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Can You Use a Capture Card With One PC?

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If you’re into gaming and are thinking about streaming your gameplay, you may consider using a capture card to help you. You may have seen a capture card being used with two PCs or a console and a PC, but can you use it if you have a standalone PC?

You can technically use a capture card with a standalone PC, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference because the PC would still have to support gaming and streaming simultaneously. A capture card is more useful when using two PCs, one for gaming and one for streaming.

In the rest of this article, I will explain why a capture card is usually used for two PCs and when you may need it. Additionally, I will show the different types of capture cards and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

How Are Capture Cards Usually Used?

A capture card is a device that captures images, video, and audio from one source, saves it, and later outputs it to a destination. It ensures that neither the source nor the destination is overburdened by facilitating a connection between them so that they can perform their tasks.

Using a Capture Card With Two PCs

Gamers use capture cards when they want to stream their gameplay using two PCs or a PC and a console. One PC is used for gaming, and the other does the streaming. The capture card captures the video signal from the gaming PC and outputs it to the streaming PC, which broadcasts the game. 

The capture card is the link between the two PCs that makes it possible to play and stream without compromising the performance of either PC and providing quality images. This link lightens the burden of both computers.

Because the streaming PC is not overburdened, you can also use software to edit the stream, like adding animations or special effects. This is an advantage that can become very useful, especially nowadays when everyone can basically stream, and you want to stand out. 

Using a Capture Card With One PC

However, if you only have one PC, there isn’t much you can improve by using a capture card. With or without the capture card, the same PC will have to support both gaming and streaming. As a result, it may be overloaded, resulting in lower image quality for streaming and more issues with the gameplay at the same time.

Technically, you can use a capture card with a standalone PC. You can set it up, and you will be able to play, sending the video signal to the capture card, but the signal will end up in the same device, where it will be streamed. It’s doable but practically useless, as it results in no noticeable improvements.

When Do You Need a Capture Card?

Typically, you’ll need a capture card if you’re using a device that doesn’t enable streaming directly to dedicated streaming platforms like Twitch, HitBox, YouTube Gaming, Facebook Gaming, and many more. A capture card is the only way you can stream using these devices.

Streaming With Dual PC Setup

As I mentioned above, the capture card captures the video in the gaming PC and sends the video signal to the streaming PC that broadcasts it to people around the world. This dual PC setup is the most typical case when you would need this device. Some gamers can even use a three-PC setup with a capture card.

However, if you only have one PC for gaming and streaming, the capture card isn’t necessary. You only need streaming software to broadcast your gameplay. Your PC probably won’t perform as well as you’d want it to, but a capture card wouldn’t make a difference in this case.

Streaming With Consoles

In the last decade, with streaming becoming so popular in gaming communities, gaming consoles have introduced streaming options, allowing you to play and stream simultaneously to the most popular streaming platforms. In this case, a capture card wouldn’t be necessary.

However, many gamers still use capture cards, even if consoles like PlayStation or Xbox now provide live streaming to different platforms. The reason why they prefer capture cards is that it allows them to add effects and animations to their stream by using streaming software on a second device. 

In any case, when using a capture card, the devices you use don’t have to be high-end or particularly powerful computers. You can use a capture card using your Chromebook if you like. All you need is the streaming software, the card, and a good connection. It’s pretty easy to do and relatively inexpensive.

Types of Capture Cards

If you’ve decided to use a capture card, no matter what your setup is, you need to know a little more about them and what the best one is for you.

Internal Capture Cards

Internal capture cards connect directly to the motherboard of the computer if it includes an additional PCI port. If it has only one port, you can’t use an internal capture card since the one PCI port will be taken by the graphics card. Understandably, you can only use the internal capture card if you have a PC; a laptop wouldn’t work in this case.

If you’re not using a laptop and are only using the capture card for one setup, you’re better off with an internal capture card. The PC accommodates the motherboard connection, and the PCI port is quite reliable.

External Capture Cards

External capture cards are the way to go if you have a laptop. These devices enable you to stream using your laptop from anywhere. They are easier to use since you can connect them via a USB port. They are also cheaper than internal capture cards.

The USB port might not be as reliable as the motherboard PCI port, but it doesn’t require you to open up your PC and allows you to stream wherever you are. In most cases, you’re better off using an external capture card.


If you’re planning on streaming your gameplay on a standalone PC and want to use a capture card to lighten the burden on your computer, you may have to reconsider. A capture card can’t do much except capture video signals, and the PC will still have to support both the gameplay and the streaming.

For better performance, consider getting a second PC so that the capture card can capture the signal of the source PC and send it to the PC that supports the streaming, improving both the performance and frame rate of the streaming.

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