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I sometimes need to record screen activity in Windows for a tutorial, demonstration, or online class. Whether you're creating a presentation, devising a how-to video, or cooking up something for YouTube, you may also want to record certain screen activity in Windows.
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A variety of third-party tools can handle that job -- some free and some paid. But rather than download and install an external program, you can take advantage of a couple of features built right into Windows.
Available in Windows 10 and 11, the Xbox Game Bar video capture tool is designed to record gameplay on your PC. But it's a versatile tool in that it will capture just about any other type of screen activity.
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With Xbox Game Bar, you can easily record your screen, turn on the microphone to grab your voice or other audio, and then save the recording to your PC. You're then able to see and manage all the recorded clips within the Game Bar interface and play any specific video. The video itself is saved as an MP4 file, so you can easily modify or spruce it up using any video editor. Here's how this works.
But there's another option, at least if you use Windows 11. The latest update for Windows 11 has spruced up the Snipping Tool. Once a simple screen capture utility, the Snipping Tool can now record any screen activity and save the recording as an MP4 video file. Let's check out both options.
In Windows 10 or 11, go to Settings > Gaming > Captures. The screens look different between Windows 10 and 11, but the settings are all the same.
By default, your screen recordings are saved in your user folder under Videos\Captures, but you can change the location if you wish. Next, you can opt to record activity that has already occurred.
In Windows 10, turn on the switch for Record in the background while I'm playing a game. In Windows 11, turn on the switch for Record what happened. You can then determine the duration for background recording. Click the dropdown menu for Record the last to set the time to anywhere from 15 seconds to 10 minutes.
Next, check the boxes for Record even when my PC isn't plugged in and Record while wireless projecting my screen to enable both options.
Also: How much RAM does your Windows 11 PC need?
Click the dropdown menu for Max recording length to set it to 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, or 4 hours.
To capture and control the audio during a screen recording, turn on the switch for Record audio when I record a game or Capture audio when recording a game. You're then able to set the quality of the audio, the recording volume for your microphone, and the volume for your PC.
The recommended frame rate is 30 frames per second. You can bump that up to 60fps, but 30fps should suffice for most recordings. The default video quality is set to standard, though you can change that to high if necessary. Finally, you can turn off the switch for Capture mouse cursor when recording a game if you don't typically record the mouse cursor.
Next, several keyboard shortcuts are available to control Xbox Game Bar. In Windows 10, you can view and even change the shortcuts in the Settings screen. For this, go to Settings > Gaming > Xbox Game Bar.
Also: How to control Windows 11 with your voice
In Windows 11, you have to open the Game Bar interface to view and modify the shortcuts. The following shortcuts are ones you'll want to keep in mind:
Now, let's display the Game Bar and activate it to record your screen activity. Set up the activity you wish to record. When ready, press Windows key+G. The top toolbar and the Capture pane for Game Bar should appear.
Also: How much RAM does your Windows 11 PC need?
The top toolbar lets you show or hide the different menus and panes for Game Bar, including Widget, Audio, Capture, Performance, Resources, and Xbox Social. At a minimum, you'll want to see the Capture pane so you can start, control, and stop the capture. You may also want to see the Audio pane if you're including audio in the capture and the Performance pane if the activity you're performing is resource intensive.
To start a recording, tap the Record button in the Capture pane. Then perform the screen activity you want to capture. A small recording panel appears on the screen.
When you've completed the activity being captured, press the stop button on the small panel to stop the recording. A message pops up telling you that the game clip was recorded.
Click that message or press Windows key+G to return to the Game Bar interface. A Gallery window appears with the name, date, and time of the recording, and the video available for playback. Tap the Play button in the viewer.
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From there you can pause the video and raise or lower the volume.
To kick off a recording without launching Game Bar first, press Windows key+Alt+R. The small recording panel appears on the screen. Click the stop button when finished and then open Game Bar. Your new recording now appears in the Gallery window for you to play. If you need to capture the last 30 seconds of screen activity, press Windows key+ Alt+G.
To work with one of your recorded videos directly, go to c:\users\[username]\Videos\Captures. You'll see your videos saved as MP4 files, which you can open in a video editor or other application to play or modify them.
Finally, you can tweak several settings for Game Bar. Press Windows key+G. On the top toolbar, click the Settings icon. Here, you can view and change any of the shortcut keys, modify the visual theme of the Game Bar interface and the transparency of the menus and panes, and control how and when audio is recording as you capture your screen activity.
To record your screen in Windows 11 with the Snipping Tool, you'll need a certain build for the OS. To check, go to Settings > System > About. In the Windows specifications section, the build should be 22621.1344 or higher. If you qualify, you're good to go. If not, head to Windows Update to snag the latest updates for the OS, then to the Microsoft Store and your library to grab the latest updates for your Store apps.
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Next, set up the window or app that you want to record. Click the Start button, go to All Apps, and then click the shortcut for Snipping Tool. Click the Camera icon on the toolbar and then select the New button.
Select the area you want to record and then click Start on the Snipping Tool toolbar.
After the recording starts, perform the screen activity you want to capture. Click the Pause button on the toolbar to take a break and then click the Record button to restart. When done, click the Stop button.
The recording automatically starts playing in a Snipping Tool preview window. From there, click the Share icon to share the file with a person or app. Click the Save button to save the recording as an MP4 video file.