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How to use Windows 10's Game bar to record a game or even your screen

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Gaming is one of Microsoft's areas of focus in Windows 10, with features like a preinstalled Xbox app for connecting with Xbox One and Xbox 360 users, Game DVR for taking screenshots and recording gameplay clips, and support for streaming Xbox One games to a Windows 10 computer or tablet.

Windows 10 includes a "Game bar" that users can bring up with a simple shortcut, Windows key + G, for quick access to gaming features. The bar features five buttons (the small panel to the right of the bar can be used to drag it around the screen):

  1. Xbox app shortcut
  2. generate recording of the previous 30 seconds, à la Xbox One's "Xbox, record that" — but only if background recording is enabled (hotkey: Win + Alt + G)
  3. take a screenshot (hotkey: Win + Alt + PrtScn)
  4. start/stop recording (hotkey: Win + Alt + R)
  5. Game DVR settings

Windows 10 lets you use the Game bar to record gameplay footage and take screenshots of Windows PC games. You can also use it as a screen recorder, although that functionality is somewhat limited. The Game bar generates screenshots in PNG format and videos in MP4 format, and drops them in the following folder: C:\Users\[your username]\Videos\Captures. From there, you can do whatever you want with the files — upload them to YouTube, share them on Facebook and so on.

Windows 10 Game bar image 800

Before you start using the Game bar, it's a good idea to hop into the Xbox app and configure settings for the Game DVR feature. You can enable or disable it entirely, and replace the default keyboard shortcuts with hotkeys of your choosing. Oddly, the app doesn't let you change the output folder for videos and screenshots. For video quality and resolution, you can select "standard" or "high" — there's nothing more specific than those terms, unfortunately.

Windows 10's Game DVR will record audio by default; you can set the bitrate to 96, 128, 160 or 192 kbps, or turn off audio capture. And if you enable background recording — which uses more system resources — you can set the maximum clip length to 30 minutes, one hour or two hours.

Using the Game bar to capture a game

Recording gameplay footage is the primary use case for the Game bar, and it works as advertised: Press Win + G to bring up the bar, then Win + Alt + R to start recording and the same command to stop. If background recording is enabled, you can use the Win + Alt + G command to spit out a clip of the last 30 seconds of gameplay.

However, in tests with three different games, we were unable to get the Game bar to show up if we were playing the game in fullscreen mode. Microsoft says that you can "usually still record" footage even if the Game bar doesn't appear, but that didn't work for us. We were only able to use the Game bar if we could see it, and the Game bar only popped up when we were playing in windowed mode.

At that point, we had no problems. When you start a recording, a small red box appears in the top right corner of the screen to indicate that you're recording and display elapsed time. (You can hide or show the timer with Win + Alt + T.) Windows spits out an MP4 file within a second or two of ending the recording.

You can also take a screenshot with the command Win + Alt + Print Screen. Both videos and screenshots are saved to your computer with the name of the game and a timestamp in the filename. They also show up in the Game DVR section of the Xbox app, from where you can share them with your Xbox Live friends.

Using the Game bar to capture your screen

Windows 10's Game bar can be used as a screen capture tool, a function that has required third-party software until now. But it only works within an app: Pressing Win + G on your desktop or in a file folder won't do anything. Either way, when you attempt to bring up the Game bar for the first time in a particular app, a pop-up asks you to confirm that that's what you want to do and click a check box saying, "Yes, this is a game." (Don't feel bad about telling Windows this white lie.)

The Game bar doesn't work properly with all apps, and it's unclear why. We were able to record a clip or two inside Adobe Photoshop CC 2015, but when we tried to reproduce that, an error message came up saying, "Something went wrong and we couldn't change your settings. Try again later." In our testing, Game DVR worked reliably in Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Slack's desktop app, Notepad and Spotify.

When used in an app, the Game bar generates a clip at the resolution of the size of the app's window; the mouse cursor doesn't show up. If you resize the window or switch to a different window, Game DVR immediately stops recording. So while the feature isn't as helpful as Windows users might have hoped — it won't completely replace third-party screen capture software — it'll do in a pinch.

For more on Windows 10, check out our guide on how to customize the operating system's privacy settings to your liking.

Update: It turns out that it is possible to choose the directory where Game DVR clips are saved, but it's a system-level change, according to this tutorial from WDA_Punisher on YouTube. You have to change your computer's default "Videos" directory in the system settings.

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