How to record your screen on Android 4.4 KitKat


There's a new feature that came with Android 4.4 KitKat – screen recording – and some of us appear to be more excited about it than others. The prospect of a non-laggy, native recording with decent quality appeals to us on more than a professional level, and it's something many have been looking for in the years past. Unfortunately, the only option one had was to rely on apps that only worked every now and then (and on a very limited number of devices), and even the rooted, paid versions supported restrictively low frame rate.

We've been testing the new built-in feature ever since we got our hands on an early build of Android 4.4 KitKat, and we're bringing you this guide so that you can realize the full potential of Google's new OS, should you wish to do so.

Let's get to work


Before we start, a few notes. To start off, there's as of yet no app to do this, and the functionality appears to be aimed more at developers than the everyday users. But, no matter – it's simple enough – and you'll do just fine even with minimal technical knowledge. There are just a few things you need to do (download) first.

  1. The Android SDK package. The Mac version is under the 'Download for Other Platforms' header. I suggest an install in your system partition.
  2. ADB drivers. If you don't have those installed, you can download the Universal ADB Drivers package, courtesy of CyanogenMod's Koush. 
  • Both are completely straightforward installs, no sweat.
  • Troubleshooting at the bottom of the guide
Now that you've got both these installed and running, it's time to test whether your ADB drivers are working properly, as these often like to play naughty. To do so, you'll first have to connect your smartphone to your computer and enable USB debugging mode from your smartphone. Simply navigate to Settings > About Phone > scroll to the bottom and tap Build number seven (7) times. You'll get a short pop-up in the lower area of your display that you're now a developer:

Step 1

Head back and enter Developer options and tick USB debugging and okay the prompt. Slide down the notification panel and make sure your USB storage is set to Camera, and not Media device (MTP). This will prompt Android to request your consent to authorize your computer's specific fingerprint, tick 'Always allow from this computer' and agree to it, otherwise the tether won't work.

Step 2
 
The final part requires you to open the scary looking, but ultimately docile command prompt. By far the easiest way is to simply open it through Windows' Start by typing in 'cmd'. Once open, it'll look like this:

Step 3

All you need to do now is to navigate the command prompt to the tools-platform folder found within the Android SDK folder by using the CD command. By default, the path to it would read something like this C:/Android SDK/adt-bundle-windows-x86_64-20131030/sdk/platform-tools/. It's best that you just copy/paste (have to right click and select paste in cmd, no CTRL+V'ing) the path, though you can do it manually, too (rename the second sub-folder to something similar, like 'a' in my example below). Just type in 'cd' and input the path after that, so it looks like this:

Step 4

In order to verify that your ADB drives have been successfully installed and you've properly navigated to them, just type in 'adb'. If everything went alright, you'll see a bunch of confusing information spam your terminal:

Step 5

Voilà! You're now (hopefully) ready to capture some action. Just type in the command 'adb shell screenrecord /sdcard/INSERT-FILE-NAME.mp4' and hit enter, and you're live! Command prompt will start looking like this (you'll probably have to wait for it to launch the adb shell deamon first) for the duration of the capture (stop capture with CTRL+C):

Step 6

Now that you know how to record your screen on video, you'll probably also want to download the resulting files to your computer. Easy enough, just type in 'adb pull /sdcard/RECORDED-FILE-NAME.mp4 C:/example file name.mp4'. This will pull file X from your sdcard to your C drive and give it a name that you specify. If it works successfully, you'll get a message similar to the one in my example:

Step 7

And that's the whole procedure. It really isn't complicated at all, it just seems so. Those of you looking to dig deeper into the functionality, Google has compiled a handy table that shows the extra options available for use with screen record, and provide even more information on their developer site here. As you can see below, you can tweak length of the clip, resolution, bitrate and even orientation:

Step 8

Troubleshooting


Something ain't quite working, or nothing at all? It's impossible to go through all the possible scenarios, but they usually boil down to these:

