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How do I open and permanently disable the camera?

Hi, anyone know how I can permanently disable the front camera? is there a way to open the macbook and snip the camera cable?

Update (11/25/2020)

It’s for my young daughter so I would prefer to disable it completely, is there no way at all to do this?

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The best answer is to just use black tape over the lens!

Think of it this way…

You have a can of peas! All you want is to take out a spoonful, now what do you do? You can’t reseal the can and the quantity is now different! To add it it in a few days what’s left will have spoiled.

Apple designed the system and the display assembly in such a way you can’t physically disconnect the camera internally without damaging the system as well as the display its self.

Update (11/25/2020)

Apple offers a system management app which companies use to manage their gear or you could create an admin account you use to control your daughters system, Limiting her account so she can’t alter things (apps or OS).

Then using Terminal remove the camera resource from the system. WARNING I haven’t done this in quite a few years so I’m not sure is the newerMac’s and macOS’s will respond nicely.

Disabling the Hardware of the Camera:

Through this method, the hardware is completely disabled, which means that you won’t be able to use the camera for any purpose. No application, whether built-in or 3rd party would be able to access the camera until you reverse the process.

  1. In this step, we will create a backup of the file. Open the terminal and type in the following command. Remember that you can skip this step if you don’t want a backup created. But it is advisable to keep a backup so that you can reverse the process in case you want to use the camera again.
    1. mkdir /System/Library/QuickTime/ .iSightBackup
  2. It’s now time to move the Quick Time component of the iSight camera (which enables apps to access it) to the backup folder we created in step 1. Use the following commands:
    1. sudo mv /System/Library/QuickTime/QuickTimeUSBVDCDigitizer.component
    2. sudo mv /System/Library/QuickTime/ .SightBackup/
  3. Reboot and you are done!
  4. In case you want to use the camera again, just put the file QuickTimeUSBVDCDIgitizer.component in the following directory /system/library/QuickTime and reboot.

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Similar issue with my FHD Touch E7440 - display is built in such a way I can't remove it without damage (easily). Yet I can physically do it on my E6440 because it's non-touch. I'm not a fan of touchscreen laptops, but I got a deal on them despite the Covid shortage because they were non boot - both came back, but I had to buy a new screen for one due to backlight issues.

I'm putting tape on the cam backed with wall-safe Scotch tape on. I hate internal webcams, but sadly the majority voted with their wallet and got them in anything that isn't designed with CTO in mind. With used, you're stuck or you're forced to choose specs or no cam - I chose specs>no cam because I'll probably never get a chance to negotiate it down as far as I did anytime soon - especially with remote learning.

@danj You may need to disable SIP these days - I don't think the SIP MacOS releases will take as well.

ABM is probably out of OP's budget, especially for a parent wanting to block the cam. Admin/Standard account may be the way to go. I don't know if Apple would do the ABM sale or not.

I ended up breaking my approach on this into it's own answer, mostly out of necessity.

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In terms of physical, there is no good approach on the Macs since the newer ones are integrated in such a way you trash the assembly - the older ones are a glue and heat PITA. I wouldn't recommend tamper evident tape on the display directly either since it may damage the AG coating. Your best bet in this case is a thin webcam cover (NOT CHEAP TO REPLACE CRACKED DIPLAYS!!!) and tamper evident tape, or a fully SW configured block.

Your needs may be better served with a used PC, like an older business notebook. On many of these, the cam can be left installed with a BIOS block (disabled in BIOS and doesn’t show in Windows) or you can physically disconnect it since most PCs are more friendly to such a thing. It’s the nightmares like my FHD Touch E7440 you need to watch for - it’s built in such a way I can’t take it apart without ruining a $120+ USED assembly easily. If you do not want to deal with it being present at all, you can sometimes choose lower spec models like my E6440 pre-display assembly swap (i5-4300M/4GB RAM/768p TN LVDS LCD) and they usually do not come with it, or they were configured as such by the previous owner. Covid note: A lot of these are more ready then sometimes nicer “high risk” machines. Not easy to find one that’s easy since parents want one most people can get up and running if it isn’t possible to find one that’s setup.

Example of what to look for:

AVOID (IPS; panel looks really good, but the design makes camera removal difficult):

Block Image

GOOD (poorer quality LCD, but easy to remove without damage):

Block Image

However, be careful about displays - when I got mine, the display was bad (I got it cheap because of that). In my case, I found a HD+ (900p) webcam assembly was an extra $4 because of cosmetic damage I can live with for a better panel without having to muck with the cable. Yes, the E6440 LVDS has different cables, while the iDP has one (iDP has better panel upgrade viability). However, it is a horrible machine if she needs to carry it (thicc+~4.5lbs).

CAUTION: On the business machines, you need to be a little careful about Computrace being active. If it is, check with Absolute SW and provide your proof of purchase and they’ll help you remove the tracking from the machine, but nobody can change the persistence module - not even Computrace. But it can be “neutered” with a POP and an eMail.

In terms of the cut: Don't cut it - it makes restoration hard for you to reverse, or if someone buys it secondhand hard for them. Disconnection or removal is usually sufficent, especially for someone who isn’t there technically. Cutting it devalues the hardware to tinkerers. I personally hate machines someone ripped the cam out AND cut the cable. If I'm dumping the assembly (or at least the back lid), I’m still annoyed but I’m willing to consider it a “no harm no foul”. The issue is if it's in nice shape and I do not need to replace the back lid, I'm looking at a 1-2 hour repair to reverse heavy handed parenting. If possible, save that cam module and the parts so when you sell it or she's older, it's quickly restored. A bag of parts is still annoying, but everything is there to undo the original removal.

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