Best Free Screen Session Recorder



First, a word about words: Snapshot, Screenshot, Screen Capture, Screencast, Screen Recording and Screen Session Recording. Whew! All these words or phrases refer to the capture of one (still) or many consecutive (moving) images of your computer's screen.

So just to be clear: Snapshots and Screenshots refer to one-off still captures of your screen and Gizmo's has a great review of the Best Free Screen Capture Tool. This review covers the rest: Screencasts, Screen Recordings and Screen Session Recordings software. We'll stick with the term 'Screen Session Recordings' for this review.

The uses for this class of software is wide: tutorials, demos, recordings for technical support playback and review, training and more. If you want a simple product just to take a quick screen recording, with no editing and no 'knobs to twiddle,' we've got that in our roundup. If you want a substantial product that gives you control over a wide array of settings including audio and video quality, lets you edit the project after the screen recording has happened, lets you add icons and information bubbles, and can churn out the results in several different formats, we have that, too.


Rated Products


Record the screen with capture profiles, save sessions as projects and publish them to desired output

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
A lot of functionality; ability to save sessions as Projects to be returned to later; editing interface for adding text, thought bubbles and the like; ability to export to AVI, WMV, MP4, and WebM.
Editor difficult to use because users cannot link together all the individual slides that ActivePresenter creates; Smart Capture mode is a promising idea, but poorly executed; Watermarking on export in the free version.
Read full review...

FlashBack Express  

Gives you the ability to record full screen on one or more monitors

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
A lot of control over video and audio settings; can capture web cam images and integrate with the screen session; can hide desktop icons automatically during recording; outputs to AVI, or SWF or FLV Flash files; built-in YouTube and uploaders.
The built-in Editor Timeline is a tease: there's nothing you can edit with it unless you purchase a Standard or Pro version; no panning to follow the cursor.
Read full review...

Icecream Screen Recorder  

An extremely simple and easy to use screen recorder to capture screen or record video

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Easy to use, Capture screenshots as well as screencasts, Record games, No watermark or time limits.
Few options, Limited editing capabilities.
Read full review...


Simplicity and speed are what Jing delivers for recording any window or region you select

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Limited features)
Simple to use; lightweight; quick install; ability to post directly to
Almost no access to video or audio settings; only output format is SWF Flash.
Read full review...

Other Screen Session Recorders

These are other free screen session recorders not rated in this review but included here for reference.

  • CamStudio, a freeware application for Windows that allows a user to capture video, sound, or both. It can save videos in both AVI and FLV format.
  • Istanbul, a lightweight application for Linux, only records videos in .ogg format.
  • Fraps, a Windows application for you to record games, take screenshots and run recording benchmarks but you can't record your destop session with it.
  • Wink, available in Windows and Linux, allows you to capture video and layer it with audio, and annotate with captions to create something like what you would see on an e-learning site.


Related Products and Links

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This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

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Average: 3.9 (29 votes)


Writing in 2020, I believe the area of screen session recordings has moved on A LOT since this comparison was made in 2016. I tried Icecream (given in the article as having no time limits) and found a 5min recording limit and a very shaky output file. Searching the web I went on to discover This is an excellent screen recorder without time limits or watermark. What is probably a good 2020 summary of the free software available can be found here:

Maybe you should test sharex.
I say maybe, because i don't know if it covers all requirements,
but from my point of view,
it does everything,
including screen recording, with great quality and small file size.

Icecream has 10 min limitation in free version and only mkv output

"... Open Broadcaster Software is a free tool for recording your desktop activities - program windows, games, video capture, more - and optionally broadcasting them live via Twitch TV, DailyMotion, YouTube, and more ...":

Maybe I misunderstand this topic, but I am looking for a screen session capture program to make tutorial videos to upload to YouTube. Thus, it must allow voice overlay with a mic during capture, and be able to highlight the mouse (and preferably emphasize the highlight when mouse clicked). I did not see these features identified in the reviews.

I have tried Jing and it forces you to signup for an account with them before you can use the software, what a load of rubbish, they dont even give you the option to trial the software without signing up.

I quit and uninstalled straight away.

The completely free Loilo Game Recorder is the one that has finally ended my search for a good game recorder. Before this, I've tried Fraps, Bandicam, Gameclaw, OBS, Camstudio and every other popular one. They all had issues. Loilo is small, its performance is good enough to not affect my game too much, it actually manages to capture the game unlike a lot of others, the video is exactly what you see on the screen (no magically appearing fps drops that weren't there or anything), the image quality is perfect. Of course the output file is huge because of the capture quality (motion-jpeg), so I use Freemake to convert it to h264/aac mp4 at the same resolution, which takes about a minute, reduces the filesize to a fraction and leaves the iamge quality untouched.

