Fancy becoming the next PewDiePie, showing other people how to play big name games on YouTube? Would you like to make demos to show off your apps, or to teach others how to use specific software? Then you need a screen recorder.
The simplest screen recorders simply capture what's on your screen and save it in AVI format, but the more advanced free tools also offer editing, additional audio, picture-in-picture and on-screen drawing. These are our favorites.
An open source screen recorder more flexible than most paid-for tools
Many free screen recorders are very limited in what they do, because they're intended as adverts for paid-for products. Not CamStudio. This open source software is free to download and use for whatever purpose you see fit.
CamStudio is designed to record in AVI format, which you can also convert to Flash video. You can adjust the video quality and capture the entire screen or just part of it. The app also offers picture-in-picture video and anti-aliased captions.
This flexibility and absence of watermarks or time restrictions makes CamStudio the best free screen recorder around.
With high-resolution recording, FRAPS is the go-to choice for gamers
Designed specifically for recording games, FRAPS is free to use if you don't need your clips to be longer than 30 seconds. That's not enough for a Minecraft tutorial, of course, but it's fine for shorter clips - and with a maximum possible resolution of 7,680 x 4,800 it's capable of recording even cutting-edge graphics.
It's the most popular screen recorders for Let's Play videos, but its developers recommend using Windows Live Movie Maker to convert your clips into a web-friendly format, which is an extra step we'd rather avoid.
Designed for gameplay, with hardware acceleration built in
Another screen recorder aimed primarily at gamers, Bandicam boasts an interface reminiscent of 2001 A Space Odyssey's HAL and is packed with features including hardware acceleration and an overlay showing frames per second.
It's a shame that the free version can only record 10 minutes of footage at a time and the resulting recordings are watermarked. Bandicam is otherwise superb and you'd be hard pressed to find a superior capture tool for games. A worthy rival to FRAPS.
Record, annotate and upload directly to YouTube without leaving the app
The marketing for this screen recorder is a bit excitable - it compares ezvid's video editing tools to expensive paid-for packages without mentioning that free apps like Avidemux boast the same options - but if you're looking for a straightforward screen recorder then ezvid is very easy to use.
It enables you to edit your recordings, add slides, change the speed and upload directly to YouTube, and you can draw on screen or turn typed text into spoken audio. This screen recorder is particularly popular with Minecraft players.
5. Rylstim Screen Recorder
Not ideal for gamers, but a great screen recorder for software tutorials
Screen recording doesn't get much simpler than this: launch Rylstim Screen Recorder, click 'Start record', and press F9 when you're done.
It's not one for would-be games vloggers - there's no support for sound recording - and it doesn't include any editing tools, but there's a good range of export formats and you can always add audio later in another free app.
Rylstim Screen Recorder is ad-funded, but the advertisements are just small ones at the bottom of the options window.
6. FlashBack Express
Capture what you want, when you want with scheduled recording
FlashBack Express is free to use, but you need to request a registration key from its developer to download it. Scheduled recording is the main attraction here, enabling you to start capturing your screen at a certain time or (more usefully) when you open a particular program.
It doesn't restrict on the amount of footage you can capture at once, but you can set your own maximum time or file size to avoid creating huge, unwieldy videos. You can also break a long video into manageable chunks.
Not all of FlashBack's features are included in the main screen recorder – its batch converter and player are bundled as standalone apps.
7. Icecream Screen Recorder
Save your recordings in a format of your choice, or upload to YouTube
Like all of its developer's free software, Icecream Screen Recorder is beautifully designed and a piece of cake to use. You can record footage from a webcam as well as your screen, add annotations and doodles, and upload the resulting videos directly to YouTube.
Some functions (like the ability to record the area immediately around the mouse pointer) are only available in the premium version, but there's more than enough in the free edition for most purposes.
It's a shame that the premium-only features aren't highlighted in the interface – you only find out they're restricted when you try to select one and are presented with a nag screen.
8. eLecta Screen Recorder
Put yourself in the frame with eLecta's picture-in-picture recording
eLecta Screen Recorder's killer feature is picture-in-picture recording, enabling you to capture your jumps and screams as you make your way through the latest survival horror title, or calmly walk new users through your newly developed personal finance app. You can also watermark your recordings with a custom image, and choose whether to include the cursor and taskbar.
eLecta's only drawback is its shortage of export settings; you can only use AVI format and there's no choice of encoding options. If you want a different format, you'll need to convert it using a video editing app like Handbrake.
Easy to use for quick and simple screen recording tasks
TinyTake is a little screen recorder that makes some big promises: not only is it free, it claims to be the best of its breed. It enables you to capture the whole screen or just a region for up to 120 minutes, to annotate the video and to share the results online - provided you have a MangoApps account.
It's a well crafted app, but it's best suited to educational and business use where the lack of export options isn't an issue.
An older version of a premium screen recorder, now yours free
The older edition is a simple little screen recorder much like eLecta, which captures the action from your screen and saves it in AVI format. Unlike eLecta, however, picture-in-picture recording isn't an option.
Version 4.0 can be downloaded as a free 21-day trial. It has a more modern interface than its predecessor, neatly minimizing itself to the taskbar while it's active, and supports input from your PC's microphone.
It's not aimed at gamers, but works well for software tutorials thanks to its support for text annotations and on-screen doodles.