How to Record a Section of Screen For Free on Windows & Mac

There are a multitude of free screen recorders out there, either as browser extensions or as standalone applications. Unfortunately, the vast majority are rubbish, producing stuttering, jittery video or they are limited to only recording in full screen or the active window. They don't allow users to set the area of screen to record.

This is more true of Windows than it is of Mac. Mac owners have the very capable, albeit limited, QuickTime Player, which comes pre-installed with Mac OS. However, for Windows users I recommend ShareX from the Microsoft Store.

Some Windows users might argue the built-in Xbox app has a screen recording capability. This is true but it's designed for recording games at full screen. Asking it to do anything else is a bit of a hack.

Neither ShareX or QuickTime has the ability to edit videos once you've finished recording. All is not lost, however,  as both Mac and Windows come with pre-installed video editing applications and I'll show you how to import your videos to those in the steps.

The Premium Option...

If your work involves a lot of screen recording, as mine does, I highly recommend purchasing a professional application. I use Techsmith's Snagit and Camtasia, which are available for both Windows and Mac. Camtasia is for professional screen recording with a suite of post-production tools. Snagit can be used to take quick captures that require minimal editing. They are each one-off purchases (rather than subscriptions) and definitely worth a look. Later in this article, I'll show you how to use Snagit to record a section of the screen, just as an alternative to the free options I'll demonstrate now.


How To Install and Record Using ShareX on Windows 10

ShareX will let you record full-screen, the active window and, crucially, any area of the screen you wish. It uses FFmpeg, a versatile open-source framework for recording audio and video. It means ShareX should be able to perform admirably whether being used on a brand new high-end PC or an old clunky laptop.

Open up the Microsoft Store by either clicking the link on your taskbar or typing 'store' into Windows Search bar.

Type store into Windows Search to find the Microsoft Store app

Open Microsoft Store app

Then type 'ShareX' in the search field of Windows Store. The app should appear, or it will be displayed after clicking on the magnifying glass, to the right of the search field.

Type sharex into the Microsoft Store search bar

Find ShareX in the Microsoft Store

Click Get to download and install ShareX. Once installed, click Launch.

Install and launch sharex

Install and launch sharex

The interface displays a list of features and options down the left and useful shortcut keys.

Before starting your first recording, it's worth taking a look at the Task Settings. Click on Task Settings and Select Screen Recorder under Capture.

Here I have the frame rate to 30 and the option 'start recording after' setting to 3 secs.

Screen recordings start as soon as you've defined the area so allowing a delay saves you from having to trim the start of your video later on. Very useful if, like me, you're not entirely ready to begin recording.

ShareX screen recording settings

ShareX screen recording settings

Click on the 'Screen recording options…' button. I'd recommend leaving everything unchanged unless you have some knowledge of audio and video codecs. The only change I make is to set Audio source to None since I don't wish my recording to have audio.

Close the Screen Recording Options window and the Task Settings window when finished.

sharex advanced recording settings

ShareX advanced recording settings

To start a recording either use the shortcut keys Shift + PrintScreen or click on 'Workflows' and 'Start/Stop Screen Recording Using Custom Region.'

start a recording in sharex

How to start a recording in ShareX

A cross-hair cursor appears which you use to set your region. ShareX recognises when you hover over an application or a region within an application and adjust the size of the recording area automatically. You can click and drag the crosshair to select the section of the screen as you see fit.

click and drag the crosshair to set the recording area

Click and drag the cross-hair to set the recording area

Once the recording has started you can either stop or abort. ShareX is very quick to transcode the video, which is displayed in the main interface window. The actual location of your video file is in Documents\ShareX\Screenshots\{date}\

click stop to end the recording

Click stop to end the recording

Right click on the video thumbnail and choose Open > Folder to go straight to the saved video file.

right click on the thumbnail to open the videos folder location

Right click to open the video's folder location

To edit your recording, sticking on the free theme, I recommend Windows built-in Video Editor app. Type' video editor' in the Windows Search bar to find the application.

