How to record your computer screen

Need to create a how-to presentation for work? Want to share a fun gaming session with your friends? Recording your screen is a good way to accomplish both.

Windows 10 and MacOS have built-in tools that can get the job done, while Chrome OS requires an extension (for now). Either way, recording your screen is easier than you might think. We show you how by using native, open-source, and paid third-party tools.

More guides

Windows 10

Windows 10 includes a native video capture tool, but it’s primarily designed for gamers. However, it can be used for any open application, offering a convenient way to record the screen and even add audio if needed.

Use Xbox Game Bar

To use this feature, your PC needs to support one of the following encoders. Most modern graphics cards or processors support them.

  • AMD VCE
  • Intel Quick Sync H.264 (Intel second-generation CPU or newer)
  • Nvidia NVENC (most Nvidia GeForce 600 or newer; most Quadro K series or newer)

Step 1: Click the Start button, followed by the Gear icon located on the Start Menu. This opens the Settings app.

Windows 10 Click Settings

Step 2: Select Gaming in the Settings app.

Windows 10 Settings Select Gaming

Step 3: The Xbox Game Bar section should load by default. As shown below, there’s a toggle under the first paragraph that should be set to On. If it reads Off, then click on the Toggle.

Xbox Game Bar settings screenshot
screenshot

Step 4: Select Captures listed on the left to view and adjust further customization options if needed.

Under Captures, you can change your save location for your recordings and screenshots, enable background recording, and enable recordings even when your laptop isn’t plugged in. There are also options to enable recording while projecting your screen, set a maximum recording length, and adjust your audio settings and video quality settings.

Windows 10 Settings Captures Section

Step 5: When done, type the default keyboard shortcut to open the Xbox Game Bar: Win + G.

You may or may not see a prompt asking if the highlighted application on your screen is a game. If you do, just select Yes. Sure, it’s a lie, as Xbox Game Bar is meant for capturing gameplay, but this little fib extends this feature out to other applications. However, Xbox Game Bar does not record the desktop or File Explorer, only open applications.

Step 6: The Xbox Game Bar appears near your screen’s top-center edge. It provides buttons to access these overlays:

  • Audio
  • Capture
  • Performance
  • Xbox Social
  • Gallery
  • Looking for Group

The Game Bar’s Capture overlay should appear by default. If not, click the Webcam icon on the Xbox Game Bar, as shown below.

Note: If your PC has more than one connected display, like a three-monitor setup, the Xbox Game Bar interface will appear on the currently-active screen.

Step 7: To begin, click the round Start Recording button on the Capture overlay. To stop the recording, click the purple Stop button.

Alternatively, you can type the Win + Alt + R key combination to start and stop recording with Xbox Game Bar enabled.

Game Bar Capture Video

All captured video saves as MP4 files in the Videos > Captures folder under This PC in File Explorer.

Use PowerPoint

Recording your screen with PowerPoint is relatively easy. The drawback is that you need Microsoft’s desktop software for this to work — and a Microsoft 365 subscription. This does not work with the online-only version.

Step 1: With a PowerPoint file already open, click Insert on the menu bar followed by the Screen Recording button located on the Media panel to the far right.

PowerPoint Screen Recording

Step 2: The screen dims white and renders a toolbar along your screen’s top-center edge, as shown below. Click the Select Area button and use your mouse to draw a box around the area you want to record. The target area is then outlined with a red dashed line and devoid of the white transparency. Alternatively, press the Windows + Shift + F keys simultaneously to record the entire screen.

Step 3: Click the Record button or press the Windows + Shift + R keys simultaneously.

PowerPoint Record Screen

Step 5: You can click the Pause button — it replaces the Record button — to halt the recording as needed. Click the square Stop button to end the capture.

Step 6: To save the recording, right-click on the Video displayed within PowerPoint and select the Save Media As option on the pop-up menu. Follow the on-screen prompts to save your recording.

PowerPoint Save Video Capture

When you’re done, you can save the video as a separate file to access or embed as you see fit. Editing and control options are very limited after that, but it’s a great option for quick-and-dirty recording — especially if you’re doing it for a looming presentation.

Don’t ignore the video enhancement tools that PowerPoint offers, such as changing the video’s shape, adding a border, and adding visual effects like shadows, glow, and more.

MacOS

Use the Capture Tool

Included with MacOS Catalina and newer is a native feature that allows you to record the screen and take screenshots. Here’s how:

Step 1: Press Shift + Command + 5 to bring up the screenshot toolbar.

Step 2: The toolbar appears on the screen with two sets of buttons: Three on the left to capture a screenshot and two in the middle for recording the screen. It also provides Options and Capture (or Record) buttons.

Click the Record Entire Screen button (left) or the Record Selected Portion button (right) followed by the Record button — it replaces Capture if the tool was originally in screenshot mode — located on the right.

MacOS Record Screen Tools

Step 3: When done, click the little Record button located on the menu bar at the top of the display, as shown below. Alternatively, press Command + Control + Esc.

MacOS Video Record Button

The video saves to the desktop by default.

Use QuickTime Player

If you’re running a version of MacOS older than Mojave, you can always use QuickTime Player for basic screen recording (as well as audio recording). QuickTime recordings aren’t easy to edit, but if you want a fast and easy recording method, it’s one of the simplest.

