Skype (2011): Setting Up Skype

Lesson 2: Setting Up Skype


What do you need to set up Skype?

This content refers to a previous version of Skype - go here for the current version.

Video: Setting up your computer for Skype

Launch "Setting Up Your Computer for Skype" video!Watch the video (2:42).

You may already have everything you need to use Skype on your computer. Having a few extra items, like a comfortable headset, can make things easier. Before you download Skype, it's a good idea to learn about the different equipment options and ensure your computer is set up correctly.

Equipment checklist

Review the checklist to make sure you have everything you need to use Skype. You'll need:

  • A high-speed Internet connection: This can be DSL, satellite, or a cable modem. A dial-up connection is OK for instant messaging on Skype, but it isn't enough for voice or video calls.
  • Speakers and a microphone (built into your computer or separate): Some people like to use headphones or even a full headset so they can hear and talk to the other person more clearly.
    Using a headset to talk on SkypeUsing a headset to talk on Skype
  • A webcam if you want to make video calls: Many new computers even come with built-in webcams. If your computer doesn't have one, you can buy one online or in stores—sometimes for as little as $25.
    Separate webcamSeparate webcam
    Built-in webcamBuilt-in webcam

There are other accessories you may want to consider, like an actual phone you can plug into your computer—or use wirelessly—to talk to people on Skype. These accessories can be expensive, but they are a good investment for some, especially if you plan to get your own Skype number and use it frequently in place of your ordinary phone. Learn more about it on Skype's Accessories page.

Windows vs. Mac

There are two different versions of Skype, depending on the type of computer you have: Skype for Windows and Skype for Mac.

Screenshot of SkypeSkype for Windows
Screenshot of SkypeSkype for Mac

We'll focus on Skype for Windows in this tutorial—but if you have a Mac, don't worry. The features in each version are mostly the same. Once you get to know the Mac interface, you'll still be able to follow along and participate in all of the things we talk about in this tutorial.

Downloading and installing Skype

Video: Creating a Skype account

Launch "Creating an Account with Skype" video!Watch the video (3:57).

It only takes a few minutes to set up Skype for the first time. You'll start by creating an account on the website. Then you'll download and install the software you need to run Skype on your computer.

If you have an or email address—or an account that lets you use Microsoft services like OneDrive or XBox Live—you already have a Skype account. Just select Microsoft Account and sign in with your existing information.

To download and set up Skype:

  1. Go to and select Sign In in the upper-right corner.
  2. Select Create an account, and the sign up form will appear. Follow the directions and enter the required information, such as your name, birthdate, and gender.
    Screenshot of SkypeFilling out your information
  3. Review the terms of service and the Skype Privacy Statement, then click Continue.

    Screenshot of SkypeCreating your account
  4. Your account has been created. Select Download Skype.

    Screenshot of Skype.comClicking Download Skype for Windows
  5. Locate and select the installation file on your computer, then follow the instructions to install Skype.

    Screenshot of SkypeInstalling Skype
  6. Enter your user name and password, then click Sign in.
    Screenshot of SkypeSigning into Skype
  7. The Skype window will appear.
    Screenshot of SkypeThe Skype window

If you don't download Skype after creating an account, you can also download it here.

Get to know the Skype window

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn how to navigate the Skype window.

labeled graphic


The Call menu gathers all of your calling actions in one place. If you're not sure how to do something on a call, just come here to gain access to things like mute, transfer, and ignore with a single click.


Click here for shortcuts on everything related to Conversation on Skype—in other words, instant messaging. Options range from viewing old messages to setting up special notifications based on the contents of the message.


The Contacts menu includes shortcuts for managing your contacts. Some common tasks include importing contacts and changing how your contacts are sorted in the Skype window.


The Skype menu bar lets you change things related to you and your account—even your online status so people can tell when you're available. This is also where you can sign out of Skype.

Skype Home

The Skype Home tab is your general Skype homepage. It's the first thing you see when you log in, and it's the screen pictured in this interactive. Here, you can easily update your status update, view news and alerts, and easily interact with your top contacts.


The Contacts tab contains your Skype contact list. Here, you can click a contact's name to open a pane where you can call him or her, view his or her profile, and see his or her message history. You can also right-click a contact's name to quickly access more options.

