How To Take a Screenshot On a Windows PC – Taking a screenshot isn’t the most exciting computer task, but it’s still a very useful skill to have. Screenshots can be useful at work, necessary for record-keeping, or requested by tech support to better illustrate a bug.
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When taking screenshots on a Windows PC, the first thing to know is that there’s more than one way to do it — you’re not limited to the Print Screen key. Sending screenshots to OneDrive, getting them from the Xbox Game Bar, and other options are available. The Paint program is our preferred method, but you can edit screenshots with almost any first- or third-party tool.
Step 1: Take a picture
Windows offers six different ways to take a screenshot of your desktop. The Print Screen (PrtScn) key is used in three of them, while the Windows (Win) key is used in the other three.
A dedicated PrtScn key can be found in the upper-right corner of external keyboards. The Win key is usually found between the Control (Ctrl) and Alternate (Alt) keys on the lower left. It’s easy to miss because it’s emblazoned with the Windows logo.
On laptops, you can combine the Print Screen command with another function on a single key, as shown above. It would be best if you press the Function (Fn) key in addition to the Print Screen key in this case.
The six screen-capture commands are as follows:
PrtScn (Print Screen): This command captures the entire screen. This function captures everything shown across all connected displays as a single image if you have more than one display. This method, by default, does not save your image as a file instead of sending it to the clipboard.
Print Screen (Alt + Print Screen): Takes a screenshot of a single window. Before pressing these two keys, make sure you’ve highlighted the target window, such as a document or browser (or three on certain laptops). This method does not save your image as a file by default; instead, of sending it to the clipboard.
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Win + Print Screen: Takes a screenshot of the whole screen. The difference is that Windows saves the image as a file in this case. It’s sent to C: Users user name>Pictures>Screenshots on your PC by default.
Win + Shift + S: Use the built-in Snip & Sketch tool to take a screenshot. Rectangular Snip, Freeform Snip, Window Snip, and Fullscreen Snip are the four options on a small toolbar (not including the Exit icon). This tool does not save screenshots as images; instead, it copies them to the clipboard. Later in the guide, we’ll go over this in more detail.
The Xbox Game Bar is opened by pressing Win + G. By default, when you click the Capture button and then the Camera icon, this tool will save an image to C: Users user name>Videos>Captures.
Win + Alt + Print Screen: Only the active window is captured. By default, this command saves an image to C: Users user name>Videos>Captures.
The screen flickers or dims in some cases to indicate that Windows has taken a screenshot. If this doesn’t work, open File Explorer and look in the default folders to see if Windows has saved your image.
You can save screenshots to the cloud and access them from any device if you use OneDrive. By default, it does not save screenshots. Instead, select the Cloud icon next to the System Clock (or the Hidden Icons menu marked with an upward-facing arrow in the Hidden Icons menu). If you don’t see this icon, you may need first to open the OneDrive app and sign in to your account. Select Help & Settings from the drop-down menu after clicking the Cloud icon, and then click Settings on the pop-up menu. Then, in the resulting pop-up window, click the Backup tab and check the box next to Screenshots. Then press OK.
In this case, pressing the first two Print Screen commands will save an image to OneDrive automatically. For these commands, you won’t see the screen flicker or dim; instead, you’ll get a notification. If you want to access the images on your PC, make sure you sync the Screenshots folder.
Step 2: Open the Paint program
You could find and view your screenshot using the Photos app if you used a method that saves it locally as a file. You can move it, attach it to an email, upload it to the cloud, and so on if everything looks good. If you need to crop an image, especially one taken on a PC with multiple screens, you can use one of three native tools: Paint, Paint 3D, or Photos.
Microsoft’s newer Photos app is somewhat limited when compared to Paint and Paint 3D. Rotate and crop images, change their aspect ratio, apply filters, adjust the color, remove red-eye, and more are all possible. However, you can’t make an image from scratch and then paste it from the clipboard.
We’ll use the older Paint program in this tutorial because it’s familiar and reliable. You won’t find it on the Start menu by default. Instead, type “paint” into the taskbar’s search field and select the desktop app that appears.
When you right-click on an image, Paint may also appear. Hover your mouse pointer over the Open With the option on the pop-up menu to see Paint listed on a secondary menu, as shown below.
You can also look for the program mspaint.exe in the C: WindowsSystem32 directory. Select Pin to Start from the pop-up menu when you right-click on the File.
