Requirements for using Skype effectively?

What are the minimum system requirements to use Skype effectively?  I have broadband DSL and a Pentium 3 computer?  The video at the other end is terrible.  They say that the image is blurry.  When people Skype me from their computer I see them crystal clear on my computer.  Do I need a new computer?  If so what should I buy in order to meet the requirements to get good video at both ends?
Thanks in advance.
Richard ChristensenRetired computer technicianAsked:
Who is Participating?

[Product update] Infrastructure Analysis Tool is now available with Business Accounts.Learn More

I wear a lot of hats...

"The solutions and answers provided on Experts Exchange have been extremely helpful to me over the last few years. I wear a lot of hats - Developer, Database Administrator, Help Desk, etc., so I know a lot of things but not a lot about one thing. Experts Exchange gives me answers from people who do know a lot about one thing, in a easy to use platform." -Todd S.

The minimum requirements depends on the type of call you want to make:  Run the test and see how it performs.
What DSL service do you have (both company and service package)? Bandwidth is usually a major issue. I had to get my friend to switch away from DSL to cable in order to get decent speed while not experiencing a major spike in what she paid each month. (Likely cause of your issue: Your upload speed, the rate at which you can send data, is too low for decent quality video)

A faster computer might actually help you as well, but definitely try to improve your connectivity first. But if you decide you want a newer computer later, you do not need the latest and greatest to run skype (you could get away with it on a stronger Pentium 3, but I would personally use no lower than a Pentium 4 if possible).

Here are Skype's recommendations for hardware:

If you want to test for sure, get someone to bring their computer over (preferrably a newer one), and see if they have the same issues you do on Skype. If so, it's definitely your internet connection. Once you've fixed that issue, you can fairly assess whether or not to do anything regarding your computer.
WakeupSpecialist 1Commented:
Something to note as well, is your CPU Speed.  Pentium 3 ranged Vastly.  Starting at around 450mhz...on up to around 1.4ghz.

So if you are running on the slower side of things, do realize the minimum requirements of 1ghz is just that, minimum.  So you might be able to run it, and might be able to get it to work, but will it run well?  

Also it is possible your webcam may not have the resolution that you may want in order to be seen clearly.

Here's a good checklist of reasons as to why the Video may be of poor quality:

My video quality isn’t great...
The advice in the table below can help you to get the best possible video quality. You can also visit our forum dedicated to video issues or view our Webcam not working on Skype? troubleshooting video.

Poor quality webcam      
Webcams come in many different qualities and prices. Buying a good webcam will benefit the person you are talking to, but if the person you are talking to has a low quality webcam you will still see a low quality image.

A good webcam is a prerequisite for good quality video calls. Buy a webcam that's guaranteed to work seamlessly with Skype from the Skype shop.

Slow or busy internet connection      
You or the person you are talking to may be experiencing problems with video due to a slow internet connection. You should both try closing applications that use the internet (especially those that might be playing music or video) and cancel any file downloads.

Make sure that both you and the person you are talking to have the minimum bandwidth required to make a video call.

Weak wireless signal      
If you are using a wireless internet connection, ensure that the network signal is strong. If it isn’t, it may be better to connect directly.

Computer running slowly      
Do you or the person you are talking to have a lot of programs open? Try closing some of them and see if that makes a difference to your video.

If you’re using a laptop, you may have problems with video calls when it’s in power saving mode. Change your computer to AC power or switch your computer to maximum performance.

Make sure that both you and the person you are calling are using computers that have the minimum system requirements to run Skype.

Bad lighting      
If the room you’re talking from is quite dark, you’re probably not sending great picture quality to the person you’re on a video call with. Try turning on more lights or opening the curtains. Also, try not to sit with your back to a sun-lit window or bright lamp. This will cause your face to be in shadow and result in a poor picture. For best results the light source should be shining on your face from behind the webcam.

Too many USB devices plugged in      
You may not be sending great video because you’re using other USB devices. Try disconnecting them or try connecting your webcam to an alternative USB port. If your webcam is plugged into a USB hub, try plugging it into a USB port on your computer instead and see if that helps.

