NVIDIA’s ShadowPlay offers easy gameplay recording, live streaming, and even an FPS counter overlay. It can automatically record gameplay in the background–just on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One–or only record gameplay when you tell it to.

If you have a PC with modern NVIDIA graphics hardware, there’s a good chance you have access to this feature. It’s similar to Windows 10’s Game DVR, but has more features–and it works on Windows 7, too.

Yes, ShadowPlay Impacts Game Performance

Before we start, however, we should note: Enabling ShadowPlay will decrease your game performance by a bit. NVIDIA notes that a performance penalty of 5% is typical, while it could be 10% in more demanding games.

If you have a fast enough PC, this shouldn’t necessarily matter. All gameplay recording solutions take system resources, including Windows 10’s Game DVR feature. But you may want to disable ShadowPlay when you’re not using it.

Check if Your PC Supports ShadowPlay

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You can check NVIDIA’s website to see a list of NVIDIA graphics hardware that supports ShadowPlay. However, if you have NVIDIA hardware, you can just check on your PC too.

To do so, open the “GeForce Experience” application from your Start menu. If it isn’t yet installed, download and install the GeForce Experience application from NVIDIA. In addition to ShadowPlay, this application also offers NVIDIA graphics driver updates, one-click game settings optimization, and game streaming from your PC–all rather useful features.

Under the “My Rig” tab in the application, click the “ShadowPlay” tab and check if your PC meets the system requirements. If it does, ShadowPlay will be “Ready.” If it doesn’t, the application will tell you why.

How to Record or Stream Gameplay With ShadowPlay

By default, ShadowPlay is off and not doing anything in the background. To enable it, you’ll need to launch the NVIDIA GeForce Experience application and click the “ShadowPlay” button at the top right corner of the window.

Click the switch at the left of the ShadowPlay window to flip it to on. A green light will appear, indicating NVIDIA ShadowPlay is enabled.

By default, ShadowPlay uses “Shadow & Manual” mode. Shadow Mode will automatically record your gameplay and keep the last five minutes. When you press the Alt+F10 keyboard shortcut, ShadowPlay will save a clip of the last five minutes of gameplay to your Videos folder.

With Manual mode, you can press the Alt+F9 keyboard shortcut to start manually recording a clip, then press Alt+F9 to stop the clip when you’re done recording. ShadowPlay also allows you to press Alt+F12 to view a live FPS counter in any game, even if you aren’t recording.

You can tweak these settings after enabling ShadowPlay (as described later in this guide), but if they look fine to you, you can start recording now. Just launch a game and use the above hotkeys to record gameplay and show the FPS counter.

Recordings will appear in a game-specific subfolder of your Videos folder by default.

How to Record OpenGL Games (and Your Entire Windows Desktop)

Not every game will work with NVIDIA ShadowPlay by default. ShadowPlay only directly supports with games that use Direct3D, and not OpenGL. While most games do use Direct3D, there are a few that use OpenGL instead. For example, DOOM, which we used as an example above, uses OpenGL, as does Minecraft.

To record OpenGL games that don’t work with ShadowPlay, head to NVIDIA GeForce Experience > Preferences > ShadowPlay and activate the “Allow Desktop Capture” option. ShadowPlay will now be able to record your Windows desktop, including any OpenGL games running in a window on your desktop.

Automatic background “Shadow” recording and the FPS counter don’t work in this mode. However, you can still start and stop manual recordings using the hotkeys.

How to Configure NVIDIA ShadowPlay

To change ShadowPlay’s settings, just click the icons at the bottom of the ShadowPlay window. You can select “Shadow” mode to only use the last-five-minutes method for recording or “Manual” to only record gameplay manually. You can also select the “Twitch” option here to use NVIDIA ShadowPlay to live broadcast your gameplay to Twitch rather than saving it to your hard drive.

The “Shadow time” option allows you to choose how much gameplay ShadowPlay saves in its buffer. You can choose any time between 1 and 20 minutes. Bear in mind that a longer time requires more hard disk space. How much more disk space depends on the quality level you choose.

The “Quality” option allows you to configure the quality of your recording. By default, it’s set to High, and will record the video at in-game resolution, 60 frames per second, 50 Mbps quality, and as H.264 video. You can select the Low or Medium profiles, or pick Custom and change the individual settings manually.

The “Audio” option allows you to choose which audio tracks are included with your recorded video. By default, the recording will include will include all in-game audio. You can also select “In-game and microphone”, allowing you to speak into your microphone and have that inserted into the recording, or select “Off” to disable all audio recording.

Below the switch on the left, the two buttons open your recording folder (your user account’s “Videos” folder by default) and the ShadowPlay preferences window. This window can also be accessed from Preferences > ShadowPlay within the GeForce Experience application.

The preferences screen allows you to choose overlays–you can overlay your webcam, status indicator, or an FPS counter and choose where the appear. You can also choose between “Always On” and “Push-to-talk” for your microphone, if you opt to include your

The hotkeys for recording, broadcasting, toggling your camera, and activating push-to-talk on your microphone are configurable from here. You can also select a different save location for your video recordings, if you don’t want them dumped in your normal Videos folder.

AMD doesn’t have its own ShadowPlay-like feature, so you’ll need a third-party game-recording application to do this with AMD graphics hardware.

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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