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Troubleshooting: How to Tell If A Security Camera Is On And Recording

Security cameras are purposely built to be discreet–sometimes to the point that it’s hard to tell if they are on or not. 

Learn how to tell if a security camera is on and how best to troubleshoot should it be unresponsive.

How To Tell If a Security Camera is Recording

1. Make sure it’s real

That’s why the first thing to check is whether the camera is actually real or not. There’s several obvious signs that reveal a fake—namely lights, cables, build quality and branding. 

2. Movement

One of the best ways to tell a security camera is working is to observe if it is moving

Credit: hannity

Security cameras that rotate on an axis will rotate when they spot and track movement. A grinding/buzzing sound will also be audible as it turns.

3. LED light

Another way to tell if a security camera is on and functioning properly is to check for LED lights. 

A close look at an IP security camera with infrared night vision will reveal dull red lights around the lens. This is usually more visible in darkness.

Status LEDs are also commonly found on the front of security cameras. These communicate various things depending on what color it turns, but if it’s on (usually red, green, or blue), it means the camera is at least being powered.

the front of AlfredCam
LED status lights aren’t always red. It’s common to see blue or green colors, as is the case with AlfredCam. Compared to red, green has a more ‘positive’ connotation, clearly indicating that the camera is on and working properly.

What does a red light on a camera mean?

A single red light on a security camera is a status LED. All security cameras have a status LED, though it may not necessarily always be red.

It communicates the ‘status’ of the device; whether it’s powered, recording, setting up, and so on. The exact meaning of it will depend on the model, but a camera with a red light definitely means that it is switched on and observing, whether that is through continuous recording or motion detection. 

Red also commonly indicates ‘standby’ mode, which means that, though the camera is on, it might not be actively recording.

4. Using a corresponding app

AlfredCamera livestream interface using AlfredCam
AlfredCamera livestream interface using AlfredCam.

5. Bugs

Using electronic bugs to test whether security cameras are turned on might be appropriate for more advanced security setups. 

A balanced video signal should appear if the camera is working, which indicates a video that has been successfully converted for transmission over other mediums aside from coaxial cable.

How to Know if CCTV is Working

Conventional CCTV can stop working for various reasons, whether it’s because the coaxial cables have broken or come unplugged or the DVR has run out of storage space. 

Older CCTV and analog surveillance cameras are very likely to have a red light that indicates the camera’s recording, so if there is no red light on the CCTV camera, it’s reasonable to suspect the power has failed to reach the camera. 

Since the red light might indicate that it is recording, also make sure to check the DVR to see if the memory is full. Delete unwanted footage as necessary. If the problem isn’t solved, check the cables before checking inside the camera unit itself.

Troubleshooting: What To Do If Your Camera Isn’t Working 

There’s several steps to dealing with the issues that might be causing the security camera not to work.

Faulty electrical components, like wires and power sources, may cause the security camera not to turn on. 

Similarly, power interferences and poorly terminated cables may also cause the camera not to turn on. 

A malfunctioning DVR can make it appear that the camera is broken, or the memory itself may just be full. 

  • Check and fix the security camera connection and power source.
  • Check to see the cabling is functional, and replace it if not. 
  • Check camera settings, including the software or interface operations.
  • Reboot the security camera after changes are made to see if it is working. 
  • Check to see if the IP address doesn’t conflict. If there is an issue, re-enter the real IP address. 
  • For cameras that work over Wi-Fi, double check what band of Wi-Fi it works with (either 5Ghz or 2.4Ghz).


Do security cameras record all the time?

How can you tell if there is a camera in your room?

The best way to tell if there is a camera in your room is to switch off the light at night. If the camera has night vision, red lights may become visible, highlighting the position of the lens.

How do you know if a camera is watching you?

Movement of the camera and/or a status LED (ordinarily a red light) are strong indicators that a camera is operating. There is also a slim chance that the camera is fake, which is indicated by a lack of movement, cheap construction, and either unusual branding or a lack of it.


Whether it’s your own or someone else’s, telling if a security camera is on can be a little cumbersome.

Have someone else walk past the camera at different paces and observe the device. 

Pay attention to schedules, usually found in the devices settings, to make sure a schedule isn’t unknowingly causing the device to disarm at certain times.