The 7 Best Free Skype Alternatives for a Windows or Linux PC
Chances are that you’ve made a video call with Skype at least once. But just because Skype is so popular doesn’t mean it’s the best.
Whether you don’t like Skype or can’t use it for some reason, we’ve rounded up several Skype alternatives for your PC.
Should You Avoid Skype?
Microsoft offers two versions of Skype for Windows 10: a traditional desktop app and a Store app. Both are a little different, but for most people, the Store app works fine. Plus, it updates automatically through the Microsoft Store, which helps protect it from security flaws.
If you want to use Skype without installing anything, you can use the stripped-down web version of Skype. It’s nothing fancy, but it still has the functionality you need.
Back in 2018, a security researcher discovered a flaw in the desktop version of Skype that could allow malicious actors to abuse Skype’s update mechanism and take over your computer. Microsoft resolved the issue, but it illustrates that Skype and other video tools aren’t bulletproof.
Skype has been relatively solid since this issue, so it’s not an extreme security risk. But it’s still good to know what alternatives are available.
1. Google Hangouts
A popular alternative to Skype, Hangouts can do pretty much everything Skype lets you do. Search for someone using their email address or phone number, and you can start chatting with them via text, an audio call, or a video chat. You can add groups of up 10 people, and your Google contacts are automatically added and organized.
Using Hangouts, you can even place calls to regular mobile or landline phones. These are almost always free inside the US and Canada, but vary in other countries.
Overall, if you have lots of friends who aren’t Apple users, this is a great choice for your primary messenger. The only potential issue with Hangouts is that it doesn’t offer an official desktop app. You’ll need to use the Hangouts Chrome extension if you don’t want to visit the main webpage.
If you don’t like this, try using an alternative messenger client like Franz, which lets you access Hangouts and other web services all from one window. YakYak is another good third-party desktop client for Hangouts.
Note that Google also plans to split Hangouts into two separate services, Chat and Meet. Business users have already moved over to these, while the consumer version will change “after June 2020.” Until then, our guide to Google Hangouts will get you started.
Visit: Google Hangouts (Free)
LINE is another messenger that lets you easily keep up with your friends. Aside from Windows, it’s also available for macOS, iOS, and Android.
As you’d expect, the service provides free video calls, voice calls, and text messaging for groups. If you’d like to jazz up your chats, you can pick from thousands of animated stickers. Most of these cost money in the LINE store, though.
If you share a lot in your chats, LINE supports some media that even Skype doesn’t. You can leave someone a voice message for later, or even beam your location if needed. LINE also promotes “official accounts” of celebrities, though there’s no guarantee that your favorites are here.
LINE has a good set of features and is worth a try if you’re looking for something a little different from the usual. It’s a popular messaging app in many parts of Asia, so Western users might not be aware of it.
Download: LINE (Free, in-app purchases available)
Tox is the app to beat if you’re looking for a secure Skype alternative. It’s not headed by a corporation. Rather, it’s an open-source tool made by “people fed up with the existing options that spy on us, track us, censor us, and keep us from innovating.”
You might expect such an app to feature a lousy interface or a confusing setup, but that’s not so. Simply install either qTox (the full-featured app) or uTox (meant for lighter systems) and start chatting. Tox is completely free and doesn’t feature any ads. Secure chats, voice calls, and video calls mean that nobody can spy on you. You can even share your screen and trade files with no limits.
What’s more, Tox runs off its users’ systems, so there are no servers open to attack. It might be new to you, but Tox is definitely worth a look if you value privacy and freedom in your apps—particularly as an alternative to Skype on Linux.
Download: Tox (Free)
Another classic choice in the messaging arena, Viber offers all the standard features including group chats, video calling, and stickers. If you often switch between devices, you’ll appreciate Viber’s handoff feature that lets you move calls to your mobile.
Like LINE, Viber features public chats (called Communities) that let you connect with others if you don’t have any friends to message at the moment. It also has games built-in if you want to battle your buddies.
Viber doesn’t stand out for any particular reason, but it’s a solid app nonetheless. Note that to use Viber on the desktop, you’ll need to sign up on your phone first to sync your account.
Download: Viber (Free, in-app purchases available)
ICQ has been around for decades, but rest assured that it’s seen an update for the modern era.
It’s a simple messenger app without any fluff. The app encrypts your calls, and you can of course chat in groups. If someone sends a voice message, you can convert it into text when you can’t listen at the moment. Live chats let you talk to people about themes like travel or dating.
ICQ also supports large file transfers up to 4GB. If you’ve got some friends on the service, you’ll find something to enjoy here.
Download: ICQ (Free)
Discord has cemented itself as a popular all-in-one chat tool for gamers. Even if you don’t fall into this niche, it still serves as a solid alternative to Skype, particularly if you have a regular group of people to chat with.
The service is built around servers. You can join ones you find online built around certain communities, or create your own and invite your friends. Once everything is set up, Discord makes it easy to have text chats, join audio calls, and even make video calls among friends.
Check out how to set up a Discord server for more information on getting started.
Download: Discord (Free, subscriptions available)
Jami, formerly known as Ring, is a free and open source communication tool. It’s available on every major platform, features no ads, and encrypts all communication. You’ll find the expected text, audio, and video messaging available here.
As a piece of software that respects your privacy, Jami is definitely an app to check out. It’s not as popular as some of the above options, but might be just what you’re looking for. Like Tox, it’s also a viable Skype alternative for Linux users.
Download: Jami (Free)
Which Is the Best Skype Alternative for You?
We’ve looked at some of the best Skype alternatives for your PC. Even better, you can use most of these on your mobile devices too. These aren’t the only options, of course. One major omission is ooVoo, which was quite popular but unfortunately shut down in 2017.
Chances are that one of these apps will meet your messaging needs if you want to drop Skype. Of course, a service is only as good as the number of people you know that use it. Thus, even if you love one of these, you’ll have to convince friends to join it too.
Image Credit: De Space Studio/Shutterstock
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