Fixing “There is no connected camera” Error with a Mac FaceTime Camera

Dec 27, 2013 - 12 Comments

Just about every Mac comes with a front-facing camera these days, referred to usually as the FaceTime camera, and on older machines was called iSight. Nearly all of the time, this camera works flawlessly and you’ll never have any problems with it, but a frustrating error can appear from time to time that makes many users think their is a hardware problem with the camera. Manifesting as a black screen with a camera logo that is crossed out with the text “There is no connected camera”, the error message can appear across just about any Mac, be it an iMac or a MacBook Air / Pro, and any version of OS X from Lion to Mavericks, and with almost any app that wants to use the front camera. It looks like this:

"There is no connected Camera" error message on the Mac

Most users who see the problem will be attempting to use the FaceTime camera with a default bundled app like FaceTime video, Messages / iChat, or Photo Booth, but other apps may report the error as well. If you get that error screen and message, don’t assume there is a hardware issue that requires warranty service, because you can usually resolve the problem quickly with a little trick.

It’s worth mentioning that you can often fix the error by simply rebooting the Mac. Rebooting is obviously inconvenient though since it halts whatever you’re doing, and that really isn’t an option if you’re attempting to keep an appointment with a time critical video call. Fortunately, there is another trick that seems to fix the problem immediately using a command line force quit, and does not require a reboot:

  • Quit all open apps that may try to use the FaceTime camera
  • Open Terminal, found in the /Applications/Utilities directory in OS X
  • Enter the following command string exactly, then hit return:
  • sudo killall VDCAssistant

  • Enter the administrator password when requested, this is required to execute a command with superuser privileges as prefixed by sudo
  • Relaunch the app that was attempting to use the camera

At this point the front camera should work again as if nothing was ever wrong with it.

For some background as to what’s going on: the VDCAssistant process opens any time an app attempts to use the process. It appears the “camera not found” error message shows up when the VDCAssistant does not properly close when an earlier app used the camera, resulting in the camera staying in use and being blocked by other apps. Accordingly, the above trick found on the Apple Forums kills that stale process so that it can start fresh again with the new app. For those who are not inclined to use the Terminal, you can also forcibly quit the errant VDCAssistant task with Activity Monitor.

This is just one of a variety of problems I ran into while fixing up Macs and gifting tech support to relatives, and though it’s pretty easy to solve once you learn how, it’s important to remember that the average person just has no idea where to turn for issues like this.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

12 Comments

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  1. Anne Bingham says:

    I’ve had the same issue with an older MacBook, currently running Snow Leopard. Any way to fix that? I’ll be upgrading to an Air in a few months but it would be nice to get my camera back…

  2. Yakov Fain says:

    This trick didn’t work for me. The VDCAssistant restart itself even if you do a force quit. The iSight camera is still not detectable. MacBook Pro Mac OS 10.9.2

  3. Laurie says:

    ‘No matching processes were found’
    and I went onto activity monitor aswel and it couldn’t find VDCAssistant. Webcam still not working :(

  4. Janny says:

    It didn’t work for me, also get the same error msg “no matching processes were found”. Webcam still not working :(

  5. Janny says:

    Finally it works!!!

  6. Mikaela says:

    It’s not letting me insert my password. It has the part open and ready to type, but when I do type nothing is inputed. What do I do then?

  7. trongtoan88 says:

    camera still not working :)

  8. Gunnar Thiessen says:

    Did not work. Camera still not working, getting the same message in all apps.

  9. Jean-Philippe Jung says:

    Hi,

    I am facing this issue intermittently too.
    First, although it is annoying, you should shutdown your Mac, let it powered off 15 seconds and restart it. Your camera should work out of a cold boot. If not, you likely have other issues.

    I found that closing my opened apps one by one and checking in System Information / System Report if you have a camera listed would do the trick. Every time you close an app, you refresh System Information. When you close the app that was blocking the camera, it will be listed again in System Information.

    So far, it avoids a reboot but this trial and error is really annoying. I found usually a browser keeps my camera locked, I use a lot Google Hangout in Chrome, and Skype (with two logged in accounts).

    Finding this Tip page, I gave it a try and it fixed my issue. I’ll keep monitoring what happens next (as my camera usually disappear at least once a week) and if this tip works every time or not. At least it provides an explanation that is coherent with the symptoms I faced.

    Thanks!

  10. Main Sheet says:

    Don’t forget that if you’re running a hypervisor like VMware Fusion you should check if the hypervisor has ownership of the i-Sight camera.

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