Whether you’re creating a presentation, devising a how-to video, or cooking up something for YouTube, you might want to record your 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 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 that will capture just about any other type of screen activity.
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 can then manage all the recorded clips within the Game Bar interface and play any video. The video itself is saved as an MP4 file, so you can modify or spruce it up using any video editor. We’ll show you this process in detail below.
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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.
How to record any type of screen activity in Windows with Xbox Game Bar
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.
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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.
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Click the dropdown menu for Max recording length to set it to 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, or 4 hours.
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.
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.
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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:
- Windows key+G: Open Xbox Game Bar.
- Windows key+Alt+R: Start or stop recording.
- Windows key+ Alt+G: Record the last 30 seconds of screen activity.
- Windows key+Alt+B: Turn HDR on or off.
- Windows key+Alt+PrtScn: Take a static screenshot of your screen activity.
How to run the Game Bar
1. Set up the activity you want to record
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.
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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.
2. 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.
3. Stop and view your recording
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.
4. How to record 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.
5. How to work with recorded video 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.
6. How to tweak Game Bar settings
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.
How to record your screen in Windows 11 with the Snipping Tool
1. Check your OS version
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.
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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.
2. Set up the window or app 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.
3. Focus on the right area
Select the area you want to record and then click Start on the Snipping Tool toolbar.
4. Perform the activity
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.
5. Share or save the file
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.