We can't all be with our family and friends all of the time (especially right now!), but that doesn't mean you can't 'see' them. As long as your relatives and friends have an Apple device they can use the FaceTime app and you can video call them, we’ll explain how to do that below.
The great thing about FaceTime it is completely free to use. FaceTime calls are free because they use Wi-Fi or cellular data (rather than cellular minutes). This means that even if you are FaceTiming someone on their iPhone while they are away from home and not connected to Wi-Fi they won’t have to pay for the call (as long as they have enough data on their contract) all they need is a data connection for the duration of the call.
Put off by the idea of a video call? You don’t have to worry about whether you look your best when you make or receive a FaceTime call because you can just use FaceTime Audio and make a audio call. The benefit here is that the audio is a lot clearer than a typical mobile phone call. (This is slightly different to placing and receiving phone calls on your Mac. Read how to do that here: How to make a phone call from a Mac.)
There are a few negatives about FaceTime though. You can only use FaceTime to call someone if they have a Mac or an iOS device that supports FaceTime (so that’s an iPhone 4 or later running iOS 4.1 or later, an iPod touch running iOS 4.1 or later, an iPad 2 or later, or a Mac running OS X 10.9.2 or later). That’s a lot of Apple devices, so chances are you are covered - but if the other party doesn’t have an Apple device, you’ll need to use Skype or another alternative to make a video call.
The person you are calling also needs to be signed into FaceTime and, if they are on a Mac they need to have FaceTime open. FaceTime doesn’t need to be open on an iPhone or iPad to receive a call - read about how to make FaceTime calls on iPhone and iPad here.
What you need to FaceTime on a Mac
Most Macs are equipped to make FaceTime calls. Here's what you need:
- You and the recipient need to be connected to the internet. You need a 128-Kbps or better upstream and downstream Internet connection. If you want to make HD video calls you need a 1Mbps upstream and downstream Internet connection.
- You both need a built-in or connected camera. If you want to make HD video calls you need a built-in FaceTime HD camera. Most Macs will ship with a FaceTime camera, but if you have a Mac mini or a Mac Pro you may need to invest in a separate web cam.
- You need a connected microphone. It’s likely that there is one built into your Apple device. If not, you could plug in a headset that includes a mic - like those that come with the iPhone.
- You both need an Apple ID. If you don’t have one got to Apple's webpage here. Read this article for more advice on setting up or troubleshooting an Apple ID.
If you are worried about the safety of using FaceTime to video call, read this: Is Apple FaceTime Safe?
How to set up FaceTime on a Mac
Here’s how to set up and sign into FaceTime on a Mac:
- Open FaceTime app (press Command + Space and start tying FaceTime)
- If you aren't already signed into FaceTime you will need to do so. Enter your Apple ID and password and click Next. (If you don't have an Apple ID click Create new Apple ID.)
- Wait while it signs you in.
- To determine how people can reach you click on FaceTime > Preferences in the menu. You can deselect any email addresses you have associated with the account if you don’t want them to be used for FaceTime (for example, you might not want people who have your work email address to contact you this way).
- If on the other hand you wanted to add another email address to this list then open System Preferences (press Command + Space and start tying System Preferences).
- Click on Apple ID.
- Now choose Name, Phone, Email from the column on the left.
- Here you can add and remove contact details which will subsequently appear in FaceTime Preferences.
In older versions of macOS you needed to choose iCloud in System Preferences and then click on the Contact tab.
How to use FaceTime on a Mac
Making a FaceTime call from your Mac to another person’s Mac, iPhone or iPad is easy as long as you do the following:
- You both need to be logged in to FaceTime.
- You also need to make sure you both have a sufficiently good internet connection (see details above).
- Ironically you may need to call them first using your mobile or landline before placing the FaceTime call - or set a time to call in advance, especially if they aren't used to using technology.
The method for FaceTiming a person on their Mac is the same as if they were taking the call on their iPad or iPhone.
Here’s how to make a call from a Mac using FaceTime:
- Open FaceTime on your Mac.
- Sign into FaceTime if you haven't already.
- You can search for a person by typing their name into the search bar. When you do so FaceTime will search your Contacts file.
- Alternatively, you can add a number or the email address associated with someone’s Apple ID in the search bar. That number of email address will then appear below the search bar with the option to place a video or audio call to them.
- You won’t be able to call someone using FaceTime if they aren’t signed into FaceTime with their Apple ID and password. You also need to make sure that the number or email address you are using is assigned to their FaceTime account.
- When you are ready to start the FaceTime call, click on the icon that looks like a video camera.
- If you just want to make an audio call - without video - click on the (i) and choose the handset icon. (Read about how to make a phone call from your Mac here).
How do I receive a FaceTime from my Mac
When someone wants to FaceTime you this is what you need to do:
- Open FaceTime. (The app must be open on your Mac to receive a FaceTime call).
- Sign in using your Apple ID (Note: FaceTime won’t be able to receive calls if you aren't signed in.)
- Make sure the person contacting you has the correct details - your mobile number or an email address that is associated with your Apple ID.
Here's how to answer a FaceTime call on a Mac:
- When the person calls you you will see a notification on your screen, like the one below.
- It should give you an indication of who it is calling you (assuming you have their details in your contact file, or perhaps in an email).
- If you want to speak to them click on Accept.
