How to stream on Twitch from a PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, or Xbox One

Gabe Gurwin

Have your favorite Twitch gamers inspired you to start a channel of your own? Playing popular games online is a great way to make friends and interact with people that have similar interests, but the tricky part is setting up your first stream. 

Unfortunately, streaming on Twitch can require a little bit of effort, and you’ll need to make sure you have all the right software and equipment before you begin.

Creating a Twitch account

Before you begin streaming your gameplay, you’re going to have to create a Twitch account. Navigate to Twitch’s official website, click the purple Sign Up link in the upper-right corner, and enter your desired login credentials before clicking the purple Sign Up button at the bottom. Afterward, click your username in the top-right corner.

Before you start streaming, head over to the Twitch community guidelines page to read up on rule violations. These include promoting racist, homophobic, and ageist views, as well as making disparaging remarks about military veterans and those with disabilities. Nudity on stream is also forbidden, and you are expected to do your best to prevent your viewers from engaging in hateful speech and harassment, as well.

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Streaming from Windows or MacOS

Streaming games from your PC or Mac is trickier than streaming from an Xbox One or a PS4, as most systems don’t come with any sort of built-in software to get you started. There are subscription-based products like XSplit if you want control over every aspect of your broadcast, but if you’re just learning the basics of streaming, we recommend downloading Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). The software is completely free, usable with both Windows and MacOS, and endorsed by Twitch. If you’re just wanting to get started streaming with the simplest amount of setup, then the Twitch Studio app is another great choice. However, this application is still in beta and is only available on Windows.

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be focusing on how to stream to Twitch from Windows and MacOS using OBS, as it offers an easy way to stream without a bunch of extra fluff.

Step 1: Download OBS

Downloading OBS couldn’t be simpler. To begin, click on your username in the main Twitch interface and hit the Creator Dashboard link. An update to Twitch changed how things work, so you’ll find yourself staring at a page that looks like this:

Stream Manager overview on Twitch

Go ahead and locate the three bars in the top-left corner of the screen. Click this drop-down menu to show a list of other options you can choose from. You’ll want to click on the Streaming Tools option. This will take you to a page with several download links to various streaming applications like OBS. Find OBS in the list and click download, or head to the official website here. Once on the OBS website, choose the version of OBS that you want to download. You can choose from Windows, Mac, and Linux.

How to download OBS

Step 2: Setting up to stream

There are all kinds of guides out there about how to get the most out of OBS, however, there are only a few things you’ll need to worry about if you’re just getting started. The only options you really need to focus on are your video bit rate, audio bit rate, and your encoder.

Click on the Output tab in OBS and ensure that your video bit rate is set to about 2,500. This should allow you to stream content at 720p, but you can increase this number if you want to broadcast at a higher resolution. If you want to stream at 720p at 60FPS, then it’s probably worth it to go ahead and bump your bit rate up to at least 3,500. Audio bit rate should be set at 128 regardless of your resolution, though you can also lower this if your internet speeds are less than ideal. If you’re running a Nvidia graphics card from the past couple of years, you can make use of the built-in NVENC encoder. Otherwise, you’ll want to stick with OBS’ default software x264 encoder.

How to set stream settings in OBS

Step 3: Enter your stream key

Return to Twitch’s website, and go back to the creator dashboard. Click the menu in the upper-left corner and then select the Channel option. This will take you to a page with your Primary Stream Key, as well as other options. Find the stream key area, and then press the copy button next to it. If your stream key gets shared somewhere it shouldn’t, you can always reset it here, too.

How to find Stream Key on Twitch

Step 4: Plug in your microphone and set up your game

Now it’s time to set up the audio devices for your stream. Take a look at the Audio Mixer area in OBS. It should already have at least the volume bar set up for your desktop. If it doesn’t, you can add it manually following the same instructions you’re going to use to add your microphone. In OBS, locate the Settings button in the bottom-right area of the application.

