The best free screen recorders let you capture webcams, windows, browser tabs, and your whole desktop - whatever budget you’re working to.
Popular for recording webinars, meetings, webinars, training, and even gaming, the best screen recorders often have advanced features and premium effects such as transitions, video editing, and 4K recording.
But you don’t need to invest in expensive programs. Free screen recording software come equipped with all the tools you need to let viewers see what you see. Some are really simple apps to run, but more powerful free screen recording software may need some set-up time on your best business laptop. If you’re creating more complex projects, like cutting social media clips or editing videos for YouTube, it’s worth noting that some of the best video editing software feature built-in screen capture apps, too.
To help you find the right screen cap app, we’ve tested the best free screen recorders for Windows and Mac. As part of our review process, we've assessed ease-of-use, speed and performance, additional tools like the best free video editors, and optional paid-for upgrades.
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The best free screen recorders in 2023
If you’re looking for free game recording software, OBS Studio is easily the best free screen recorder for you. Unlike the hugely popular FRAPS (which only lets you record for 30 seconds at a stretch unless you’ve bought a license, and applies a watermark to the resulting footage), OBS Studio is open source, and completely free to use without restrictions.
OBS Studio supports both streaming and recording in high definition, with no restrictions on the number or length of your creations. You can stream live to Twitch or YouTube gaming, save projects and come back to them later, or encode your footage in FLV format and save it locally.
Because OBS Studio can record directly from your graphics card, it’s able to screen capture games running in full-screen mode (many other screen recorders can only record if the game is windowed), with customizable hotkeys to control the recording. OBS Studio can also make full use of multi-core CPUs for improved performance and can record at 60FPS (or even higher).
However, all those fantastic features come at the cost of a steep learning curve. Newcomers may be baffled by the often overwhelming interface. When we tested out OBS Studio, we found a few glitches and frustrations, while "it might feel a bit overwhelming when you get started, it possesses many tools to help you create great content. You just need to get used to the interface." For a simpler take on OBS Studio however, we recommend checking out Streamlabs.
Still, it's a minor gripe for an otherwise top-free screen recording software. OBS Studio might take a little while to set it up exactly how you want, but the incredibly powerful tool is by far the best free screen recorder for gaming.
Read our full OBS Studio review
NCH Software’s Debut Video Capture is one of the best free screen recorders - for home users, at least. Commercial users will need to pick up a lifetime license or a subscription that, compared to similar products from rivals, is at the inexpensive end of the spectrum.
Debut is a multi-platform screen recording tool to capture your computer’s screen, and other connected and compatible devices. And, in the main, it delivers precisely the experience you’d expect.
During our testing, we felt the screen recording software worked very well, letting users capture audio and video from multiple sources with relative ease.
The interface might feel a little antiquated, but it comes with a wealth of features and customization options. The screen recorder app captures all selected devices separately, making it much easier to edit afterwards. However, you’ll have to do that with video editing software, as Debut offers little in the way of editing capabilities, aside from trimming.
There is a downside to the tool. While reviewing Debut Video Capture, we sadly encountered a major issue on the Mac, unable to find a way to directly record the system audio. Every option we tried failed, aside from recording it via a microphone - which led to much lower quality. We did not encounter this problem on a PC.
You can download the software free for non-commercial use, or pick up the Home edition ($35), the Pro edition ($40 for personal and commercial use). You can also subscribe to get Pro for just over $3 per month.
Read our full Debut Video Capture review
ShareX is a free PC-only screen recorder and capture tool, and you’ll definitely get Millennium Falcon vibes when using it: it may not look like much, but it's got it where it counts. Underneath a sparse interface lies numerous tools that can help you make your screenshot shine.
These include being able to select the exact part of the screen you’d like to preserve, by using rectangle, ellipsis, and even freehand tools. You also have a myriad of options for marking and annotating your captured images. These include coloured borders, lines and arrows to point to specific areas, text boxes, sequential numbers, etc. You even have the ability to pixelate or blur sensitive sections you’d rather not share, or use a magnifying tool to zoom into a designated area.
Screen capture is also possible, but you have to download specialized software first, and the audio settings aren’t switched on by default. Shame the interface is so sparse and unappealing. But it’s a small price to pay for so much power and versatility.
Read our full ShareX review
EaseUS RecExperts is one of the best screen recorders for Windows and Mac on the market. It’s quick, it’s easy to use, and it’s full to the brim with professional screen-capture features.
When we tested out the software, we were impressed that RecExperts effortlessly captures your screen, webcam, system sounds, and audio from built-in and USB microphones. And it’s simple to select what you’re recording during set-up.
Offering up to 4K/60fps captures, the free screen recorder has plenty of utility for delivering webinars, presentations, and even recording games.
However, while we highly rated the features and tools, we found the editing abilities were lacking. Once you’ve recorded your clip, basic options include trimming and watermarking clips, and adding intros and outros. In this area, it’s not unlike FlashBack Express.
But the big issue is the limitation imposed on the free version.
Without a subscription, RecExperts recordings are capped at one minute. And useful tools like the excellent recording scheduler are locked behind that paywall. Great, then, for quickly showing a friend or colleague how to perform a particular task, but not for longer videos.
Read our full EaseUS RecExperts review
Screencast-O-Matic’s Screen Recorder is an interesting free screen recorder as it offers a lot for free: you can easily record your screen, webcam or both with just a few clicks, and apply callouts live, as you perform your talk. The editing is extremely minimal, mind.
We found the screen recording app simple to use. Unfortunately, the post-edit and export experience is a bit of a let down. After editing and exporting your screen capture, the footage is automatically and instantly discarded as the app shuts down. It’s an unnecessary flaw in an otherwise easy-to-use screen recorder for your browser.
