Skype installs on your Windows or Mac PC. It’s available as a free download.

Skype lets you talk to anyone else in the world for free, as long as they have Skype too and you both have:

  • A broadband internet connection.
  • A headset or Skype phone each.

A headset is simply headphones with a microphone attached. These are generally a lot cheaper than Skype phones and are probably a good choice if you are just looking to get started. Be sure to check out the VodBurner Hardware Store for our recommended webcams, and headsets for Skype (along with other accessories).

(Note: if you are using a laptop, you may have a microphone built in, in which case you can try Skype with your built in microphone and speakers. Be warned however, this may lead to a distracting and probably unacceptable echo on your calls. This may not be audible to you but will be audible to the person you are calling. The echo is due to sound feeding back from the speakers to the microphone – a headset avoids this problem).

In addition to allowing you to talk to other Skype users for free, Skype lets you call normal phones too. This is not free though – you pay for the time you use. The rate is quite cheap – comparable to calling card rates. The people at Skype call this facility “SkypeOut”. Purchase Skype Credit to make calls to normal phones.

Another feature of Skype is SkypeIn (an online telephone number). If you purchase a SkypeIn number people can call you from a phone or cell phone and you pick up the call with Skype. SkypeIn works just like a normal telephone number but it rings through to your computer. Better still, is that you can purchase multiple different SkypeIn numbers so that you can have a number in New York, London, Sydney etc. Purchase SkypeIn here.

Skype is quite easy to set up and use. The trickiest part for most people is purchasing a headset and getting it working. If you follow the steps below you should avoid most of the common hurdles.

Help with your headset

Most headsets have two plugs: one that goes into the headphone socket and one that goes into the microphone socket. Usually these sockets are at the back of the PC. Unfortunately both plugs are exactly the same shape and so it’s easy to plug them in the wrong socket. To make matters worse, many PCs have more than two of these same-shaped sockets.

To help with this, some manufacturers color-code the plugs and the sockets. So, if your plugs and sockets are color-coded you are in luck. Just plug the green plug into the green socket and the pink plug into the pink socket and you’re away. (If your plugs and/or sockets are other colours, read on…).

If your sockets are color coded but your plugs are not, you may be able to work out which is the microphone plug by looking at the outside of the plug – it may have a picture of a microphone on it. If you can work out which is the microphone plug, plug it into the pink socket. Then plug the other plug into the green socket and you are away.

If neither your sockets or plugs are colour-coded, you may be able to determine which is which by looking at the symbols that some manufacturers position beside the sockets and on the outside of the plug. If not, you may have to fall back on trial and error – take a guess then follow the instructions below for testing that your equipment is working.

If your headset does not have two plugs, then it most likely has a little rectangular plug called a USB plug. This plug can be plugged into any socket of the same shape on the front, back or side of your PC. More expensive headsets, as well as Skype Phones, usually have this type of plug.

Testing that Skype is working correctly

Once you’ve got your headset or Skype phone set up, you can check that it’s working by typing echo123 in the Skype Name/Phone number box (the white box near the bottom of the Skype window), then clicking the green “call” button.

If you hear nothing through your headset or phone, it is probably not configured correctly – try clicking here for more assistance.

If all is well, you should hear a recorded message giving you some instructions. The recorded message will ask you to speak into the microphone for ten seconds. Your voice is then played back to you. If your voice is not played back, try clicking here for more assistance. If you hear your voice recording correctly, you are finished setting up Skype.

Start calling your friends on Skype and, if you purchased Skype Credit, on their normal phones.

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