Ask Onsoftware: Solving video problems in Windows Live Messenger

We’ve just had a plea in from OnSoftware reader for some help with a problem she’s having with Windows Live Messenger. Shirley writes:

I have MSN Messenger Live 8 (or it might be 8.5) and I have a problem when I try to do video chats with my granddaughter. Sometimes when we both can see each other, but others she will not be able to see me, even though I can see her. Do you have any suggestions for me on how to correct this problem?

This isn’t an uncommon problem, Shirley, and unfortunately there is no straight answer because the cause of the problem could be one of a number of things, related to your webcam hardware or software, or to Live Messenger. Here’s what I’d recommend you try to do, in chronological order, until you find the solution:

  1. Check your hardware – It might sound obvious but you should make sure that your webcam is plugged in correctly and switched on. You should be able to see the device from the ‘My Computer’ panel the Windows Start menu. If it’s not showing up then try reinstalling the driver software that came with your webcam.
  2. Update Live Messenger – It sounds like you’re using an old version of Windows Live Messenger there, Shirley. Download the latest build of the program from here and install it. It could be that there are some compatibility issues with the version your granddaughter is using.
  3. Try Trillian – If you’re still having no luck with the Live Messenger program, try switching to Trillian Astra instead. This is a free application that lets you make video conferences over a range of different instant messaging networks, including Windows Live. It’s a great program, and I find it a lot more streamlined than Live Messenger (note, that your granddaughter wouldn’t have to switch to using Trillian as well).
  4. Switch to Skype – If all else fails, you could always both switch to using Skype as your means of video chatting. The video features of Skype are second to none, and the call quality is excellent. This is the solution I always use for chatting with my friends – even with my buddies who I normally text chat with on Live!

Skype is a better option for video than Live Messenger

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