A modern gaming PC should be enough to broadcast your gameplay to the internet, but a second computer can help create a smoother streaming experience. You can even repurpose old hardware to achieve this, assuming it meets the minimum specs for the streaming platform of your choice.
Setting up a dedicated streaming PC to work alongside your gaming rig can take a bit of time to configure, but for gamers who want to min-max the streaming experience, two PCs can be a great option.
What You Need to Stream with Two PCs
There isn’t one exact way to set up your ideal streaming solution, so we’ll be going over a variety of hardware configurations here. Depending on your specific streaming needs and hardware, your setup process might look slightly different, though the fundamentals should be roughly the same.
Whether you decide to repurpose an older machine or purchase an entirely new one for the job, make sure you have a mouse, keyboard, and monitor for both.
A good rule of thumb is to think of one PC as your gaming computer, and the other as your streaming machine. For your primary gaming PC, you’ll want to make sure you have at least the minimum CPU and GPU specs to play the games you want. When selecting your streaming PC, keep in mind that your CPU does most of the work encoding video for your stream.
If you're considering buying a machine strictly to handle encoding video for your stream, Intel has partnered up with a few manufacturers to offer personal streaming computers optimized for streaming out of the box.
Once you’ve assembled your hardware, including your gaming PC and streaming PC, you’ll need to start rounding up software — including streaming software. For first-timers, Open Broadcaster Software (OBS)* is easy to navigate, and equipped with what you need to help facilitate a two-computer stream setup.
Intel’s ready-to-go mini-rigs ship with Streamlabs OBS* (SLOBS) preloaded, offering a friendly interface, and featuring video effects like pop-up alerts. Both OBS* and SLOBS* are free to install on your machine of choice, and support dual-streaming setups with capture cards. If you'd rather pay for something a little more robust, Xsplit* is popular among professional streamers because of additional features like scene previews and simplified uploads.
Once you’ve set up your two PCs, it’s time to start compiling accessories. There is no right or wrong way to accessorize your 2 PC stream setup. It can be as simple as gameplay with a voice overlay, or as involved as using a mixer to connect your microphone to both PCs as well as a complex green screen setup. Because there are so many options available here, think of the list below as a place to start, and then customize to fit your needs.
Capture cards have the input and output ports you need to broadcast real-time video from the gaming rig to your stream machine. You can choose between an internal capture card or an external one like the Elgato* HD60 S, connected via USB and HDMI. Internal capture cards can help save external ports if you have the space available inside your computer, while external capture cards are useful for their portability and easy setup. External capture devices can also be used for game capture and game streaming footage from consoles.
More experienced users might consider pairing computers via Ethernet using NewTek’s NDI*, though setup for NDI* can be complicated. We’ll focus primarily on more traditional streaming setups here.
If you only want in-game audio, just plug your headphones directly into the gaming PC. If you'd like to hear audio output from your stream, there are a few additional steps.
After the capture card is ready to use, plug the headphones into the stream machine. Then, in a streaming suite like OBS*, select the audio from the USB cable coming from the capture card that's attached to the gaming PC. You'll know it works when you can hear your game.
Some streamers prefer to use a 3.5mm cable splitter to achieve this same effect.
If you don’t have a headset with a built-in microphone, you’ll want a stand-up mic like the Blue Yeti* plugged into your stream machine so your audience can hear you. If you don't have the room for a standing microphone, try an attachment mic like the AntLion* ModMic, which mounts to an existing pair of headphones with magnets.
If you plan on simultaneous in-game chat, you’ll need a separate mixer with at least two channels: one to go to the gaming PC, and one that goes into the streaming PC so that the microphone is available to both machines. This setup is the same for headsets with built-in microphones.
A webcam can help provide a more personal touch to your stream. Connect it to your streaming PC, and make sure the audio is muted in your streaming suite, as you don’t want it to pick up sound that should be coming through your microphone. Once you've got it running, you'll want to consider your backdrop, which can be anything from an arrangement of your favorite items to a green screen.
If you do use a green screen, you will have options like showing footage of your stream behind you, but this does add some complexity to the setup process. Starting with a simple background is perfectly fine, as you can always increase the complexity of your stream later.
Setting Up Dual PC Streaming
You'll need to download streaming software to your machine before you can go live. (If you're on an Intel-supported personal streaming PC, you can skip ahead to the next section.)
As mentioned, some of the programs you’ll want to look at including Open Broadcast Software* (OBS), SLOBS, and Xsplit*. Once installed, ensure that the capture card is connected, or installed in the streaming machine before moving on to connect the two PCs.
Connecting the Two PCs
Connecting your two computers should only take a minute, though it’s important to connect everything in the right order.
- If you’re using an external card like the Elgato* HD60 S, plug an HDMI cable from your gaming PC into the “in” connection of your capture card. Then, connect the capture card to your streaming PC via USB.
- If you’re using an internal capture card, install it in your streaming PC by following the manufacturer-provided instructions. Then, connect your graphics card via HDMI from your gaming computer to the HDMI port labeled “in” on the capture card installed on the stream machine.
Once all the cables are plugged in, head to your gaming computer. On the Windows desktop, right-click select “Display settings”. From here, make sure that the HDMI cable connected between your gaming PC and your streaming machine’s capture card (usually denoted by the name of the manufacturer) is a duplicated display from your primary gaming monitor. If it’s an external card, ensure the appropriate drivers are installed.
Connecting the two machines in this way ensures that any potential limitations of the capture card don't interfere with the capabilities of your gaming monitor, especially if it runs at a higher resolution or refresh rate. Before you head to your stream machine, leave the gaming computer running on something in motion, like a video or animated game menu. The movement will help you determine whether the video is synced up when you connect the two machines.
Now, head over to your streaming machine. If you’re using an app like OBS* or SLOBS, add the capture card as a video source so that it shows up on the screen. You’ll see your game preview appear in the broadcasting app. (If you don't see the game preview immediately show up, make sure the video source isn't hiding behind another window.) Check to see that any movement or animation is visible in the preview window. Make sure that any sound that's playing through your gaming PC is also getting picked up by the broadcasting suite on your streaming machine — in an app like OBS*, sound levels are available for each source in the Mixer panel.
If you’re successful in getting the two machines set up, start the process of setting up the stream with your service of choice. Reference How to stream on Intel for further instructions.
Two Can Be Better Than One
Though you can stream and play a game from one modern PC, a dual streaming setup allows for a better distribution of the workload, freeing up one system to run the game, and the other to be responsible for encoding the video for streaming. It’s a great way to get even more control over your streaming experience, and potentially improve the quality of your stream.