The 7 Greatest Free Skype Options for a Home windows or Linux PC

You may have made a video call with Skype at least once. But just because Skype is so popular doesn't mean it's the best.

Skype alternatives

Regardless of whether you don't like Skype or for whatever reason you can't use Skype, we've rounded up various 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 slightly different, but for most people, the Store app works just fine. It is also automatically updated through the Microsoft Store to protect it from security breaches.

If you want to use Skype without installing anything, you can use the stripped-down web version of Skype. It's nothing special, but it still has the functionality you need.

As early as 2018, a security researcher discovered a bug in the desktop version of Skype that could allow malicious actors to abuse the update mechanism of Skype and take over your computer. Microsoft fixed the problem, but it shows that Skype and other video tools are not bulletproof.

Video call security

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

Google Hangouts overview

Hangouts are a popular alternative to Skype and can do pretty much anything you can do with Skype. Look for someone using their email address or phone number and you can chat with them via text, an audio call, or a video chat. You can add groups of up to 10 people and your Google contacts will be added and organized automatically.

With Hangouts, you can even call regular cell phones or landline phones. These are almost always free in the US and Canada, but vary in other countries.

If you have a lot of friends who aren't Apple users, this is a great choice for your primary messenger. The only potential problem 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 website.

If you don't like this, use an alternative messenger client like Franz, which gives you one-window access to Hangouts and other web services. 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 transitioned to these, while the consumer version will change "after June 2020". Until then, you can get started with our guide to Google Hangouts.

Visit: Google Hangouts (free)

2. LINE

LINE is another messenger that allows you to easily keep up with your friends. In addition to Windows, it is also available for MacOS, iOS and Android.

As you'd expect, the service offers free video calling, voice calling, and text messaging for groups. If you want to spice up your chats, there are thousands of animated stickers to choose from. Most of them, however, cost money in the LINE store.

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 broadcast your location if necessary. LINE also promotes "official accounts" from celebrities, though there's no guarantee your favorites will be here.

LINE has a number of great features and is worth trying if you're looking for something a little different from the usual. It's a popular messaging app in many parts of Asia that western users may not be aware of.

Download: LINE (Free In-App Purchases Available)

3. Tox

Tox Messenger

Tox is the app to beat if you're looking for a safe Skype alternative. It's not run by a company. Rather, it is an open source tool developed by "people who are tired of the options that spy on, track, censor and prevent us from innovating."

You might expect such an app to have a lousy interface or confusing setup, but it's not. Just install either qTox (the full featured app) or uTox (for lighter systems) and start chatting. Tox is completely free and contains no ads. Secure chats, voice calls, and video calls mean no one can spy on you. You can even share your screen and exchange files without any restrictions.

In addition, Tox runs out of its users' systems so no servers are open to attack. It may be new to you, but Tox is definitely worth a look if you value privacy and freedom in your apps – especially as an alternative to Skype on Linux.

Download: Tox (free)

4. Viber

Another classic choice in messaging, Viber has all of the standard features including group chats, video calling, and stickers. If you switch devices frequently, you will appreciate Viber's handover feature that allows you to move calls to your mobile phone.

Like LINE, Viber offers public chats (called communities) that you can use to connect with others when you don't have friends to message with. There are also games built in if you want to fight your friends.

Viber doesn't stand out for any particular reason, but it's a solid app nonetheless. Note that in order to use Viber on desktop to sync your account, you need to sign in on your phone first.

Download: Viber (Free In-App Purchases Available)

5. ICQ

ICQ Windows App

ICQ has been around for decades, but rest assured there's an update for the modern age.

It's a simple messenger app with no fluff. The app encrypts your calls and you can of course chat in groups. When someone sends a voice message, you can convert it to text when you can't hear. Live chat is a great way to talk to people about topics like travel or dating.

ICQ also supports large file transfers up to 4 GB. If you have friends in service this is something to enjoy.

Download: ICQ (free)

6. Discord

Discord screenshot

Discord has established itself as a popular all-in-one chat tool for gamers. Even if you don't fall into that niche, it's still a solid alternative to Skype, especially if you have a regular group of people to chat with.

The service is based on servers. You can join those you find online in specific communities or create your own and invite your friends. Once everything is set up, Discord makes it easy to text chat, participate in audio calls, and even make video calls among friends.

For more information on how to get started, see Setting Up a Discord Server.

Download: Discord (Free, Subscriptions Available)

7. Jami

Jami, formerly known as Ring, is a free, open source communication tool. It is available on all major platforms, contains no ads and encrypts all communications. You can find the expected text, audio, and video messages here.

As software that respects your privacy, Jami is definitely a checkout app. It's not as popular as some of the options above, but it 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. What's even better is that you can use most of these on your mobile devices as well. Of course, these aren't the only options. One important loophole is ooVoo, which was very popular but sadly closed in 2017.

Perhaps one of these apps will meet your messaging needs if you want to delete Skype. Of course, a service is only as good as the number of people you know and who use it. Even if you love one of these, you have to convince friends to join them.

Not satisfied with any of the options listed above? There are other Skype alternatives to try out. If you choose Skype, check out Skype handy tips to get more out of the service.

Photo credit: De Space Studio / Shutterstock

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About the author

Ben Stegner
(1579 articles published)

Ben is the Assistant Editor and Onboarding Manager at MakeUseOf. He left his IT job to write full-time in 2016 and has never looked back. For over six years he has been a professional writer reporting on technical tutorials, video game recommendations, and more.

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