Video editing can be an expensive game. Not only do you need to get your hands on the best laptop or desktop out there, but the software also plays an equally important role. It’s often thought that to have the best tools you need to pay some extortionate fee, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The cost can soon spiral though, especially for those just getting started, if you don’t know where to look for better value alternatives. Fortunately, there are some fantastic video editors you can use on Windows absolutely free, like the incredible DaVinci Resolve, among other zero-cost solutions.
Best overall: DaVinci Resolve
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Did you know that DaVinci Resolve 18 is actually free? As hard as it might be to believe, this is a free, full-featured version of Blackmagic Design’s professional video editing software.
There is still the paid Studio ‘full’ version, but for anyone hunting a free video editor, it’s hard to find anything else like this. For most, the free version will deliver everything you ever need.
For one, it’s platform-agnostic, so you can use it on Mac and Linux as well as on Windows, though it can be picky over its hardware support. That mostly extends to the GPU, which is important since Resolve makes full use of GPU acceleration. Resolve 18 also now supports AV1 encoding assuming you have a compatible hardware encoder.
Besides all the editing tools you can shake a stick at, Resolve 17 also boasts comprehensive color grading and built-in audio tools. The color grading is one of its strong points and is welcomed, especially for free users.
To completely learn DaVinci Resolve 17 will take time and commitment, but it’s also fairly easy to pick up and get started with simple edits. Just make sure you have a fairly good hardware resource pool on hand, as Resolve can certainly gobble it up. But if you want to get serious about video editing without a financial commitment, this is the software to get.
Open source power: Kdenlive
Kdenlive is living proof that open-source software can compete with the very best. Built by the team behind the KDE community more commonly associated with Linux, Kdenlive is also available on Mac and Windows, completely free, and absolutely packed with features. And as it’s FOSS, free really does mean free (though you should absolutely make a donation if you use it to support development).
Kdenlive runs well on a wider range of hardware than Davinci Resolve, while still being able to offer a feature set geared toward more advanced video editors. Naturally, the better your hardware, the better your experience, but beginners on a budget are certainly not locked out from making full use of the software.
It has its shortcomings, demanding resources, coupled with a sharper learning curve than some comparable applications. But the layout is easy to get along with, and it doesn’t take too much effort to figure out the main functions, and how to get making your first edits. And if you want to get a bit more advanced, there’s built-in scripting support to really tailor Kdenlive to your needs.
Best for basic editing: Microsoft Video Editor
“Hang on a second, Microsoft doesn’t make a video editor!” Actually, it does, and it’s built right into Windows 10 and 11. It’s not going to edit the next blockbuster, but if you just need some quick, basic edits, it’s perfect.
The main benefit is that it doesn’t cost you anything and is pretty lightweight. There are some features included that allow you to crop and adjust footage, add special effects, and some text, as well as save everything, so it’s ready to share with the world. It’s all about getting the task done quickly.
That flipside to this is the functionality is… well, basic. You do have effects, text, and other cool additions to video, but that’s about it. If you want to make your videos pop and stand out, you’re going to need a dedicated video editing suite. But for social video and absolute beginners in need of the basics, give it a try.
Best for beginners: Adobe Rush
Adobe is best known for its all-powerful Premiere Pro video editor but Adobe Rush is something a little more toned down and a perfect place for beginners to cut their teeth. It does require an Adobe account, which may be offputting to some, but the software itself is most excellent.
While advanced editors will find a better home elsewhere, you might be surprised how much you can get done. It’s capable of adding titles and transitions, for example, and it’s particularly attractive to those who post a lot of social video content. Adobe Rush also works like most modern cloud-enabled apps, in that it autosaves your work as you progress. We love that.
The UI is intuitive and follows the same basic template most popular video editors do. It’s a shame that sync across to the mobile version is locked behind a paywall, but if you find yourself loving the free version enough, it might well be money well spent.
Taking the next step: OpenShot
OpenShot is another advanced video editor that’s completely free to download and use. You can grab a copy on Windows, Mac, and Linux, allowing you to use the same software across different devices. It’s also a pleasure to use thanks to the UI and ability to switch between simple and advanced modes.
It’s a little slower compared to commercial software, as you could perhaps argue is to be expected. Still, if you’re not going all out with countless files being rendered daily, OpenShot should be good enough and is a perfect step up from true beginner software into making more advanced edits.
The fact you can get a full-fat, professional-grade video editor like DaVinci Resolve, completely free of charge, is mindblowing. Resolve is used by actual professionals doing big-budget video work, and you can get most of the same experience on your Windows PC without spending a dime.
If you’re looking to maybe go further with your video editing in the future, learning Resolve is also potentially a useful career tool, and Blackmagic makes a ton of learning resources available through its website, also for free.
The fact it isn’t the only high-quality video editor available for free on Windows is just the icing on the cake. We’re actually pretty spoiled for good, free video editors on Windows, and that’s no bad thing.