Relayed internet connection      
Make sure your connection is not relayed. Skype is designed to work with any network configuration; however, in the case of a restrictive firewall between two connecting computers, the connection will be routed through a relay. In that case bandwidth will be limited by the relay and the quality of your video will be affected.

Firewall or virus scanner problems      
Your firewall or virus scanner may be causing connection problems. Try disabling all local firewalls and virus scanners for the duration of the call.

Using an older version of Skype      
Make sure that both you and the person you are calling are using the latest version of Skype. If you’re not sure, it’s easy to find out what version of Skype you are using.

Restart needed      
If you or the person you are talking to have updated your system, for example if you have installed or uninstalled any programs, you may need to restart your computer.

Taken from here:

Experts Exchange Solution brought to you by

Your issues matter to us.

Facing a tech roadblock? Get the help and guidance you need from experienced professionals who care. Ask your question anytime, anywhere, with no hassle.

Start your 7-day free trial
Determine the Perfect Price for Your IT Services

Do you wonder if your IT business is truly profitable or if you should raise your prices? Learn how to calculate your overhead burden with our free interactive tool and use it to determine the right price for your IT services. Download your free eBook now!

dbruntonQuid, Me Anxius Sum?  Illegitimi non carborundum.Commented:
Well a Pentium 3 won't do it.

They recommend a dual core processor machine.  I found a Pentium D (dual core CPU) machine running at 2.8 GHz will do the job.  A single Pentium 4 processor won't do it - same problem you are having.

I'd recommend an upgrade to one of the Intel iCore machines to get the performance - you don't have to get the latest and greatest.
WakeupSpecialist 1Commented:
And upon more research:

What do I need to make a video call?
Get Skype compatible accessories
Go to Skype Shop
Looking for accessories that work perfectly with Skype? Visit the Skype Shop.

To make a video call, you and the person you are calling will need:

One of the following:
Skype 4.2 for Windows or higher
Skype 5.0 for Mac or higher
Skype on your TV
Make sure you are using the latest version of Skype.
A high-speed broadband connection.
A webcam.
A microphone and speakers (built-in or separate headset with microphone).
If using Windows, a DirectX 9.0c compatible video card.
Before making a video call, we recommend that you check your webcam is working correctly. If you still have a problem with video calling, these tips can help.

Call quality
The quality of your video call can be standard, high quality, or HD (high definition). The following table describes the differences between them.

Video quality      Image resolution (pixels)      Frames per second
Standard              320x240                         15
High-quality      640x480                         30
HD                      1280x720                         30
When you make a video call, Skype will automatically determine the quality of video call that your system is capable of supporting. This is determined by many factors, such as the quality of the webcam you and the person you are calling are using, the speed of the internet connection you both have, and the specification of your computers.

To make and receive high-quality or HD video calls, you will need a high-quality or HD webcam, as well as a high-speed broadband connection. Your computer will also need to meet the following hardware requirements.

Hardware      Minimum                         Recommended
CPU      1 GHz                                        At least 1.8 GHz
Graphics card      32 MB                      At least 64 MB
Memory      256 MB                              At least 512 MB

Taken from here:

And again Recommended is what you should be looking at.  Your webcam, may also require certain specifications to achieve the resolution/quality you want as well.  So you might want to look into those specs as well.
WakeupSpecialist 1Commented:
Just checking back with you sir...Have we come to a resolution yet?
Richard ChristensenRetired computer technicianAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the very comprehensive answers.  I purchased a new computer and it solved the problem.  It appears that the video card in the old computer (on board video) limited the performance of the computer.
WakeupSpecialist 1Commented:
Thanks for coming back to finalize the question.  Appreciate it sir!
It's more than this solution.Get answers and train to solve all your tech problems - anytime, anywhere.Try it for free Edge Out The Competitionfor your dream job with proven skills and certifications.Get started today Stand Outas the employee with proven skills.Start learning today for free Move Your Career Forwardwith certification training in the latest technologies.Start your trial today

From novice to tech pro — start learning today.