Step 3: Paste the screenshot into the document (clipboard only)
If you used a screenshot method that copies the image to the clipboard, you’d need to complete this step.
When Paint is open, click the top-left corner’s clipboard-style Paste button. You can also paste the image on Paint’s blank canvas by pressing the Ctrl + V keys on your keyboard, which expands accordingly.
You can crop, Paint, create shapes, add text, and more with your screenshot properly inserted into Paint. Click the colorful Edit With Paint 3D button on the toolbar’s right end if you want to add stickers, 3D shapes, effects, and more.
Step 4: Take a screenshot and save it.
When you’ve finished editing the image in Paint, go to the upper-left corner and click the main File option. Then, from the drop-down menu, choose Save As. This option expands to include PNG, JPEG, BMP, and GIF file formats, as well as the Other Formats option, which allows you to save your image as a TIFF or HEIC file.
Check out our guide JPEG vs. PNG: When and Why to Use One Over the Other if you’re not familiar with image formats.
A pop-up window appears regardless of the format you select. Choose your preferred file format from the drop-down menu after entering a file name. If you don’t want your screenshot to be saved in the default location, you can choose a different location.
Click the Save button in the bottom-right corner when you’re finished.
That’s all there is to it! You’ve completed the task.
The Snipping Tool is another option.
The Snipping Tool is the best native alternative method. When it comes to saving a screenshot, this built-in screen-capture utility is adequate, but it isn’t the most robust or versatile. It is, however, a tool that allows users to define better and capture screenshots of portions of their desktop display.
Type “snipping tool” into the taskbar’s search field and select the app that appears. You’ll get a notification when it opens that it’s “moving to a new home” in a later update. Although it’s still available, Microsoft recommends using Snip & Sketch or the Win + Shift + S keyboard shortcut instead.
To expand the menu of the Snipping Tool, click the Mode button once it’s open. Draw a window (Free-Form Snip), box in an area (Rectangular Snip), capture the current window (Window Snip) and capture the entire screen (Entire Screen Snip) are the four screen-capturing options (Full-Screen Snip).
The screen turns white when you use the Free-Form and Rectangular Snip modes. The white tint within the screenshot space clears once you start defining it. When you use Window Snip to capture a specific window, your screen turns white except for the contents of the window you choose.
A delay feature is also included in the Snipping Tool. It can take up to five seconds before taking a screenshot, allowing you to capture a specific moment in a video or animation.
The Snipping Tool interface expands to display your screenshot once you capture it. You can make minor changes with a pen, highlighter, and eraser. In the newer application, you can also perform additional edits by clicking the colorful Paint 3D button.
After you’ve finished editing in the Snipping Tool, go to File in the upper-left corner and select Save As from the drop-down menu.
Snip & Sketch is another option.
Snip & Sketch is a newer version of Microsoft’s snipping tool. This tool can be found in the Start menu or by pressing Win + Shift + S on your keyboard.
The screen darkens, and a five-button toolbar appears along the top if you use the keyboard shortcut. You get the same features as the older Snipping Tool, but your screenshots aren’t saved as a file. Instead, the image is copied to your clipboard right away. A desktop notification will also appear, indicating that the image has been copied to the clipboard. Within the Snip & Sketch app, you can edit the captured image using the same notification. By clicking the Desktop Notification, you can get to this last option. When you tap the notification, the screenshot opens in the app, where you can crop it and add tools like a pen, pencil, highlighter, and eraser.
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If you want to use the Snip & Sketch app instead, select Snip Now from the drop-down menu next to the New button in the top-left corner. The five-button toolbar appears as the screen darkens. After you’ve taken your snip, your desired image should appear in the Snip & Sketch app, ready for editing.
When you’re finished, click the Disk-Style button to save the image to your PC. Click the Three-Dot icon on the toolbar and select the Open With option from the drop-down menu if you want to edit and save the screenshot with any installed image editor.
Alternatives from third parties
We recommend LightShot if you want even more options for selecting and customizing your screenshots (and don’t mind downloading a new app). It’s completely free and runs on both Windows and Mac OS X. For more professional work or screenshots that require extensive editing, LightShot may be a better choice.
GNU Image Manipulation Program is another option (GIMP). It’s an open-source alternative to Adobe Photoshop for those who don’t want to pay for a subscription. It comes with everything you’ll need to create artwork, edit high-resolution images, and more.