use windows search to open the video editor

Open Window's video editor app

Create a New Video Project and give the project a name. Click on Add > From This PC and navigate to the video file's location, or simply drag and drop. Drag the video to the Storyboard along the bottom of the screen to begin editing. You can trim your video, add intros and background music, or add an audio voice over.

drag and drop the video into video editor

Drag and drop to import the video into the video editor


How To Record a Section of Screen using QuickTime Player on Mac

Open QuickTime Player from the Applications folder or by clicking CMD + Space and typing 'quicktime'.

shortcut keys to open quicktime player

Press CMD & Space Bar to open QuickTime player

Click on File and choose New Screen Recording.

choose new screen recording from the quicktime file menu

Choose New Screen Recording from the File menu

The recorder app will appear. Before pressing the record button, click on the little drop-down menu icon to the right of the recorder button.Here you can set whether you wish to display the cursor in your recording and whether you want to record audio.

When happy with the setting, click on the red record button.

set the record options

Set the record options

Click once anywhere on the screen to begin recording the whole screen. To record a section of the screen, use your mouse to click and drag over the area you wish to record. Click Start Recording to being recording.

click and drag cursor to set recording area

Click and drag the cursor to set recording area

An icon is displayed in the menu bar acknowledging that the recording is in progress. Click the icon to end the recording. QuickTime Player will play the video after the recording has finished.

Click on the icon in the menu bar to end recording

Click on the icon in the menu bar to end recording

Use the File menu to either save your recording as is, or use Export to change the resolution and save using HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding).

Exporting a video at 1080 resolution

Exporting a video at 1080 resolution

Ticking HEVC reduces the file size of the video but can be slow to export. Depending on the area of screen you’ve chosen to record, you can export to 4K, 1080 and 720 albeit maintaining  your Mac’s 16:10 aspect ratio. If you only choose a small area to record these higher pixel resolutions will be greyed out.

Export settings

Export settings

Once saved, you can edit your video in iMovie. Click on the plus to create a new movie in iMovie.

open imovie and create a new movie

Open iMovie and create a new video

Click on Import Media and browse to your video file to add it to your project. Alternatively you can simply click and drag.

import video into imovie

Import your video into iMovie

To start editing your video, drag it on to the timeline, running from left to right along the bottom of the screen. From here you'll be able to use features such as Trim, overlay audio and increase the speed of your clip.

drag your video to the timeline

Import your video into iMovie


Snagit for Windows & Mac

I'll quickly demonstrate the same process as above using Snagit. It should be noted that recording videos are not Snagit's primary purpose. Snagit is used for capturing screen images and overlaying them with visual aids as a learning tool. However, Snagit is a cheap alternative to free solutions that comes with a ton of features, support and updates.

Open the Snagit capture window by using either clicking on the icon in the menu bar or in the Snagit Editor.

Open the Snagit capture window  capture window

Open the Snagit Capture Window

The Snagit capture window has several settings. For our purposes we want to set the capture to Video and Selection to Region. Click on the red Capture button to select the area to be recorded.

Set Snagit's capture settings

Snagit's capture settings

As with ShareX, a crosshair cursor allows you to select the region to record, or it will automatically size itself to a window or area of focus. The record and stop buttons are located under the selected area. 

Select the area of screen to record

Click and drag to select the are of screen to be recorded.

The recording will open in Snagit's Editor window. From here you can trim and save the file.

Edit your recording using Snagit's video editor

Edit your recording using Snagit's video editor


Final Thoughts

Share X and QuickTime Player are very capable free screen recording tools that will suffice for one-off jobs. When paired with Window's Video Editor and Mac's iMovie applications, you should be able to achieve the results you where hoping for. However, if you're in it for the long-term and looking for an app with more features, Techsmith's Camtasia and Snagit are well worth the money. 


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How to Record a Section of Screen For Free on Windows & Mac

There are a multitude of free screen recorders out there, either as browser extensions or as standalone applications. Unfortunately, the vast majority are rubbish, producing stuttering, jittery video or they are limited to only recording in full screen or the active window. They don’t allow users to set the area of screen to record.This is

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