How to Use Skype

Skype Troubleshooting

Try the Call Quality Guide within Skype to help diagnose problems with sound or video.
Try the Call Quality Guide within Skype to help diagnose problems with sound or video.
Image courtesy of Skype

There are a few basic areas in which Skype users may run into problems: installing, connecting, or video and audio quality. Skype offers videos within the program to help with these issues. You can also use the "call quality guide" under the "help" menu to check your microphone, webcam and connection speeds (in general as well as for a specific contact). Skype's support site includes multiple FAQs, a community forum, service statuses and contact information for support on a wide range of issues. We'll cover some of the basics here.

One major roadblock during the installation process is not meeting the system requirements. Your computer must have a one GHz processor at the least. If you're running Windows or Linux, you need 256 GB of RAM free; for Macs, it's 1 GB. You'll also need the most recent update of DirectX (PC) or QuickTime (Mac). If you meet the system requirements and are still having installation problems, consider checking to see if you have the most recent update of your operating system, as well as updated drivers for your audio and video programs. You may also need to check your firewall settings to be sure that Skype can get through.

If you aren't able to make voice calls, be sure that you have the right subscription and/or enough Skype Credit in your account. Some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, block Skype calls. You should also make sure that you have enough available bandwidth. Skype's bandwidth requirements vary depending on the type of call you're making. For example, a voice call needs a minimum download/upload speed of 30 Kbps, but a video call in high-definition requires a minimum download/upload speed of 1.2 Mbps. Finally, check your Internet connection -- if it's slow or weak, you won't be able to connect to Skype or sustain a call. If you're using WiFi, plugging into a modem may solve the problem.

One common complaint among Skype users is bad audio or video quality. Poor quality could also be attributed to slow or spotty Internet service. A higher-grade webcam, or using a headset or microphone, can also help filter out background noise and improve audio or video quality. If your headset or webcam is plugged into a USB port, try a different one. If all of your USB ports are in use, try unplugging non-essential peripherals. If you're using a lot of large programs while you're Skyping, or downloading large files, that can cause degradation in your video and audio as well.

With these tips and tricks under your belt, you're ready to Skype. Whether you want to keep in touch with friends and family or coordinate with colleagues, this video-call service is a simple, fun way to do it.

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  • Lilly, Paul. "20 Tips and Tricks Every Skype User Should Know." Maximum PC. Dec. 1, 2009. (July 1, 2011)
  • Skype. "Skype Support." Skype Limited. 2011. (July 1, 2011)