Fraps is best known as an easy and lightweight way to see an active readout of your PC games’ frames per second—that’s where the name comes from. But it’s also a surprisingly flexible way to record game footage for posting to YouTube, Twitch, and other web video services. The relatively low resource usage and easy activation make it ideal for quickly starting and stopping the record function. Here’s how it’s done.

Why Use Fraps?

Most Fraps users are more than happy with the framerate tracker feature, and that’s okay, since it’s part of the free package that doesn’t really require any extra settings or investment to get working. Start Fraps, start your game, and you’ve got a reliable look at how many frames per second you’re getting.

The screen recording and screenshot are secondary, but they’re still worth investigating if you frequently record game video. However, there is one caveat: the premium video features in Fraps aren’t free. Without paying a hefty $37 for the full version, videos are limited to 30 seconds long and have a non-removable watermark, and screenshots are restricted to the BMP format. Paying for the upgrade grants you unlimited record time and support for JPEG, PNG, and TGA images.

The watermark that appears on video recorded by the free edition.

So what makes Fraps better than OBS, or the Game DVR included in Windows 10, both of which are free as in beer? Fraps is sort of a Goldilocks option in this very limited field: it’s much faster and more flexible than the default Windows 10 option—meaning lower processor overhead and better game performance—and simpler than the somewhat-complex OBS. Fraps uses an idiot-proof system that records only a game window with no extra overlays or frills. Press a button to start recording, press a button to stop recording. That’s it.

Is that enough to spend money for the upgrade? If you’re someone who does this a lot, it very well could be. If not, give Fraps a try anyway—you might prefer it to other options, even with the time limit and watermark. But if Fraps isn’t right for you, there are other free options.

Step One: Download and Install Fraps

Fraps is available as a free download from the developer’s website. Just double-click the .exe file to begin and follow the on-screen instructions. It can run as a standard program or at startup, which might be useful if you’re a frequent recorder.

Step Two: Choose Your Video Settings

In the main Fraps window, click the tab marked “Movies.” The first thing you’ll want to do is adjust the save location of your videos; the default directory in Program Files\Movies is less than ideal. Click the “Change” button and choose something more handy, like your PC’s desktop or a new folder in Documents.

Next, there are a few settings you’ll want to look at (and probably tweak):

  • Video Capture Hotkey is the keystroke that will begin and end a recording session. This is pretty important: you’ll want something that’s easy to reach while you’re in the middle of a game, but also something that you’re unlikely to hit by accident, especially with a key combination. I recommend using either a single key in the function row (F1-F12) or a multi-key combo like Ctrl+Alt+R.
  • Video Capture Settings determine the framerate and size at which your video will record. The standard 30 frames per second is plenty for most gaming applications, like a walkthrough or a quick look at a neat feature. If you want your video to really pop, you can bump it up to 50 or 60 fps—just make sure that the video player or web host you intend to use can actually take advantage of the higher framerate.
  • Full-Size, which is enabled by default, will record the game area at full resolution. Half-Size will chop the horizontal and vertical resolution in half for a smaller file size. Keep in mind that video files will be larger at higher framerates, so if you’re planning on recording a long gaming session for a Let’s Play video, you might want to keep it down.
  • Loop Buffer is a really cool feature: it’s basically a live DVR function for your desktop. The buffer constantly records your gameplay footage in the background, but doesn’t save the video permanently until you activate the capture hotkey. So, say you’re just messing around in a shooter’s quick play mode, and you suddenly get an awesome multikill that you weren’t expecting, so you weren’t recording it. If you set the loop buffer length to 15 seconds, Fraps will save the preceding snippet of gameplay before you pressed the record button as well as everything after. If you’re selectively recording cool snippets of gameplay instead of one long session, it’s a great way to make sure you never miss anything good.

 

There are a few others that you can probably ignore. The “Split movie every 4 Gigabytes” option is mostly for older versions of Windows running on a FAT32 file system. “Hide mouse cursor in video” is a stylistic choice, but most viewers won’t care one way or the other. “Lock framerate while recording” and “force lossless RGB capture” are cosmetic options that make a video look smoother, but may negatively affect game performance.

Step Three: Choose Your Sound Settings

By default, Fraps will record your computer’s standard sound output in simple stereo. This is just fine for most users—the “multichannel” option for saving surround sound channels won’t benefit most people listening to playback on a stereo setup.

If you’d like to record your microphone as well, click “record external input” and make sure your gaming mic (and not your computer’s webcam microphone input) is selected. The “only capture while pushing” option is a great way to record only the commentary or communication you want with a push-to-talk feature. If you’re recording multiplayer online games, you’ll probably want to set this to the same key as your game’s push-to-talk button.

Step Four: Hide the FPS the Overlay

Fraps is primarily a frames per second monitor, and the FPS readout will record along with Fraps video by default. To remove the counter from the video, click the “FPS” tab, then select “hide overlay” on the right side of the window. This step is optional, but the FPS counter tends to be distracting if you’re publishing video to the web.

Step Five: Start Recording

Once you have the options above chosen, all you need to do is start your game and press your capture hotkey to begin recording. Press it again to stop and create the video file, which will be saved to your chosen output folder. Rinse and repeat as many times as you’d like to create multiple files, or just start and stop as you begin and end your game for one long video.

Keep in mind that Fraps will only record the game window, not the rest of your Windows desktop. If your monitor’s resolution is larger than 1920×1080 (or you use a 4:3, 3:2, 21:9, or 16:10 aspect ratio that might not look good on web video), you can adjust the resolution of the game in its settings menu for better video results. 1920×1080 or 1280×720 are preferable for clean, borderless video playback on most devices. If for some reason you can’t set your screen or monitor to a non-native resolution, try running the game in windowed mode—Fraps will still only record the game footage, not your desktop.

Fraps Can Take Screenshots, Too

You can easily take a screenshot at any time in Windows 8 and Windows 10 with the Win+Print Screen command (they’ll be recorded in the Pictures/Screenshots folder). And, many games and overlays like Steam also offer a custom screenshot solution (the default shortcut in Steam games is F12). But Fraps’ screenshots tab has a custom record button, an option to show or hide the framerate overlay, and a “repeat screen capture” option that lets you select a custom interval. This last part is quite handy if you want that perfect screenshot without having to constantly mash the button: set it low for more images or high for fewer. The automatic recording will stop once you press the button again. So if you’re using Fraps already for game recording, you might want to check out its screenshot settings too.