To find out which port Skype is using, go to the Tools menu and select "Options." Go to the Advanced menu and select "Connection." There you'll see "Use port 20000 for incoming connections," though the number may vary depending on your machine. Beneath that is the option "Use port 80 and 443 as alternatives for incoming connections." Check this option. You can change the incoming port to any number you want, if, for instance, the port Skype defaults to is already in use for another program. Skype recommends using any port above 1024.
If you're using Skype through a router, you may notice that the call quality leaves a lot to be desired. With a home Internet connection and a router whose settings you can adjust, you can improve the quality of your calls by forwarding the ports that Skype uses to connect to other users. You can also improve your call quality through basic optimization use.
Ports for Skype
Forwarding a Port
Create a forwarded port for each port -- the one you set for incoming calls, as well as port 80 and port 443. How you forward a port on your router depends entirely on the router. The website Port Forward offers tutorials for dozens of different manufacturers and even more models of router. If you're using a Linksys router, log in to your router settings in your browser by going to "192.168.1.1"; if you haven't logged in before, the username and password are both "admin." Click the "Applications & Gaming" tab. This opens the Port Range Forward page by default. In the first blank row enter the name of your application -- "Skype" is fine. Enter the same port number for the start and the end port to forward a single port, choose "Both" from the Protocol drop-down box and select the "Enabled" box. Click "Save Settings" to save these changes to your router.
Forwarding a port for Skype is not necessarily a risk. The risk from forwarding a port is if the program on the port is exploitable. If a hacker can access a weakness in a program, the open port offers direct access to your computer without any protection from the router. However, if Skype isn't active and accessing those ports, they aren't open or accessible -- they're open only when Skype is accessing them.
Other Optimization Tips
While forwarding your router's ports to give Skype a more direct connection will improve your call quality by leaps and bounds, it's not the only factor. When using Skype, you should pause or stop other bandwidth-heavy applications to ensure that Skype has enough bandwidth to run properly. According to the Skype website, the best quality calls require 4 Mbps download speed and 512 kbps upload, though you can go as low as 512 kbps down and 128 kbps up, or 100 kbps down and 100 kbps up for voice calls. Using Skype on a computer connected via Ethernet may work better, as wireless signals are slower than wired ones. Higher-quality sound systems and microphones offer a better sound quality; all the optimization in the world can't make up for a low-quality microphone.
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