How to turn on virtual backgrounds in Zoom

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If you don’t want coworkers to see your home during a Zoom meeting, learn how to use the virtual backgrounds feature.

As more offices close, travel plans are halted, and coronavirus restrictions rise, a lot of professionals are facing working at home for an extended period. Downloads of virtual collaboration tools like Zoom have skyrocketed, and many users are likely experiencing online meetings and remote work via those apps for the first time. 

SEE: Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs (TechRepublic Premium)

Not everyone has a home office, so folks attending a video meeting might be in a bedroom, kitchen, or other space that all attendees can see when the video is enabled. Letting coworkers into your private space can be uncomfortable, which is why Zoom offers virtual backgrounds that let users easily hide what’s behind them.

Zoom virtual backgrounds have a hardware requirement in order to function. When following the steps below, you may get a message that your computer doesn’t meet the requirements; you can still click through and try virtual backgrounds, but your performance may vary.

Note: Increased demand on Zoom servers during the COVID-19 outbreak means that phone dial-in functions may be limited–be sure your computer has a microphone and/or camera to use Zoom to its fullest. Also, this tip was written using the macOS desktop version of Zoom with a free user account, though Windows users should still be able to follow these same tips.

With the Zoom desktop app open, look for the gear icon in the upper right hand corner (Figure A). Click on the gear to open the Settings window. 

Figure A

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figure-a.jpg

With Settings open, you should see Virtual Background about halfway down on the left side. Click on that, and you’ll see either the Virtual Background page (Figure B) or the warning that your hardware doesn’t meet the requirement. If the latter appears just click through–you can still try it. 

Figure B

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figure-b.jpg

In the Virtual Background window, you can see me in my office, and also a couple of background image options. In Figure C, I’ve turned on a virtual background by clicking it. 

Figure C

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figure-c.jpg

There is a plus sign below the preview image where you can click to add a new background image of your choosing. 

You can also toggle virtual backgrounds during a meeting by clicking on the arrow button to the right of the Stop Video button (Figure D). That’s all there is to it.

Figure D

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figure-d.jpg

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