Imaging Devices appear, even with “Show hidden devices” checked. Seriously MIA!
Round Up the Usual Suspects
First thing I learned upon consulting Dell Support came from the company’s Dell Webcam and Dell Webcam Central Software Guide web page. It reads “In Windows 10 the drivers are built-in (native) to the operating system for all computers.” The fix-it follow-up depends on going into DevMgr and uninstalling a device under the Imaging Devices (and presumably also, Cameras) heading. Of course, since I don’t have those devices showing up in DevMgr, that puts me at something of a loss. I dive into the XPS 2720 BIOS to make sure the webcam isn’t disabled there, but find no relevant entries present one way or the other.
As I think back, I’ve had the case open a couple of times myself. Also, I’ve had it in the shop twice — once for a screen replacement, and another time for a GPU daughter card investigation. At any one of those times, the leads from the motherboard to the webcam would surely have been unplugged during disassembly. I’m coming around to the belief that the camera might simply be disconnected. If it weren’t such a pain to tear down the 2720 (getting at the webcam requires lifting out the motherboard) I would check this. But I have 5 other laptops, all with working webcams, so if I need one I just use one of those other machines instead.
Proof of MIA (of sorts)
Reading further on the afore-linked web page, I learn about a Windows XP program called Webcam Central (download link). Just for grins, I download and install it. As soon as it starts up, it flashes this message in the middle of the application screen:
To me, this proves that Windows sees no webcam attached to the XPS 2720. Should i need to tear the unit apart sometime, I’ll be able to see if the webcam itself has failed or if — as I suspect is the case — it’s simply disconnected. Whatever the facts might be, the webcam is not available to me on that machine. And that’s how I decided to drop this particular problem from my fix-it list. Not all war stories have happy endings, but at least this time I know when to quit!
Author: Ed Tittel
Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.