Note: QuickTime Player is also available on Catalina and Big Sur.

Step 1: Open QuickTime Player from the Launchpad. If you don’t see it, check the LaunchPad’s “Other” folder.

MacOS Big Sur Open QuickTime Player

Step 2: With the app open, click File located on the Menu Bar.

Step 3: Click the New Screen Recording option listed on the drop-down menu.

QuickTime Player New Screen Recording

Step 4: You may see a prompt asking permission to record the computer’s screen. Click the Open System Preferences button, and add a tick to the checkbox next to QuickTime Player. You may need to restart QuickTime Player. If not, skip to Step 6.

MacOS Open System Preferences

Step 5: When QuickTime restarts, click File followed by New Screen Recording.

QuickTime Player Capture Options

Step 6: The Capture Tool toolbar appears on the screen with two sets of buttons: Three on the left to capture a screenshot and two in the middle for recording the screen. Click Options to add or remove mouse clicks, use the built-in microphone, and designate the video’s destination.

Step 7: Click the Record Entire Screen or Record Selected Portion button, followed by the Record button located on the right.

MacOS Record Screen Tools

Step 8: When finished, navigate to the menu bar and click the Stop Recording button, as shown below. Alternatively, tap the appropriate symbol if your Mac has a Touch Bar.

MacOS Video Record Button

Step 8: To save your recording, click File on the menu bar, followed by Save in the drop-down menu. Choose an appropriate save location (if you haven’t already) and name for the recording, then click Save to confirm.

Chrome OS

Currently, Google doesn’t offer a native screen recording tool in the stable version of Chrome OS (87). However, Chrome OS 88 is now in the beta channel and includes a flag you can enable to add a screen-recording button to the system tray. Otherwise, you’ll need to install a Chrome extension. We’ll start with that.

Use Screencastify

Launch Screencastify

Step 1: Open the Screencastify listing in the Chrome Web Store and click the Add to Chrome button followed by Add Extension in a pop-up window.

Step 2: Select the Screencastify icon located in the top-right of Chrome.

Step 3: Sign in with your Google Account and follow the prompts to create a Screencastify account.

Step 4: Click the blue Enable Mic and Webcam button, followed by Allow in a pop-up window.

Step 5: Click the blue Enable Tools button, followed by Allow in a pop-up window.

Screencastify Record Video

Step 6: Select the Screencastify icon in the top-right corner again. A drop-down menu appears.

Step 7: Select a source: Browser Tab, Desktop, or Webcam Only.

Step 8: Enable the microphone and/or webcam if needed.

Step 9: Click Other Options for additional settings, like a countdown timer.

Step 10: Click the blue Record button. You can only record for five minutes using the free account.

Note: If you choose Desktop, the following screen prompts you to select Your Entire Screen or Application Window. After that, click Share.

Screencastify Stop Recording

Step 11: When you’re done recording, click the Screencastify icon again, followed by the red Stop button in the drop-down menu. You can also pause the recording, start over, and delete what’s already recorded.

Screencastify Save Recording

Step 12: You can now edit the video, share a copy, download it to your Chromebook, and more. To edit the name, click the text field next to the Open in Editor button.

The video saves to your Google Drive by default.

Use the native tool (Chrome OS 88 Beta)

Chrome Enable Screen Capture Test Flag

To use the native tool now, switch your Chromebook over to the beta channel. After that, do the following:

Step 1: Open the Chrome browser and enter chrome://flags in the address bar.

Step 2: Switch the Screen Capture Test flag to Enable, as shown above, and then restart the Chromebook.

Chrome OS Screen Capture button

Step 3: When you sign back in, click the System Clock to access the system tray.

Step 4:  Click the Screen Capture button on the pop-up menu.

Chromebook Capture Video

Step 5: The screen dims, and a toolbar appears along the bottom.  In this example, the screen capture tool is set to Record Partial Screen, as shown above. Press and hold the Mouse button or Touchpad to draw a box around the area on the screen you want to capture. The toolbar also provides options for Record Full Screen and Record Window.

Step 6: By default, the screen capture tool is set to Screenshot. Click the Screen Record button on the toolbar — it resembles a movie camera pointing to the right — to capture video.

Step 7: Click the Record button centered within the selected area.

Step 8: To finish, click the Stop Screen Recording button displayed on the Shelf next to the system clock.

By default, the captured video saves to the Downloads folder as “screen recording [date][time]” in the WebM file format.

Alternative offline apps for professional work

If you want an enhanced recording experience from an app specifically designed for more professional — and gaming-oriented — clips, then your best bet is to download one of the apps below.

OBS Studio (free)

As one of the more advanced and freely available screen-recording apps, OBS Studio is open-source and allows unlimited full-screen recording. It has built-in streaming functions for those who want a live audience while recording.

OBS Studio is more fully-featured than some freemium apps, but setting up your personal preferences can take a little longer. However, it’s still the best of the free screen-recording apps currently available.

It’s available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Snagit ($50+)

Snagit targets startups more than gamers. It packs a ton of recording features made for showcasing products and creating marketing videos, how-to features, vlogs, and so on. If you want an elaborate video that includes several video types, multiple graphics, and screen recording, Snagit is a great choice for simpler needs. It does cost $50, but if you don’t mind paying for the privilege, the added features are worth it.

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