The free screen recorder should service the needs of most casual users. However, three monthly and annual subscription packages are available, adding more functionality for professional or commercial use.
These paid-for upgrades let you remove the watermark from screen recordings, as well as the time -limited captures. You’ll also be gaining more video editing tools, and access to an online media library. The more you pay, the more you get.
Higher subscription plans add stock media, unlimited cloud hosting, video quizzes and polls, and premium content from Shutterstock. If you need online collaboration tools, there’s Team Business for commercial use.
Read our full Screencast-O-Matic free screen recorder review
FlashBack Express offers users a free screen recorder for PC without a watermark. We found the tools work exactly as you’d expect. The interface is pared back and easy to understand, with a big ‘Start Recording’ button when you’re ready to begin.
You can also record your webcam at the same time as your screen, as well as external audio. You even have the ability to crop what you’d like to record, or just choose a specific window.
There are limitations (it is free, after all), such as the recording size (only 720p), and your post-editing capabilities are practically non-existent: all you can do is trim the start and end of your video.
During our review, we found this the real low point of otherwise acceptable software, saying, “calling that editing is a pretty generous way of referring to trimming. That’s right: you can trim the start and end of your recording and that’s it. These are the only options at your disposal. At this point, you can understand why FlashBack Pro might become a tempting alternative.”
When it comes to exporting, you have access to the usual online storage options such as Google Drive and DropBox, and you also have the ability to upload straight to YouTube. You can also save the file to your computer.
If you need to record something quickly and don’t mind the lack of bells and whistles, we found FlashBack Express is one of the best free screen recorders on the market.
Read our full FlashBack Express review
No prizes for guessing what Apowersoft Free Online Screen Recorder does. The tool offers an interesting take on the screen-recording concept: capture and control recordings direct from your browser. Everything from screen, webcam, microphone and system audio - from it. It sounds great in theory, and would make this a multi-platform tool.
Sadly it doesn’t work as well in practice. When we tested the free screen recorder online, we encountered problem after problem across multiple browsers on Mac and PC. In our review, we felt that “when it works, it records well, but the file format causes headaches.”
Lack of default .mp4 exports, no editing tools, and means ultimately, it’s great in a pinch - if you can get it working - but we don’t think it’s ready for primetime: it’s too glitchy in its current iteration. And that’s a shame, because its promise of an easy-to-use online screen recorder is appealing.
The company also offers ApowerREC, a screen recorder app for Mac and PC. This fixes most complaints we have with the online version. But, like EaseUS RecExperts, the free trial only lets you record one-minute long videos.
To make longer recordings, you’ll need to take out a monthly or annual subscription, or buy a lifetime license. The lifetime license offers the best value for money for heavy users, as the one-off payment includes perpetual free updates and technical support.
Read our full Apowersoft Free Online Screen Recorder review
Best free screen recorders: FAQs
How to choose the best free screen recorder for you
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When choosing which free screen recorder is best, make sure to look out for:
+ Easy experience - make sure the video recording software is straightforward to set up and use, no matter how advanced. Don’t let it get in the way of your workflow.
+ Resolution - the best free screen recorder software will output in high-definition.
+ Recording - not all screen recorders are equal. For example, the best free streaming software for gaming might not work as the best video conferencing tools.
+ Editing - if you need more post-production polish, some free screen recorders have video editor capabilities, and even the best video editors for beginners like Clipchamp include built-in screen recorders.
+ Output - even free screen recorders should offer a range of file formats, like MP4, MOV, and GIFs.
Start by understanding what it is you’re going to capture. Is it a professional video capture for meetings, a screen recorder for YouTube, or even streaming via game recording software?
Decide if you need proper, professional-grade software, like OBS Studio, or whether recording from your browser will suffice. Next, consider what devices you’re capturing from - you’ll find loads of screen recorders for Windows and Mac, but also Android and iOS apps. Some of the best free screen recorders effortlessly capture webcam footage, too. Ideal for streamers and webinar hosts.
Finally, think about long-term use. If you’re likely to outgrow free options, it might be worth choosing a package that lets you upgrade to a screen recorder without watermarks, like FlashBack Express or Debut Video Capture.
What is the best free screen recorder?
OBS Studio is our pick for best free screen recorder and streaming software overall. After testing, we found not only can the open-source software record everything happening on your desktop, but also capture footage from your webcam and use it for picture-in-picture video, and even record audio from a microphone. This free screen recording software gives you the option to save captures in a format of your choice, or stream them via the service of your choice.
For a long time, it’s been one of the best free screen recorders for Windows 10 - and it’s also available on macOS and Windows 11, through the redesigned Microsoft Store. While OBS Studio is an ideal choice for professionals and gamers alike, however, it’s worth exploring which other free screen capture tool is best for your needs. So, let’s say you only need to capture a few minutes of footage - more straightforward free screen recorder software might serve you just as well.
Whether you're making an on-screen tutorial, recording a Let's Play video, or capturing a video conference call, there are solutions for everyone.
How we test the best free screen recorders
When we review the best free screen recorders out there, we evaluate the user experience, the performance, the output, and the audience and use.
Even if the learning curve is steep, it should be clear how users can start recording their screens - with additional support if necessary. Upon export, we test the quality of outputs, reviewing the video resolution, file formats, and overall quality for lags or stuttering.
Free screen recording software must be unambiguously free. Users shouldn’t have to navigate complex charges and hidden fees.
The very best screen recorders are versatile tools, letting you capture and record everything from meetings to gaming. However, we recognize that individual screen recording apps may be built for specific purposes, and judge these tools on how well they deliver for, say, professionals in a business environment or YouTube creators and streamers.
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