Recording my computer desktop

This morning started out easy enough…  Find a way to post a YouTube video of my computer desktop.  Sounds easy enough, and I suspect for many of you it probably is.  While I have my Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Yelp, etc… accounts, one of the few I’ve never had is a YouTube account where I posted anything!  I know… Shocking… What planet have I been on all of these years.  I have friends that have posted, my daughter has posted…  but, I’ve never posted.  So, I began my little trek by doing a web search…

First of all, many of the initial results I got were how to record successful YouTube videos.  You know.  Make a plan, have a good microphone, have an interesting topic, etc…  Three pages into the results, and all I could read was how to be successful in front of the camera.  Good advice, yes… Just not what I was looking for.  I wanted something more education or business-like for recording my computer desktop.

Narrowing the search down, I did come across a few solutions.  In particular, out of ten or so pieces of software I found, I decided to narrow my focus down to just two.

CamStudio – (

This tool is free!  Okay.  That’s a good starting point.  I visited their site, watched a couple of videos, read their FAQ, etc…  For a little more context, the computer that I would like to record on is running Windows 8.1 at 1920×1080 (1080p) with a dual monitor.  The software seemed to be what I was looking for, but there were many complaints about the installation software installing unnecessary additional software (bad!).

One of the ways I check to see what I might be missing with a free package is by comparing it to an expensive package.  In this case, I decided to look into Camtasia.

Camtasia – (

Price is ~$299.  Not too bad, but before I ever spend that kind of money, it needs to offer me something exceptional beyond what CamStudio can offer.  Now, I do enjoy their little tutorial videos which did  a great job of describing the package and its capabilities.  These were all good.  Additionally, Camtasia offers the ability to edit the video afterwards which CamStudio does not.  So, if I didn’t already have a subscription to Adobe Create Cloud, I would have probably needed to end up here.  Additionally, it is obvious this product is seeing more developer love.

All in all, it turn out that CamStudio would be my starting place.  If I find myself hitting a feature barrier, then I might entertain jumping to something like Camtasia, but for now, I thought I would see what the workflow looks like.

First things first.  I need to try a sample recording to see how well this thing really works.  Here’s the basic steps I followed…

1. Download the CamStudio software from (version 2.7.2 dated October 19th, 2013)

2. Install the software.  NOTE: I ‘declined’ to install all of the additional software, yet a couple of things were still installed.  Big negative for me, but I was able to go to the Control Panel under Add/Remove programs and uninstall the extra software.

3. Watch a tutorial video – (I searched for CamStudio Tutorial 2013, there are many of them)

4. I decided to go with the XVid Codec. –

5. There were a few other options I needed to change to get things going.

  • Under the ‘Region’ menu, I choose ‘Select Screen’.  I plan on doing full screen capture.  I use a dual monitor, so I wanted to pick the screen beforehand.
  • Under ‘Options’, I choose to ‘Record Audio from Microphone’.
  • Under ‘Video Options’, I set the Compressor to ‘Xvid MPEG-4 Codec’ and have left the other options as-is for now

6. Now I went ahead and did a sample recording of me browsing the web

When it finished, it tried to play back the video.  The window was completely black, and so I thought it didn’t work.  It also prompted me to save the .avi file.  I saved it as ‘test.avi’.  If I double-clicked that file, it played back just fine.  Phew.

7. I turned off the playback [Options] | [Program Options] | [Play AVI file when recording stops] | [Do not play AVI file]

I’ll just manually watch them afterwards using the Windows Media Player or one of my other viewers.

Posting the Video on YouTube

You can go to and create an account for yourself.  There are some pretty good tutorials and the interface is pretty easy.  I was able to drag my video file from my computer into the browser, it uploaded, and I was able to post it successfully (  It’s lame and there is no audio, but it worked great as a proof of concept.

Now to go make something useful…

If you have any other suggestions, or if you would like a better explanation on anything I described above, drop me a comment!


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