Whether it’s to post to YouTube, stream on Twitch, or just send to a friend through email, being able to record video of your computer screen always comes in handy. And there several choices for screen recording software out there that try to appeal to different use cases, so let’s take a look at the best of the best.
What to Look Out for
There are a few things we want to cover before jumping into the programs themselves.
- Pricing: This list contains a mix of free and paid programs. That doesn’t necessarily mean the free programs are worse, however, as all the programs on this list cater to different niches. We’ll be sure to specifically mention how much each program costs, and any differences there may be between free and paid-for versions of the same tool.
- Features: There are loads of different features video recording software can include that appeal to different use cases. If you want to make short tutorials with your recorded clips, then a simple editor where you can add text and merge short videos will be a killer feature for you. But if you’re looking to live stream or save highlights from your games, then you’ll need tools to accommodate those—such as options for customizing stream overlays.
- Performance: For gameplay recording and livestreaming in particular, performance is a major concern—it’s no easy task for a computer to run both of these processes at the same time. So whether the program is dedicated to simple clip saving or broadcasting your screen to sites like Twitch and YouTube Gaming, we’ve made sure the options here won’t destroy your PC’s performance.
Free and Versatile: OBS (Windows/Mac)
OBS is an open-source program with a focus on putting the power in your hands. While the UI is a bit difficult to learn, it allows you to edit just about anything you can think of. OBS is most commonly used for streaming, and you can customize your stream overlay to your heart’s content with the software’s tools. It’s also simple to create multiple “scenes” you can quickly switch between while you’re live (for example, switching between your desktop’s screen and your camera view).
But OBS is still great for recording your screen as well—you have plenty of options for configuring your screen recording and it’s a relatively light toll on your computer. And because OBS is open source, you can install loads of different plugins to further customize the software. If you’re willing to commit to learning it, OBS is by far the most powerful tool on this list—and it’s even free.
Free and Versatile
An open-source tool with plenty of options for customizing your streams and recordings.
Best for New Streamers: Streamlabs (Windows)
If you’re brand new to the streaming game, Streamlabs is likely to be more attractive to you—quite literally. The overall design of the software is refined and easier to learn compared to something like OBS. Streamlabs’ goal is to make setting up your stream as simple as possible, and as such has a ton of presets available for stream overlays, on-screen alerts for donations and chat, and end screens. While it’s still an advanced tool, especially when you get into the nitty-gritty of personalizing everything, Streamlabs will help make sure your streaming career starts smoothly, though you can also use it for general screen recording as well.
Streamlabs is free to download, but Streamlabs Prime offers premium themes, installable apps to add new features, and help with getting sponsors for your stream for $149 a year or $19 a month.
Best for New Streamers
A refined broadcasting tool with plenty of options to make your streaming career run smoothly.
Record Then Edit: FlashBack Express (Windows)
FlashBack Express makes it simple to turn your screen recordings into short videos. You can record the entire screen or just a part of it, then drop everything into the built-in video editing tool. The editor keeps things simple so it’s easy to learn, but you can still stitch clips together, add text, commentary, music, and simple shapes like arrows. FlashBack Express is an excellent tool for creating video tutorials or presentations, and you can even upload videos directly to YouTube from the program itself.
FlashBack Express offers a free version, but if you want some of the more advanced editing tools such as video and sound effects, you’ll need FlashBack Pro, which is a one-time cost of $49.
Record Then Edit
A screen capture tool with a video editor built-in.
Share It!: ShareX (Windows)
If your only goal for capturing clips or screenshots is to share them with others, then ShareX is the program for you. ShareX prides itself on making it easy to upload and send videos over social media sites or through simple links—you can even create GIFs using your video clips. ShareX is a great lightweight tool to have installed and makes sending those short clips to your friends as easy as possible.
And the best part? ShareX is open source, and as such, entirely free to use.
A great, lightweight capture tool that allows you to easily share videos and GIFs.
Free for Mac: QuickTime
While most of the options covered in this list have been exclusive to Windows, QuickTime is exclusive to Mac devices—which makes sense considering it was developed by Apple. This free software allows you to quickly record sections of your screen and then take those clips into the editor to trim, rearrange, and rotate. QuickTime can even connect to your iPad and iPhone as well, so you can transfer clips from those devices to your computer to create one unified video in the editor.
Free for Mac
A free capture tool for Mac devices which also includes a simple video editor.
Plenty of Tools: Snagit (Windows/Mac)
Snagit aims to be the end all be all of screenshotting software—but it has a lot of great screen recording tools as well. You can capture a single screen, region, or scrolling window, and when everything is done you can add text, edit the video clips, and audio all within the software. There are loads of great visual templates so your videos will look good without spending hours on them, and you can easily convert videos to GIFs. Snagit also has a simple tool for sharing your finished video to a ton of different sites and services including email, YouTube, and Slack.
There’s a 15-day free trial of Snagit available, but after that, you’ll need to pay a one-time price of $49.99 to use the software. It’s also compatible with TechSmith Capture—an iOS app that allows you to record your iPhone’s screen and send the footage directly to Snagit on your computer.
Plenty of Tools
A premium screen capture program with loads of in-depth features.
Built-in: Nvidia Shadowplay and AMD Radeon Relive
These last options will already be on your PC if you have a dedicated AMD Radeon or Nvidia GeForce graphics card. While these tools are different in some ways, they have the same basic selling point as built-in capturing/broadcasting tools included with your GPU. Both of these programs allow you to capture your screen and audio, broadcast that video and audio, and even save clips of a configurable amount of time at the push of a button.
In the world of broadcasting tools, both of these are very simple, but sometimes, simple is exactly what you want. If you want a program where you can just press “Go Live” to stream without worrying about it, then these are both excellent. And when it comes to recording gameplay, both of these do a fantastic job without significantly impacting performance.
Nvidia’s solution to screen capture and livestreaming.
A great recording tool from AMD for Radeon graphics cards.