March 10, 2021

Best 15 Free Desktop Recorders

9 min

10 203

  • Desktop programs
  • Built-in tools
  • Online services
  • Browser extensions

Need to record your desktop? Try Movavi Screen Recorder!

How to Record Your Desktop

When you're looking for a desktop video recorder, the options can feel limitless. Depending on the kind of software you need, what features will help you optimize your projects, and how frequently you'll need to use the built-in tools, various programs will work better on your PC. It's also good to consider how much space you have on your computer, review if your PC has built-in recording software, and weigh the options of a software download, browser extension, or online service. Every program brings opportunity and provides you with a variety of unique features. The following 15 programs are the best free desktop recorders to date.

Best Desktop Recording Software

Choosing high-quality software to record your desktop video has its ups and downs. While having a program on your PC can benefit you by providing you with the full version and working offline, it can also take up a lot of space on your computer, depending on the specific software.

Best for: capturing streaming videos, webinars and online calls

G2 rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 41 good reviews out of 44

Capture webinars, record video instructions, and grab streaming or online videos directly from your screen with Movavi Screen Recorder. You can quickly capture desktop video by hitting the record button.

Pros:

  • Adjustable parameters for recording
  • Ability to record external and internal audio separately
  • No internet connection required to record video and audio

Cons:

  • Output video has a watermark with the free desktop screen recorder
  • No possibility to add tags to your videos with the free version

Here is how to use Movavi Screen Recorder.

Step 1. Install Movavi’s Desktop Video Recorder

Download Movavi Screen Recorder, save the installation file to your hard drive, then run it and follow the instructions to install the program on your PC or Mac.

Step 2. Set the Recording Parameters

To start recording your screen activities, launch the program and hit the Screen recording button. Alternatively, you can just press F10 in Windows or ⌥ ⌘ 2 on Mac. To draw a capture frame, hold down the left mouse button and drag the cursor. You can resize and move the frame if you wish. You can record full screen or any smaller area of the screen.

The program also enables you to capture input or output sound, or both simultaneously. Just make sure the required audio source is highlighted in green to indicate it is active.

You can make your video more informative by showing the mouse cursor and keyboard actions: to set this up, click the appropriate icons in the sidebar.

Step 3. Capture Video from Your Desktop

Click REC to start capturing the software you’re working with. Click Stop to finish the recording. You can also use hotkeys: in Windows, hit F9 to pause and F10 to stop the capturing process. Mac users should press ⌥ ⌘ 1 and ⌥ ⌘ 2, respectively. You can also take snapshots during recording: hit the appropriate icon in the control panel or use a hotkey – F8 on a Windows PC or ⌥ ⌘ 3 on a Mac.

Step 4. Trim the Recording

After you stop recording, you’ll see a preview window where you can either save the resulting video in a different format right away or cut out unwanted parts with the built-in video-editing tool first. Select the point on the timeline where you want to cut, click the Cut button to divide the segments, repeat if needed. Then select each unwanted piece and hit the Delete fragment button.

Step 5. Save or Share the Video

You have two options as to what to do with your recorded video: save it on your computer to watch later or share it with anyone who wants to see the recording (or you can do both). To save the video, click Export, enter the file name, select the target folder and format, and click Save. You can also share your video, just choose one of the available options. If you’re unsure which option to choose, select Movavi Cloud: the video will be uploaded to our cloud server and will be available only through a specific link. You can send the link to anyone you want to see your video.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that Movavi Screen Recorder does not allow capture of copy-protected video and audio streams. Learn more

Best for: making professional video clips

G2 rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars, 41 good review out of 44

Equipped with a powerful API, OBS Studio allows you to customize functionality to your specific needs. Native plugins to preview scenes and adjust them before you save your final recording. Switch between the scenes with custom transitions.

Pros:

  • Works seamlessly with Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10
  • Understandable user interface
  • Built-in audio mixer

Cons:

  • Requires additional plugins to customize effects and edits
  • High on RAM consumption

Best for: screen recording and clip mixing

G2 rating: 4 out of 5 stars, 34 good reviews out of 40

Allowing you to communicate while you record, this program is some of the best desktop recording software on the market. You can capture your screen, add a webcam, and narrate your recordings to create a high-quality video.

Pros:

  • Robust video editor to overlay text, shapes, and images
  • Built-in stock program for all of your imaging needs
  • Cloud hosting so you can share your content

Cons:

  • Limited fonts and backgrounds
  • Time-consuming to build your personal content library

Best for: HD screen recording

G2 rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars, 18 good reviews out of 21

Record apps, video tutorials, webinars, live streams, Skype or Zoom calls, and much more with the IceCream Screen Recorder. Hotkeys are visible for you while recording but will not show up in the video, making adjustments like the frame of speed easy.

Pros:

  • Possibility to select a previous recording area to automate parameters
  • Possibility to convert the format of the recorded videos easily

Cons:

  • Not all codecs are supported
  • Limited editing tools with the free download

Best for: demos and educational tutorials

Capterra rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars

Going above and beyond for those looking to create tutorials or guidelines, ActivePresenter is an eLearning Authoring Software that combines screen recording with software simulation and many other tools.

