How to Make Screencasts With Windows 10 Xbox Game DVR

Sometimes the only way to explain something is to show how it's done. That's especially true when it comes to computers or really anything technical. For those times, recording a screencast can be very helpful. Windows 10's built-in Xbox app has a tool that can be unofficially used to record screencasts. I say unofficially, because technically it's there to record games, but that's not the feature's only potential use.

What is a Screencast?

The Windows 10 Desktop

Ian Paul 

A screencast is a recorded video of your Windows desktop. It can be used to show how to carry out an action or set of actions inside a program, or just to provide visuals during a talk. If you wanted to teach someone how to convert a document in Microsoft Word from DOCX to DOC, for example, you could record a screencast showing how to do that.

Screencasts aren't just instructional, however. If you're having a problem with a program on your PC recording a screencast (when possible) can help someone else figure out how to fix it.

Before Windows 10 it wasn't so easy to create a screencast. It either cost a lot of money to purchase a program that did it, or you had to use a free solution that was better suited to technical users.

In Windows 10 that changed. Microsoft's Game DVR feature in the Xbox app allows you to record your screen. As I said earlier, Game DVR is officially designed to record moments of gameplay for hardcore PC gamers. They can then share their best moments on Twitch, YouTube, Plays.TV, and Xbox Live. Nevertheless, the Game DVR feature can also capture non-gaming activity.

Now, this solution is not perfect. There may be programs for which the Game DVR doesn't work at all, for example. The Game DVR also can't capture your entire desktop such as the taskbar, Start button, and so on. It will only work inside a single program, which makes sense since it was designed to record gaming activity.

Getting Started

Windows 10 Start menu

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Open the Xbox app in Windows 10 by clicking on the Start button. Then scroll down the menu until you get to the X section and select Xbox.

If you don't want to scroll down through the entire menu you can also click the first letter heading you see, which should be the # sign or A. The Start menu will then show you the alphabet. Select X and you'll jump right to that section of the alphabetized apps list.

Check Xbox Game DVR Settings

Windows 10 Xbox Game DVR Settings

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Once the Xbox Windows app is open, select the Settings cog at the bottom of the left margin. Then in the Settings screen, select the Game DVR tab towards the top of the screen, and at the top of the Game DVR section turn on the slider labeled Record game clips and screenshots using Game DVR. If it's already activated you don't have to do anything.

Open The Game Bar

The Game Bar in Windows 10

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For our example, we're going to create the aforementioned instructional video on how to turn a DOCX Word document into a regular DOC file. To do this we'd open Microsoft Word and the DOCX file we want to convert.

Next, tap Win+G on the keyboard to summon what's called the Game Bar. This is just the Game DVR interface for recording what's on your screen. The first time you call up the Game Bar it may take a little longer than you'd expect, but it will show up.

Once the Game Bar appears, it will ask "Do you want to open Game Bar?" Below that is a check box confirming that the program you're using is in fact a game. Obviously it's not, but Windows doesn't know any better. Just check the box confirming it's a game and move on.

Record Your Windows Screen

The Game Bar in Windows 10

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Now that we've told Windows that it's looking at a game we are free to start recording. As you can see in my example, the Game Bar looks very similar to the control panel of a VCR or DVD player.

Hit the big red button and Game Bar starts recording your every action within Word. The Game Bar has a checkbox that allows you to record your PC's microphone if you'd also like to narrate your actions. In my tests, if I had any music playing while recording, the Game DVR would take that audio and completely ignore my speech on the microphone. 

Keep Recording, and Carry On

Game Bar miini-player in Windows 10

 Ian Paul

Now we just go through the motions to create our instructional video of converting a DOCX file to DOC. During this process the Game Bar will appear as a "mini-player" in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. It will sit there to get out of the way and to show how long your current recording is. It's a little tricky to see the mini-player since it kind of blends in with the rest of your screen. Nevertheless, when you've finished recording your actions hit the red square icon in the mini-player.

Back to the Xbox App

The Xbox App

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Once your video is recorded, you can access it in the Xbox app. We'll also discuss how to access these recordings directly via File Explorer.

For now, however, click the Game DVR icon in the left margin of the app--at this writing it looked like a film cell with a game controller in front of it.

In this section of the Xbox app you'll see all your recorded clips. Each video will automatically be titled with the name of the file you recorded, the program name, and the date and time. That means if you recorded an untitled document in Word on December 5 at 4 PM the video title would be something like "Document 1 - Word 12_05_2016 16_00_31 PM.mp4."

Making Adjustments to Your Video

Xbox app's Game DVR in Windows 10

 Ian Paul

Click on the video you want to use and it will expand within the Xbox app so that you can play it. From here you can trim the video if there are bits you'd like to leave out. You can also delete it, rename the video, and upload it to Xbox Live if you'd like--though I'm not sure your gamer friends are all that interested in learning how to convert a Word document.

If you'd like to email this video to someone or just upload it to YouTube click the Open folder button below the video and it will take you to where the videos are saved. For most people that location should be Videos > Captures.

If you'd like to access this location without going into the Xbox app tap Win+E on your keyboard to open Windows 10's File Explorer. In the left hand navigation column select Videos, and then in the main screen of File Explorer double-click on the Captures folder.

Wrapping Up

Windows 10 default background

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Those are the basics of recording non-gaming programs with the Xbox Game DVR. Keep in mind that videos recorded with the Game DVR can be quite large. There isn't much you can do about the file sizes. Just remember that you want these screencasts to be as brief as possible to keep the file sizes low. For those who need better control over the file size, I'd advise diving deeper into the world of screencasts with software dedicated to the purpose.

For anyone who needs a quick-and-dirty method for recording a program on their desktop, however, the Game DVR works well enough.