I have a first generation MacBook Air that heats up a lot when playing videos, and almost grinds to a halt after a few minutes of playback.

Is there a way I could turn off the video during FaceTime calls so that the audio could continue smoothly?


All reports seem to indicate that there is no way to use facetime on the mac without video. You can continue a facetime call audio-only on iOS devices by pressing the home button, but oddly enough you can't disable video for the mac.

One suggestion I read awhile ago for low end machine was to place a piece of black paper over the camera. It takes much less processing power to encode a static image of mostly black than your face.

Minimizing the window will disable the video reception decoding, and may save you some processing power. Taping over your camera and minimizing the window might give you enough processing power back to use audio comfortably.

You might also consider skype or google voice if all you need is audio.

  • But the processing power of FaceTime is made up of the other persons Video. The OP states that the MacBook Air heats up when playing videos, not just FaceTime. To solve this fully we need to think of another solution – Graeme Hutchison Mar 23 '12 at 18:35
  • @GraemeHutchison When you minimize the facetime window, it stops decoding the the other person's video. – Adam Davis Mar 23 '12 at 18:39
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    then there is no point in using FaceTime?? – Graeme Hutchison Mar 23 '12 at 18:41
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    @GraemeHutchison Some have found that facetime is a much easier and nicer way to contact people without using cellphone minutes. Further, its very well integrated into the apple ecosystem (contacts for instance) that it's far easier than pulling out another program and manually typing in the address or number for the person they want to contact. Its ease of use for contacting other apple users is unparalleled. – Adam Davis Mar 23 '12 at 18:44
  • That's very true. For me though, as not everyone I know uses Apple systems, I have two have two systems when I could just have one. Within Skype you can click address book, and pull through all the information from your address book and contact lists, just as you can with FaceTime – Graeme Hutchison Mar 23 '12 at 18:47

Yes — if you simply minimize the FaceTime window (⌘ Command+M) or hide FaceTime (⌘ Command+H), video will pause while audio still functions as usual.

(Similarly, on iOS, pressing the home button will pause video and allow you to use other applications while audio still works.)

  • Cool - I didn't expect the answer to be so simple :). Btw, this seems to contradict Adam's answer - I'll wait until I try out FaceTime again before marking an answer. – Hippo Mar 23 '12 at 17:58
  • Fair enough — to be honest, I haven't carefully checked my CPU usage to see if it reduces the processing power and bandwidth required to run FaceTime, but I'm fairly sure it does. It's also worth noting that FaceTime probably has algorithms to reduce quality if it's taking up too many resources. – jtbandes Mar 23 '12 at 18:00
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    Furthermore, when you pause one or both of the video streams, you can see the bandwidth go down and even if for some reason your mac needs to encode nothing (which should be incredibly efficient with H.264) getting the other end to pause their video will lighten your Mac's load. – bmike Mar 23 '12 at 18:04
  • i also like to just use the audio in facetime, i just need to talk. not see the face. for macbook air late 2011 version, on mountain lion, just minimise the facetime window, and the video will stop sending/encoding the video. the other party will see 'paused' in the video screen. cpu usage of facetime.app down from 36% to 12%. then ask the other party to minimise too if possible. – user65535 Sep 19 '13 at 0:46

If you are having trouble with heat due to video processing through FaceTime, you should look at alternatives for your Mac. It is not just the video you are sending but also the video you are receiving that is causing your processor to overheat.

Perhaps if you were to use skype you would have lees issues during calls, as you do not need to share video.

Skype is available on all devices that FaceTime is available for with the added benefit that you can call non Mac and iOS users including Windows 7 PC, Windows Mobile, Android and the link. See it as a more compatible solution.

  • The alternatives are definitely more flexible, but can they come anywhere near the convenience of FaceTime? For example, is there a way to make Skype auto-login when your iDevice starts? I've asked this as a separate question. Thanks! – Hippo Mar 28 '12 at 2:38

I discovered a simple hack. If you use Google Hangouts, while in hangouts you can turn the camera off (standard feature). This switches off the camera globally. Even after you've closed the Hangouts browser, next time you go into FaceTime, the camera remains switched off with a message "No camera available. To use FaceTime turn on the camera."


Depending on if you were planning to use your Mac for other purposes during the call, you can always just dim your screen all the way off. That's what I do while I'm out the country!

  • Interesting way to suppress seeing things. Does this have any effect on the camera? – bmike Sep 19 '13 at 0:47

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