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.

The task is easier than you might think, as Windows 10/11, MacOS, and even Chrome OS have built-in tools that can get the job done. In this guide, we’ll show you how by using native, open-source, and paid third-party tools.

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Windows 10 and Windows 11

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.

These steps will also all work on Windows 11, including options to use PowerPoint explained below. However, Windows 11 will look a little different from the images we are using. If you prefer step-by-step instructions for Windows 11, check out our guide here.

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 in the Start Menu. Alternatively, you can click the notifications icon on the taskbar and select the All Settings tile in the Action Center. Both of these methods will open the Settings app.

Windows 10 Start menu.

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.

Windows 10 Settings Xbox Game Bar.

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 you’re done adjusting your settings, 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 and settings:

  • Widget Menu
  • Audio
  • Capture
  • Performance
  • Xbox Social
  • Gallery
  • Looking for Group
  • Settings

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 screen where you last clicked.

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

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

Windows 10 Game Bar Updated.

All captured videos are saved 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 overlay.

Step 4: 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 5: 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 PowerPoint is a great option for quick-and-dirty recording — especially if you’re doing it for a looming presentation.

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 9: 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

Google now offers a native screen recording tool for Chrome OS — no hopping to the beta required. Google continues to update its screen recording options with new capabilities over time.

Step 1: Log in to Chrome OS. Simultaneously press Shift + Ctrl + the Show Windows button (which looks like a box with lines beside it).

Step 2: Click the Screen Capture button on the pop-up menu.

Chromebook Capture Video.

Step 3: 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 4: 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 5: Click the Record button centered within the selected area.

Step 6: 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.

Multiplatform (Chrome extension)

If you’re not keen on the three native solutions listed above, you can install a Chrome extension called Screencastify that does a good job. Here’s how to install and use it:

How to 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 next to the address bar. If the icon doesn’t automatically appear there, you will need to select the Extensions icon (looks like a puzzle piece) and select the pin icon next to Screencastify, so that you can pin the extension’s icon next to your address bar.

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 Show More 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, and more. To edit the name, click the text field to the left of the Open in Editor button.

The video saves to your Google Drive by default.

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)

OBS Studio Tools.

As one of the more advanced and freely available screen-recording apps, OBS Studio is open-source and 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 login page.

Snagit targets startups more than gamers. It packs a ton of recording features primarily for use in a workplace setting. You can use Snagit to help you put together your next training presentation, or just illustrate an idea or new workflow. These features include a screen recorder, annotations for screenshots, templates, and the ability to create video from a series of screenshots.  It does cost $50, but if you don’t mind paying for the privilege, the added features are worth it.

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