How to Disable the Built-in iSight Camera on a Mac
Most new consumer Macs come with a built-in iSight / FaceTime camera which can be used for all sorts of fun, ranging from live video chatting in FaceTime, Skype, and iChat, to horsing around in Photo Booth, to using third party apps like Gawker to capture time lapse photography of whatever is going on. That hardware camera is located at the top of the screen as the little black dot on the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and iMac.
Despite the many fun and harmless uses of the hardware Camera, there are some security concerns with having a built-in camera particularly in academic and institutional settings, and because of this some System Administrators have taped covers over the iSight and even removed them from the machines entirely. Thankfully, there’s a much easier way to disable the built-in iSight camera, all you have to do is move a file.
Disabling the Built-in Hardware iSight Camera on any Mac
This completely prevents all usage of the built-in hardware camera on any Mac in all versions of OS X. Keep in mind that no apps will be able to use the hardware camera at all once this is complete, at least until the process has been reversed.
- First, we will create a relatively hidden backup folder for the file. If you don’t want the folder hidden from the GUI, just remove the . in front of the directory name. Launch the Terminal and type the following command:
- Next, we will move the QuickTime component that allows the iSight to be accessed into the backup directory we just created. Type the following command:
mv /System/Library/QuickTime/QuickTimeUSBVDCDIgitizer.component /System/Library/QuickTime/.iSightBackup/
(In case it’s not clear, there is a space between the two directory paths)
- That’s pretty much it, if you want to enable the iSight again, simply move the QuickTimeUSBVDCDIgitizer.component file back into the main QuickTime directory at /System/Library/QuickTime/
Now any program that attempts to access the iSight will be unable to, instead the user will get the familiar message that the iSight hardware is already in use by another program, or the error message saying the camera is not connected and can’t be found:
If you’d rather avoid the command line, you can follow the same rough instructions above but using Command-Shift-G in the Finder to access the ‘Go’ command. The only downside to doing it through the Finder is that you can not create an ‘invisible’ directory to place the file in, so you’ll have to put the component elsewhere.
This tip is an elaboration on one found at Mac OS X Hints, which tells you to delete the QuickTimeUSBVDCDIgitizer.component file. Instead of deleting it, we’d rather relocate it elsewhere so you can easily enable the iSight again in the future.