Clicking this will open up your settings window. Go ahead and navigate down to the Audio tab. Here you can add or remove audio devices as needed. Make sure that Desktop Audio is set to the correct piece of hardware and then locate the Mic/Aux audio section. You can set your microphone here. When you’ve selected your mic and desktop audio, return to the main OBS window and you should see your audio coming through in the mixer on the bottom.

How to add audio devices to OBS

Originally, OBS didn’t offer native support for Mac desktop audio. This issue has been resolved in updates, though.

Next, open the game you want to stream and take a look at the Sources menu. Find the + button at the bottom of the Sources area and press it. It should pull up a list of items. The easiest way to capture gameplay is to use the Display Capture option. This allows you to capture an entire desktop screen. However, it also means that any sensitive information on that screen could be shared, so be careful when using this option. If you want to just capture the game, you can select the Game Capture option. It should be noted, though, that some games — especially those running on Vulkan — won’t work correctly with OBS’ built-in game capture system.

How to add a source to OBS

Step 5: Stream!

That’s all there is to it! Hit the Start Streaming button in the main OBS screen and you’ll instantly begin broadcasting from your Twitch account. When you’re done, just hit Stop Streaming.

Streaming from a PlayStation 4

PlayStation 4 Pro review

Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The process for streaming to Twitch from a PS4 console is simple. You don’t have to utilize any outside software, and you can even use a PlayStation camera as a microphone and “facecam” for your broadcasts!

If you have a PlayStation Camera and want to use it, consider plugging it in. Just ensure your camera’s microphone isn’t muted from the quick-menu on your console, otherwise, you won’t be able to use it with your stream!

Step 1: Play a game

Unlike with Windows and MacOS, you should open whatever game you plan on streaming before changing any broadcast settings. Once you’ve launched the game, press the Share button next to the touchpad on your PS4 controller to open up your broadcast settings.

Step 2: Change settings and start streaming!

From here, select broadcast gameplay and you’ll be given an option to stream via three different streaming services. Select Twitch, and the service will provide you with a streaming key. Then, go to twitch.tv/activate and enter the key. Your PS4 will be ready to start streaming in a few moments, but let’s change a few more settings first.

From the broadcast gameplay menu, you can change the title of your stream, the quality, and whether you want to use your camera and/or microphone. Once you’re satisfied with your settings, hit start broadcasting and show your skills to the world!

Streaming from an Xbox One

Xbox One S

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Streaming with Twitch on an Xbox One is almost as simple as it is on a PS4. However, a few technical issues do mean you need one more piece of equipment.

If you want to have a “facecam,” legacy Xbox One owners can use the Xbox Kinect. (Technically the Xbox One supports all USB webcams, but only the Kinect is compatible with the Xbox One’s Twitch app). If you do, make sure to pair it with a headset to record your voice: The Kinect’s microphone is prone to cutting out intermittently when streaming via Twitch. As long as you have a headset plugged in, however, the stream will use that mic instead of the one on the Kinect. If you don’t have a Kinect, the camera and its associated adapter have been discontinued, so you’ll have to stick to voice only.

Step 1: Play a game

Just like the PS4, start up a game on your Xbox One before you begin streaming. Twitch will automatically detect the game when it begins the broadcast, making your content easier to find for prospective viewers.

Once this is done, download and open the official Twitch application, and log into the service. You’ll be given a stream key, which you must then activate at twitch.tv/activate using your mobile device or computer.

Step 2: Change settings and start streaming!

You’ll be given the option to change the title of your stream and the resulting quality before you start broadcasting on the Xbox One. You’ll also be able to move your Kinect’s camera display to the four corners of your game’s display. This won’t show up once you’re actually streaming on your own TV, but viewers will still be able to see it.

Next, hit start broadcast to stream your gameplay to the world. You’ll notice a ticker at the bottom of the screen showing how many viewers you have, and if you use the Xbox One’s Snap feature to keep Twitch visible on the side, you’ll be able to view your fans chatting in real time.

Most games don’t give you the option to mute your microphone in-game without muting it elsewhere, so consider creating an Xbox Live party with yourself as the sole member so other players won’t have to hear your commentary. If you invite other players to the party, their chat will also be broadcast in real time, so be sure to let them know in advance!