  • ADB drivers not working. This is actually more common than you'd think. It's an especially messy affair if you already had these installed, and it's usually a good idea to just do a full uninstall of any related assets, reboot and then re-install the drivers I provided above. Here's how to do so efficiently:
  1. Fire up Device Manager (type it in the Start bar, like before), while your device is connected to the computer and has USB debugging on. Find and right-click > uninstall any device's driver that resembles yours (search thoroughly).
  2. Download USBDeview from here, fire it up and once again uninstall anything that resembles your device or manufacturer. (Don't worry, these will get re-installed as you connect any device on their own in 99% of the time on Windows 7 and above).
  3. Reboot your computer. Even if it takes 5 minutes to boot back up. Seriously.
  4. Go through Koush's Universal ADB Driver installation again
  5. Try and see if that helped

  • If ADB works as in Step 5, but you can't seem to connect to your devices, run 'adb devices' and see what comes out. If you don't see your device, go through the procedure above. If you see it, but it says 'unauthorized', then you need to change your USB storage settings to Camera, instead of Media device (MTP). It will give you a prompt to authorize your computer's RSA key fingerprint, as seen in Step 2.

  • For other issues, you may try your luck down in the comment box. Either the community or I (in my free time) will try and help you out.

That's it folks, hopefully this helped.

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13 Comments

1. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

Cool. Step-by-step instructions for those that are technologically mediocre.

5. Deaconclgi

Posts: 405; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

None of us were born with the knowledge that we have today, we all had to learn along the way.

18. Knowles2

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 17, 2014

Some of us just don't like to muck around with stuff or wonder through Android documentation,so when we need to do something, nice easy to follow instructions is much appreciated, especially when I just want things to work first time after a hard day of coding, and especially when you got a schedule to meet. So nice clear instructions that guide you through the process is very much welcome. An hopefully someone will slap together a little windows program to do it even faster in the future. .

2. scriptwriter

Posts: 396; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

This all seems a bit long winded. When i first read of this feature, i thought it would be along the same lines doing a screenshot. Press two buttons-> click-> done. Now this concept seems stupid. Im disappointed Android.

3. seavsea

Posts: 3; Member since: Mar 25, 2013

It may seem stupid to you, but the practical application is that if you have a question about any given thing on android, it is now much easier for someone to create a video to show you how to use said feature. Not the most useful for people like you, i suppose, but as someone that works in the cellphone industry, who does almost exclusively tech support here in our store, this feature is awesome, especially for my smartphone class!

4. Chris.P

Posts: 567; Member since: Jun 27, 2013

As I mentioned in the guide itself, it really isn't. This is just a really broken-down-to-pieces approach to it, so that even those with zero technical background can get it to work. Once you get the hang of it it's really a matter of connecting your device, popping a command prompt and inputting a single line of code. Far less practical than firing an app, of course, but still fairly simple.

6. razmoket13

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 07, 2013

There's a mistake at step 6 regarding the command to enter : it's not : 'adb shell screencapture /sdcard/INSERT-FILE-NAME.mp4' but rather : 'adb shell screenrecord /sdcard/INSERT-FILE-NAME.mp4'

7. razmoket13

Posts: 2; Member since: Nov 07, 2013

Also at step 5, instead of entering just "adb" to verify that everything's OK, it much better to enter the command "adb devices". That way, you can see immediately if the device is indeed reachable (and you avoid the long useless gibberish).

8. abhijithkumar.nit

Posts: 47; Member since: Apr 09, 2013

Shouldn't google have made it even more simpler? Just like taking a screenshot or something!?

16. miguely

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 05, 2014

I've followed these instructions and made sure I did everything correctly, but get an error that says "unable to create video/avc codec instance". When I use a file explorer on my phone I do find the mp4 video file but it does not play. Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance

17. miguely

Posts: 2; Member since: Jan 05, 2014

I forgot to mention that I'm trying this on my Nexus 4

19. Knowles2

Posts: 2; Member since: Sep 17, 2014

Thanks for these easy to follow and accurate instructions. Much appreciated.

20. indiannoob

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 23, 2014

Would be nice if you wrote down a command to store the video on the phone memory, without needing the sdcard

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