Status and Profile Tab

This blue bar serves two purposes. Click the small status icon to quickly change your online status; or click anywhere else on the bar to view your Profile page.

The Profile page is where you go to edit your profile, and control whether certain things are public, or visible to your contacts only (for example, your profile picture).


Go to the Help menu whenever you have a technical question about Skype. Heartbeat (Skype Status) can even tell you if Skype is experiencing technical issues.


Open the Tools menu to access online games and settings for your Skype account. You'll probably use Options the most for configuring things like your audio settings, privacy, and general settings.


Use the View menu to quickly navigate to anything you're not currently viewing, such as your profile, voicemail messages, and files you've sent or received.


The Recent tab contains a list of your most recent calls. You can right-click a contact's or group's name to quickly access additional options.

Managing your account

Video: Managing your Skype account

Launch video!Watch the video (3:55).

Now that you have Skype installed on your computer, take a minute to make sure your account is set up the way you want it—first by adjusting your privacy settings and notifications, then by editing your profile.

To adjust your privacy settings:

Skype is a social network. This means you can theoretically receive calls, video, and messaging from people you don't know unless you adjust your privacy settings. Luckily, Skype makes it easy to keep your information safe and protect yourself from unwanted callers.

  1. Click Tools, then choose Options.
    Screenshot of SkypeOpening Skype options
  2. The Skype - Options window will appear. Click Privacy to open the privacy settings pane.
    Going to PrivacyGoing to Privacy
  3. Adjust any settings that might be a concern to you. Click Save when you're done.

Click the buttons in the interactive below to learn about the different privacy settings.

labeled graphic

Skype Web Settings

These settings allow you to manage your Internet safety on Skype. The only box that has to stay checked is Accept Skype browser cookies; otherwise, some features may not work for you.

You can uncheck the other boxes to keep from (1) showing your online status at and (2) sharing your demographic information with third-party advertisers.

Instant Message History

Here, you can control if—and how long—Skype should keep a history of your IM conversations.

Instant Message Settings

This controls who's allowed to chat with you on Skype using instant message (IM). To stop unwanted IMs from people you don't know, choose people in my Contact list only.

Video Settings

This controls who's allowed to send you video and screen sharing on Skype. If you don't want to receive webcam footage from people you don't know, choose people in my Contact list only.

More Video Settings

This controls who's allowed to see that you have a webcam. If you want only your contacts to know you have video, choose people in my Contact list only.

Call Settings

This controls who's allowed to call you on Skype. If you don't want to receive calls from people you don't know, choose people in my Contact list only.

To set your notifications:

Notifications are the items and actions Skype alerts you to, like when specific users are online or want to add you to their contacts. Most notifications are displayed at the bottom of your screen so you can always tell what's happening on Skype, even when you don't have the window open.

  1. Click Tools, then choose Options.
  2. The Skype - Options window will appear. Click Notifications to open the notifications settings pane.
    Going to NotificationsGoing to Notifications
  3. Check the items you want Skype to alert you to. Click Save when you're done.
    Choosing notificationsChoosing notifications

Some notifications play a sound when they alert you. To change or disable these sounds, click Sounds in the same window.

Going to SoundsGoing to Sounds

To edit your profile:

Filling out your profile is optional, but it's a great way to share something about yourself with other people on Skype. Just be careful about the information you choose to share. You can always fill out some items but leave other items blank or unspecified. You can also control whether certain items on your profile are public, private, or visible to contacts only.

  1. Select your name near the upper-left corner of the Skype window.

    Screenshot of SkypeThe Status and Profile tab
  2. Click Change picture to add a picture to your profile. You can also choose who will be able to see your picture (for example, if they search for your name and find your profile). If you select Contacts, only the people on your contact list will be able to see it.
    Screenshot of SkypeUploading a profile picture
  3. Add more contact information to give your contacts a way to reach you outside of Skype.

    Screenshot of SkypeViewing contact information
  4. Share more personal information about yourself, such as your gender and the city where you live. Remember, this information is optional, and much of it will be visible on your profile. If you don't want the public to see it, don't include it. You can use the controls on the right to decide whether certain items are private or visible to your contacts only.
    Screenshot of SkypeAdding more personal information

To learn more about who can see your profile information, visit Skype's Account and profile settings.