- When you want to end the call click on the Red handset icon.
How to stop receiving FaceTime calls on my Mac
You can choose to stop using FaceTime if you no longer wish to receive these video calls.
- Open FaceTime.
- In the menu at the top of the screen click on FaceTime > Preferences, then click Sign Out.
To make or receive calls again, you need to sign back in.
If you are receiving nusance FaceTime calls, you can block that caller. Here's how:
- Find the particular caller that you want to block.
- Right click on their number and choose Block this Caller.
How to FaceTime with an email address
If you want to FaceTime someone you don’t need to have their mobile number, as long as they have set their FaceTime up to accept calls to their email address (see above for how to do that).
Just enter the email address into the search bar - if the email address isn’t associated with an Apple ID, it won’t work.
How to change your view on a FaceTime call
You don’t have to limit your video call to a small window on your 27in iMac display (or whichever display you have). You can change the view in a number of ways, here’s how:
- Once you are connected to the person you are calling, click on the + in the top left of the window (in older versions of macOS this was a green circle). This will enlarge your FaceTime window. Alternatively hover your mouse pointer over the + and you'll see different options for positioning the window. This will make the image of the caller fill the screen - if they are on a Mac then you should automatically get a landscape view. To return to the normal view press escape.
- If they are on an iPhone or iPad and the view is in portrait you could ask them to rotate their iPhone or iPad so that you can see a landscape view.
- You can also move the picture-in-picture window (where you can see yourself) from the right corner so that it doesn’t cover some detail you want to see. Just click on the small window and drag it to a new corner of the FaceTime window.
- While you can’t change the orientation of your caller - if they are in portrait but you’d prefer to see them in landscape you will have to ask them to rotate their device - you can choose the orientation that you are seen in. Just hover over the picture in picture window and click on the rotation icon that appears, or rotate using your fingers if you have a trackpad.
- You can stop the video call window from getting hidden by other windows. Click on Video > Always on Top.
How to pause or mute a FaceTime Call
You can temporarily hide the video call window, here's how:
- Click on the yellow button in the top left of the window. This will minimise the window and pause the video - although the audio will continue.
- When you want to continue just click on the FaceTime icon in the Dock.
Alternatively, you could mute yourself:
- To mute yourself hover the mouse pointer over the call window.
- Click on the Mute button that appears.
In both scenarios you will still be able to hear the other person.
If you want to change the volume of the call you can turn the volume up or down on your Mac.
How to clear recent calls
If you don’t want to someone to see who you’ve been FaceTiming you can clear your history. Here’s how to clear the recent calls list:
- Open FaceTime.
- You an remove a specific call by right-clicking on it and choosing Remove from Recents, or click on Remove all Recents at the bottom of the list.
How to change ringtones in FaceTime
You don’t have to stick with the default ringtone. You can change the ringtone
- Go to in FaceTime > Preferences
- Click on Settings
- Click on the box beside Ringtone to open the Ringtone popup menu
- Choose a new Ringtone
You can also assign a particular ringtone to a specific caller. Here’s how:
- Open Contacts (press Command + Space and start tying Contacts).
- Find the person who you want to assign a ringtone to.
- Click on Edit.
- Scroll to ringtone and click on the arrows to select a new one.
How to take a Live Photo from a FaceTime call
During a video call you can take a Live Photo of the person you’re speaking with.
Just click the white circle.
The other caller will receive an alert that you took a picture.
If you want to know how to record a FaceTime call read this.
Can I FaceTime from my Mac to my iPhone?
Yes, you can FaceTime from any of your Apple devices to another Apple device using the same Apple ID.
So, for example, if you left your iPhone at home you could FaceTime it from your Mac in the office.
Why can’t I FaceTime on my Mac?
If you are having problems with FaceTime failing or not working on you Mac, try these tips:
- Check you and the other caller are connected to the internet.
- Check your Apple ID is valid by visiting appleid.apple.com.
- Make sure you have selected the checkboxes next to the email addresses and phone numbers that other people can use to call you in FaceTime.
- Check that your email address is verified in FaceTime > Preferences. Look for the verification email if not and follow the instructions,
- Sign out and back in to your Apple ID in FaceTime > Preferences.
- Click in the box beside Enable this account in FaceTime > Preferences, to turn off FaceTime, then click on Turn On FaceTime to turn it back on.
- Check that the correct location is set up in FaceTme. Go to FaceTime Preferences and beside Location choose the correct country.
- Check that the Date, Time and Time Zone are set correctly. Go to System Preferences > Date & Time > Set Automatically. Click on Time Zone and choose the nearest city. It needs to have the correct location - the region where your FaceTime account is registered should correlate with the location on your Mac or the wrong telephone number format might be used.
- Check that you haven’t blocked the caller, and that they haven’t blocked you.
- Check to see if FaceTime is down - we have this article that explains what to do: Is Apple FaceTime down? How to fix FaceTime problems
Make sure that the person you are calling has:
- The correct software installed
- An active broadband Internet connection.
- No FireWall - if you or they have a Firewall they may need to enable certain ports. There’s more information about this here.
- Make sure that their phone number or email address has been activated for FaceTime (following the guide above)
- Check that the caller hasn’t blocked you.
If you have problems with your WiFi this guide might help: How to fix Wi-Fi when it's not working on your Mac.