Pros:

  • Intuitive and responsive design
  • Interactive variables with full-motion recording

Cons:

  • Limited effects
  • Only videos created with ActivePresenter can be imported

Best for: unlimited game capture

TechRadar rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Capture your PC screen without limits on movie length, add audio commentary while you record, and easily share the file by uploading it to YouTube with this Windows desktop recorder. Need to do some fine-tuning and share the result later? That's okay. Keep it for yourself by saving it directly to your desktop with the free download.

Pros:

  • No time limit on screen recording
  • Records both audio and video
  • Watermark-free

Cons:

  • Very simple in nature compared to other desktop recording software
  • You can't edit your recorded file via the free program

Built-In Desktop Capture Tools

Like desktop software, using the built-in tools that come with your device can provide you with advantages and disadvantages when you're looking to record content from your desktop with sound. Firstly, built-in tools save you time, don't always require a download, and they're made to be compatible with your specific device so that you have the best software. The downside to this style of desktop recorders is that they can be limiting if you want features that aren't included in their programming.

Best for: gameplay recording

PCWorld rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Xbox's Game Bar was crafted to improve workflow with Windows 10 devices. The recording software allows you to capture videos and screenshots while playing PC games. You can stream, record, and share without having to leave the comfort of your game.

Pros:

  • DVR feature in Xbox app allows you to choose the duration of your video
  • Game Mode settings so that you can optimize video quality
  • Fluid recording and internal editing

Cons:

  • Without a video card that supports AMD VCE, Intel Quick Sync H.260, or Nvidia NVENC encoders, the app may not work
  • You can only record a single app, not the entire desktop

Here’s how to record desktop video and audio:

  1. When using Windows 10, press the Windows key + G to launch Game Bar.
  2. Click REC and toggle your microphone on or off for narration.
  3. Click the REC button once more to pause or stop recording.
  4. Save, edit, and share your video.

Best for: MacOS users

MacUpdate rating: 3.6 out of 5 stars

Mac users lucked up with having QuickTime bundled with macOS. Unlike other options, it can play iTunes files and allows you to edit them through the pro subscription. However, it is not functional as a desktop recorder with Windows devices, even though you can download it.

Pros:

  • Automatically included with macOS
  • Simple interface
  • Full-screen recording

Cons:

  • Single source, macOS only
  • Only supports MOV file format

This is how to record your desktop with QuickTime:

  1. Launch the QuickTime Player.
  2. Click File and then choose the type of the recording you'd like to do.
  3. Press the downward arrow next to the Record button to adjust your mic.
  4. Click Record.
  5. Select the circular stop button in the Menu bar.
  6. Click File and Save.

Free Desktop Screen Recorders to Use Online

Online desktop capture programs make it easy to record your screen without taking up a surplus of room on your computer. You can rely on them to bring you some of the most updated features while simultaneously being able to upload content directly to your favorite platforms through many of them. The biggest con to online screen recording services is that they typically function online only, which means that you can’t utilize them if you don't have Internet access.

Best for: unlimited screen recording

TechRadar rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

As a smart screen recorder, this web-based app allows you to capture video and audio without having to download screencast software. One-click recording and adjustable parameters ensure you can record anything on your screen without limitations. Additionally, you can add your webcam to the screen for tutorials, streaming, and more.

Pros:

  • Record both audio and video simultaneously
  • Edit in real-time
  • Cloud-based, so you never lose content again

Cons:

  • Download required before you can access all editing features
  • Cannot record on a second monitor

How to record desktop with Apowersoft:

  1. Click Start Recording on the webpage.
  2. Adjust the parameters.
  3. Click Record.
  4. Choose to save the file to your desktop or upload it.

Best for: quick no-download recording

Trustpilot rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Capture your desktop and save a video in HD without any trouble. Movavi's Screen Capture solution brings you cutting-edge service so that you can capture your screen in just a few clicks. No installation is needed, and you can record sound and video without having to switch between multiple tabs.

Pros:

  • Record both screen and webcam simultaneously
  • Ability to add your voice while recording internal audio as needed
  • Supported by all major browsers

Cons:

  • Watermarks video
  • Limited features until you download the app

Best for: instant screen recording

Want to know how to record desktop audio and video? Record instantly with this online screen recorder. Features include quick record so that you never have to install extensions or download heavy programming, the ability to record your entire screen with multiple windows, and more.

Pros:

  • No registration, sign up, or installation
  • Minimal learning curve
  • Works with various platforms

Cons:

  • Cloud storage is not included
  • Editing features are minimal

How to Record Your Desktop Video in a Browser

Looking for new ways on how to record desktop video with sound? Browser extensions allow you a best of both worlds opportunity. Depending on which browser you use, you can quickly begin recording without the hefty fallback of using all of your PC's storage. However, when you're away from an internet connection, or you only use one specific browser, your desktop recorder could be limited in use or not usable at all.

