Choose a webcam surveillance software. Important features to look for include: automatic recording (if you want the computer to start recording at a preset time), motion detection (if you only want the camera to record when it detects movement), realtime streaming (if you want to be able to watch what's being recorded right now), Internet accessibility (if you want to be able to access footage over the Internet) and PC/Mac compatibility.
Prices vary, as do features and program complexity. HomeCamera is designed for simplicity of use and, as of 2010, ranges from free to $29.95 annually, depending on the features included. Webcam Watchdog provides a relatively high quality image and can be run as a Windows service invisible to the user (in case you want to see who's using your computer when you're not around).
For Macs, EvoCam ($25) can create time-lapse movies so that you can review hours of footage in just a few minutes.
The websites for these companies can be found in "Resources" below.
Install the software. Most webcam surveillance software can be downloaded directly onto your computer; simply choose the "download" option on the software website and follow the instructions that appear on the screen. If you purchase a CD-based program, insert the CD into your computer and follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Place the laptop in a stable position from which the built-in camera will have a clear view of the space you wish to monitor.
Run the surveillance program. You may wish to set up the program for automatic recording or motion detection before you place it in position. To do so, follow the instructions provided by the program manufacturer.