I can die happy now :D

Edit: you do need to figure out the proper steps to making it capture the game: start the game, alt-tab to Loilo, select the game, alt-tab back to the game, wait for the image to appear (fullscreen game means Windows needs to surrender the GPU and that takes a second), press the record hotkey. It also installs Loiloscope along with itself, but you can just remove it and it doesn't affect the recorder.

I've used many of these programs however I came across one application/program that I presently use which I simply find is quite good ... try out oCam :

Caution! oCam will attempt to make unwanted changes to your system settings, therefore care is needed during the install process. MC - Site Manager.

Thanks for the caution. How can one find out things like this?

Trusted download sites such as Softpedia will state in the product description if it is "ad-supported" and then give the type of unwanted components being included. You should also read the product EULA in full before deciding to install it or not. Another good option is to Google the product name plus "bundled software" in the query string which should throw up some useful results. This is just one of them for oCam: "This review is part of our Best Free Windows Software section. .... to modify this; Comes with a lot of bundled crapware; Has no offline installer. .... I have to withdraw my comment about oCam- version 21 is ads-ridden trash ..." MC - Site Manager

Thanks a lot for explaining this.

Also oCam auto checks for new versions on start-up ( often called "calling home" ),

If a new version is available it also downloads and installs it... all without your control to stop it. and no option to disable update checking or installation.

PS Anyone using skype may have noticed it also auto checks for new versions ( which i call updates) even thought i have update checking in options `unchecked`. This doesn't surprise me coming from MS, to ignore user options.

Couldn't get Active Presenter to record ANY sound on Windows 8.1, found no place to set an audio device or input.

Is there any way to edit an swf file? Lots of programs will output swf but I can't find anything free that inputs it for conversion to anything else

What is it you actually want to do with the swf?

Free Audio Video Pack (used to be "Pazera Suite") will convert .swf to avi or mpg -

The thing is that many swf files are interactive (eg games, educational) and if you convert it to a normal video format you will loose that.

There's a tool here - - for decompiling and editing flash content but I've not tried it sorry.

I want to convert it to mp4 or mpg.

Thanks for the Audio video Pack suggestion. I had Pazera but it didn't recognize swf. I should have checked it for updates.

Along the way I noticed that Youtube upload doesn't accept swf either. A real stumbling block since a lot of use for screen records is to demonstrate software and UI methods for Youtube.

I just downloaded CamStudio after seeing it here. Decided to run it by VirusTotal just out of curiosity.

Unfortunately CamStudio did not fare so well. I will not be installing this program. Studio_Setup_v2.7.2_r326_(build_19Oct2013).exe

Gizmo's Freeware should not be recommending this product.

The screen capture program "My Screen Recorder" got a clean bill of health from VirusTotal. Perhaps I will try that one instead.

CamStudio is great but they ran into problems some time back due to an ill-advised decision about what software to bundle with their program. Also there is supposedly a rogue version of the program around on the internet which has done their reputation further harm.

You could go to Softpedia ( which offers the same version for download ... their link scores 0/53 on VT while the file itself scores 1/47.

Alternatively you could try the PAF portable version ( which scores 1/53 for the link and 0/50 for the file.

Camstudio 2 stars?? seriously?? you've gotta be kidding!
First of all, Active presenter and Flashback Express only offer very limited versions of their programs "for free", and the paid versions are rather expensive. [prices edited out by moderator]
Camstudio is free. 100%.
You report some issues with W7 on a 64-bit computer. (It would be nice if you added the version number and the date). I use CamStudio 2.7.2 (Build r326, released in october 2013) with W7 on a 64 bit computer and never had any of those issues, and regarding size, you can choose amongst a pretty big list of different compression methods, and it's pretty flexible, you can add new codecs also.
Camstudio is also, by far, the number 1 free program used by people who make screen recording videos for youtube.
I think giving camstudio (used by more people all over the world than any other free screen recording program) 2 stars is not only unfair, it's ridiculous!

Even though Active Presenter has a paid version, the free version has all the goodies, that you'd ever want from a screencasting software, and is very much advanced than Camstudio. You could simply read through the Feature comparison of the Free and Paid versions of Active Presenter, and you'll see that the free version has all the important features.