Best for: educational tutorials

Chrome web store rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars

Created as an extension that provides video messaging, Loom allows you to record your screen quickly and share the video with others via link. You can trim and edit your recordings, as well as track who watches your videos and see when they watched it.

Pros:

  • Quickshare videos and recordings
  • Fast processing
  • Notifications when somebody views your video

Cons:

  • Disruptive recording if you lose internet
  • Limit of 5 minutes recording time without the full version

How to use Loom:

  1. Install the Chrome extension.
  2. Click on the extension's icon when you want to record a new video.
  3. Toggle between screen and webcam or choose to record both.
  4. Click Start recording.
  5. Save and process your video to share it or save it to a folder.

Best for: HD screen recording

Chrome web store rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Designed to be simple, Screencastify allows you to record, edit and share HD videos without hassle. The Chrome extension automatically syncs with your Google Drive and uploads your content so that you never lose your recordings.

Pros:

  • Syncs with Google Drive
  • Ability to record a single tab or your entire screen
  • Live screen options

Cons:

  • Can't add a webcam while recording
  • Limited to Google Chrome

Best for: making screencasts and educational demos

Chrome web store rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

For full webpage compatibility, you can use Nimbus to capture, screenshot, edit, and annotate video conveniently.

Pros:

  • Record desktop screen, voiceover, and webcam all at once
  • Interactive interface
  • Integrates directly with Google Drive

Cons:

  • Limited to browser
  • You must review updated notes in the extension before using new tools

Best for: product demo or how-to tutorials

Chrome web store rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

Compared to other Google Chrome extensions, this screen recorder is loaded with powerful tools and even allows you to edit content while offline. The browser extension will enable you to choose video dimensions, share or save content files, and annotate recordings with ease.

Pros:

  • Runs offline
  • Quick switch between screen capture and screen recording features
  • Instantly sharable content

Cons:

  • Limited to recording your desktop, current tab, or camera only
  • Not cross-platform supported

Comparing Screen Recorders

Still uncertain on which desktop recording software is right for you? Here are the basics of each program to help you decide which software meets your needs the best.

Software

Supported Formats

Pros

Cons

Movavi Screen RecorderMP4, AVI, MOV, MKV, GIF, MP3, PNG, BMP, JPGRecords internal and external audioRequires the full version for all features
OBS StudioFLV, MKVIntuitive audio mixer, customizableAdditional plugins needed
Screencast-O-MaticMP4, MOV, WebMSharable content, Cloud hostingLimited editing tools
IceCream Screen RecorderWebM, MP4, AVI, and MOVFull-screen adjustable parametersLimited recording time
Active­PresenterAVI, MP4, MKV, WebM, HTML5Records internal and external audio simultaneouslySteep learning curve
Flashback ExpressMP4, AVI, WMVSimple to useNo editing recorded files with the free software
Game BarPNG, MP4No download neededLimited features
QuickTimeMOVMinimal learning curveLimited to macOS devices
Apowersoft Online RecorderMP4, WMV, AVI, FLV, MPEG, VOB, ASF, and GIFRecord video and audio in one goDownload required to use the full version
Screen­capture.comMP4, AVI, MOV, MKV, GIF, MP3, PNG, BMP, JPGRecord for long durationsWatermark on videos
Screenapp.ioWebMNo registration or downloadNo cloud storage
LoomMP4, MOV, AVI, WMV, WebMInstantly sharableLimited features in free version
Screen­castifyMP4, WebM, GIF, MP3Live stream capabilitiesLimited to Chrome
Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video RecorderGIF, MP4Directly connects to Google DriveLimited to browser
Awesome Screenshot & Screen RecorderWebM, MP4Works offlineSteep learning curve

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I record my desktop?

When you need to know how to record desktop audio or video Movavi Screen Recorder makes it simple.

  1. Install and launch the program.
  2. Adjust your parameters, alter your mic and webcam settings as needed, and click REC.
  3. Edit the video as needed.
  4. Save your file or share it.

How do I record my desktop on Windows 10?

Movavi Screen Recorder allows you to record your Windows 10 desktop with minimal clicks. Once you download and launch the program, all you have to do is save your file.

What are the best desktop recorders?

Depending on your specific needs, what device you're using to record, and what tools you'll need to edit and share your recordings, you may find that one desktop recorder fits your list of necessities more. Below is a list of the best desktop programs, online services, browser extensions, and built-in software for you.

Desktop Software

  • Movavi Screen Recorder
  • OBS Studio
  • ScreenCast-O-Matic
  • IceCream Screen Recorder
  • ActivePresenter
  • Flashback Express

Browser Extensions

  • Game Bar
  • QuickTime

Online Services

  • Apowersoft Online Recorder
  • Screencapture.com
  • Screenapp.io

Built-in Software

  • Loom
  • Screencastify
  • Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder
  • Awesome Screenshot & Screen Recorder

Disclaimer: Please be aware that Movavi Screen Recorder does not allow capture of copy-protected video and audio streams. Learn more