Skype is a free to download Internet-based communication service, and using Skype just got even easier. Here we explain what is Skype and break down how to use Skype and how to download it on to your computer.

How to use Skype: Get started in seconds

Below we outline how to download Skype to your PC, sign up for a Skype account and get started adding contacts and making calls. But Skype just made life so much easier for newbies, and if you don't want to you don't even need to sign up for a Skype account. To get started using Skype in seconds simply:

• Visit Skype.com/en in a browser

• Tap Start a Conversation

• Enter your name

• Tap the Start a Conversation button

• Copy the URL and share it with a friend to begin chatting over Skype. The link is valid for 24 hours

How to use Skype: Check your computer can run Skype

The first thing you’ll need to do in order to start using Skype to make calls is to download the programme onto your computer. Here are the requirements Skype suggests you need to get the most out of its service: 

  • PC running Windows® XP with SP3, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 or 10 both 32- and 64-bit operating systems. Get more info
  • Internet connection – broadband is best (GPRS is not supported for voice calls).
  • Speakers and microphone – built-in or separate.
  • For voice calls we recommend a broadband connection with 100 kbps down / 100 kbps up.
  • For group video calling everyone on the call needs Skype 5.0 for Windows or Mac or higher plus webcams. For best quality we recommend you use a high-speed broadband connection of 4Mbps down / 512kbps up and a computer with a Core 2 Duo 1.8 GHz processor. As a minimum you’ll need a high-speed broad connection of 512kbps down / 128kbps up and a computer with a 1 GHz processor.

Most modern Windows computers are more than adequate for using Skype, but refer to the specifications of your machine if needs be. Here’s our guide on how to view your computer's specifications

Let’s also hope at this point that you have broadband. This is a fast Internet connection that allows you to make telephone calls whilst also using the Internet in your home. If you are still using a dial-up connection, you won’t be able to make calls using Skype. Here’s our broadband advice page.

How to use Skype: How to download Skype

You can easily download Skype for Windows by clicking here. It’s safe to download as it’s hosted by PC Advisor. 

Simply follow the instructions on the page to download Skype onto your computer.

Skype is also available to use if you own an Apple iMac or MacBook. Here’s where to download Skype for Mac

How to use Skype: How to set up Skype 

Once Skype has downloaded, you should be faced with the login screen

If you don’t already have a Skype account, you will need to create one. Simply click ‘create an account’ and follow the on-screen instructions.

Skype will check that you have appropriate sound and video options – as you’ll need speakers/headphones to hear others on calls, and a microphone either built in to your computer or an external one connected in order for people to hear you.

Skype will automatically check that you are set up – if you’re not, it will prompt you on what you need. You can also add a profile picture at this stage. 

After this, you’ll be taken to the Skype programme.

How to use Skype: How to call from Skype for free 

The main function of Skype is making voice or video calls to people. First you’ll need to add contacts to Skype. On the left of the Skype window, click next to the magnifying glass icon and type in the name of the person you’re looking for. You can also search by their email address or Skype name – best to ask the person for it first, as it makes it easier to find. 

Once you’ve added the person you want to call, they’ll be stored in your Contacts folder. This is accessible at all times in the left hand column of the Skype window.

Click on the person you want to call. Skype will indicate whether or not that person is Online with a green tick icon. Remember though, the person won't actually appear in your contacts list until they have accepted your invitation to connect. You can then click one of two blue icons in the top right corner of the screen:

The video camera icon sets up a video call, while the phone icon sets up a voice only call. Provided you and the recipient both have a webcam and microphone set up, you’ll be presented with their face and yours once the call connects. Provided you have set up correctly, your Skype call is now in session!

You can also make group calls using Skype. You must have all the people you want to join the group chat as contacts on Skype first. Then, click on ‘New’ in the far left hand column. This screen will then pop up:

From here, you can select which of your contact will be in that particular chat group. You can have as many people as you like for an instant messaging chat, but the limit for video calling is set at 10. Even on a decent broadband connection, a comfortable number of people in a video chat is around five – don’t be surprised if any more than that causes issues, as making video calls uses up a lot of bandwidth on your line. 

Notice also here that Skype automatically creates a link that you can copy and paste to send to people you'd like to join your conversation. This is useful if those people do not have Skype, as it will invite them to install it and then join the correct group chat.

How to use Skype: How to make calls to phones, how to add Skype credit

Skype also allows you to make calls from your Skype account to phone numbers in many countries around the world. This isn’t part of its free service, and you must add credit to your account using a debit or credit card. 

For the full list of countries you can call and from where, and a list of charges, here’s Skype’s own guide. It’ll help give you some idea of how much credit you should add you’re your account for making phone calls.

To make a call, you click on the Call icon on the left bar of the Skype window. You’re then presented with a dial pad on screen – this dialler also shows how much Skype credit is on your account, and a link to see all calling rates. From here you can dial the number and place the call – this is only for audio as you’re calling a phone, so you can’t make a video call with this option. 

How to use Skype: Instant messaging

Another great feature of Skype is being able to send your contacts instant messages, much like you would send a text message. These instant messages are free, and are sent over an Internet connection – think of it sending like an email, but being presented like a text message service on a phone. 

To send an instant message, and therefore start a chat conversation with one of your contacts, you have to click on their name in the contact list. You’re then given this screen:

The messages you type then appear in the window above, and remain there as a chain of messages you can read back and keep track of. If you download Skype to your smartphone, this feature is also included, and is a great way to message your Skype contacts on the go.