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How to set up OBS on a laptop?

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  • 7 min read

Open Broadcast Software (OBS) is perhaps the most commonly used free recording and streaming software, which offers a surprising amount of functionality for something that’s free and is quite easy to use too.

While the factory settings might work fine on a powerful enough PC, if you’re running anything on the lower end or a laptop, you might have to fiddle around with the settings a bit.

This is our setup guide for OBS on laptops with Nvidia GPUs. While these settings have been optimised for an Nvidia GPU, they should, in theory, apply to AMD systems as well.

Also read: How to stream on YouTube? In 9 simple steps

Setting up OBS on a laptop

Before we get into downloading and setting up OBS, understand that these settings may or may not work for you depending upon your system configuration.

These settings work fine for my HP ab522tx. I have a 6th Gen i5-6200U 8GB of RAM and 4GB Nvidia 940MX. While that is not impressive hardware by any means, it gets the job done. If you’re on a similar configuration, you might get away with these exact settings.

If you have a machine with older parts, you might have to dial down on some settings or just might have to upgrade your machine. So let’s get into it

Step 1: Head over to the OBS website and download the required version for your system.

Step 2: Go through the installation process and launch OBS. You’ll be greeted with a blank screen which will look something like this

Step 3: Let’s add the two very basic things we need to get OBS running. A Capture Device to record ourselves and a Game/Window Capture to record either our game or screen.

This is where you’ll realise that with either game or window capture, you end up getting a black screen. This happens because OBS can only use either of the one GPUs in your laptop and by default, it uses the Nvidia card. Since your desktop isn’t running on the Nvidia card, you get a black screen.

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How to record or stream games using OBS? (Windows version 1909 and newer)

On the latest update of Windows, here’s how to get rid of the black screen on OBS

Step 1: Go to Windows settings. Search for Graphics settings.

Step 2: In the Choose an app to set preference dialog box, select Classic app.

Step 3: Click Browse and browse to your OBS executable file. Click Add

Step 4: Select OBS Studio and click on Options

Step 5: Select Power Saving if you want to use Display Capture to record your desktop or High Performace if you want to use Game Capture to record/stream your games. Click on Save 

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How to record PC Screen with OBS? (older versions)

However, if you’re looking to record your PC’s screen or some other software, you’ll have to force OBS to use your integrated GPU. Here’s how

Step 1: Open the Nvidia Control panel from the taskbar

Step 2: Click on the Program settings tab and select OBS in the program drop-down.

Step 3: In the Select the preferred graphics processor for this program drop-down, select Integrated Graphics if you want to record your Desktop or High Performance Graphics adaptor if you’re going to use the Nvidia GPU to record games.

Step 4: Restart OBS, and you’ll see that the Display Capture/ Game Capture starts working.

Note: Running OBS using the integrated graphics card will result in loss of performance, especially if you have an older processor. In rare cases, it might even cause your games to crash.

Also read: How to create a Git repository? How to connect it to GitHub?

Optimising OBS for maximum performance

Before we start, keep in mind that optimising for performance will mean a downgrade in recording/streaming quality and most cases even stepping down the resolution.

Step 1: Launch OBS, go to File > Settings. 

Step 2: Go to the Output tab. This is where we’ll be taking control. Change the Output Mode to Advanced

Step 3: Here are the settings which I’ve found work best with my specific configuration. These may or may not work for you, but it’ll give you a good starting point if you have a PC on the lower end.

Streaming settings

  • Encoder: x264 (try other options if you have them available, might increase your speed)
  • Rescale Output: 852×480. Yes, I stream at 480p.
  • Rate Control: CBR. This is a requirement for both Twitch and YouTube.
  • Bitrate: I use 1000kbps. You might be able to go higher depending upon your internet speed.
  • Keyframe Interval: 2. A requirement for Twitch and YouTube.
  • CPU Usage Preset: ultrafast. This is the fastest setting that there is.
  • Profile: main
  • Tune: none

Recording Settings

Next, open the recording tab. These are the settings I use. Again, they may or may not work for you, so feel free to play around.

  • Type: Standard
  • Recording Path: Whatever you like, I just save recordings on a dump drive.
  • Recording Format: Mkv. This ensures your video files don’t get corrupted in between. You might have to convert them to mp4 before you edit depending upon your software. You can record in mp4 straightaway as well, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a weak PC.
  • Encoder: (Use stream encoder). This just uses the streaming settings for recording as well. Although, you might want to set this to a higher quality. Viewers are a lot more likely to forgive lower streaming quality than lower recording quality.

Lastly, do a lot of test recordings and streams before committing to a setup. OBS has a lot of options to optimise performance, and you never know where you might be able to push the envelope.

Also read: How to stream on Twitch?

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here:

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