How to Capture Screenshots on a Windows PC or Laptop

Screenshots can be incredibly useful in various scenarios, whether it’s for work, record-keeping, or troubleshooting with tech support. Luckily, Windows offers multiple methods to accomplish this simple task. In this article, we’ll explore each of these available methods, focusing on Windows 10 and Windows 11. So, let’s get started!

Method 1: The Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool is a handy built-in screen-capture utility in Windows. While not the most robust option, it allows users to easily define and capture specific portions of their desktop display as a screenshot. Here’s how to use it:

Step 1: To start, simply type “snipping tool” into the taskbar’s search box and select the corresponding app. In Windows 10, you may see a notification stating that it’s “moving to a new home” in a later update. Don’t worry! In Windows 11, it’s still available, but Microsoft recommends using Snip & Sketch or the Win + Shift + S keyboard shortcut.

Step 2: With the Snipping Tool open in Windows 10, click the Mode button to access the four available screen-capturing options: Draw a window (Free-form snip), box in an area (Rectangular snip), capture the current window (Window snip), or capture the entire screen (Full-screen snip).

In Windows 11, you’ll need to select New or use the Windows key + Shift + S shortcut to initiate a snip. This will darken the screen and present the four modes at the top for you to choose from.

Step 3: In Windows 10, the Free-form and Rectangular Snip modes will temporarily turn the screen white, which then clears within the selected area. For Window Snips, the screen tints white except for the contents of the selected window.

In Windows 11, the Free-form and Rectangle modes darken the screen, except for the selected areas. Window snips brighten the selected window while keeping everything else slightly darkened.

Step 4: The Snipping Tool also offers a delay feature, allowing you to capture a precise moment in a video or animation. In Windows 10, you can set a delay of one to five seconds. In Windows 11, the options include zero, three, five, and ten-second delays.

Once you capture a screenshot, the Snipping Tool interface expands to display your screenshot. You can perform simple edits like using a pen or highlighter and erasing something. In Windows 11, the editing screen may automatically show up, or you might need to select a notification to open it.

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Step 5: After editing, click File in the upper-left corner of the Snipping Tool and choose Save As to save your screenshot. In Windows 11, select the Save as disk icon in the top-right corner, name your file, and click the Save button.

Method 2: Snip & Sketch

Snip & Sketch is Microsoft’s newer version of the snipping utility. It can be accessed from the Start menu or by using the Win + Shift + S keyboard shortcut. Here’s how to use it:

(Note: In Windows 11, Snip & Sketch has been replaced by an updated Snipping Tool app that incorporates elements of Snip & Sketch. The following instructions should still be generally correct for Windows 11’s Snipping Tool.)

Step 1: If you use the Win + Shift + S shortcut, the screen darkens, and a five-button toolbar appears at the top. This toolbar offers similar functions to the older Snipping Tool but doesn’t save screenshots as files. Instead, the captured image goes directly to your clipboard.

Step 2: You’ll receive a desktop notification informing you that the image has been copied to the clipboard. This notification also provides the option to edit the captured image within the Snip & Sketch app. Simply select the notification to open the app and crop the image or apply various tools like pens, pencils, highlighters, or erasers.

Step 3: Alternatively, you can open the Snip & Sketch app directly. Click the drop-down arrow next to the New button in the top-left corner and select Snip now from the menu. The screen will darken, and the toolbar will appear. Capture the desired snip, and it will automatically load in the Snip & Sketch app for further editing.

Step 4: Once you’re ready, save the image on your PC by clicking the Disk-style button. If you prefer to edit and save the screenshot using another image editor, select the Three-dot icon on the toolbar and choose the Open with option from the menu.

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Method 3: Keyboard Shortcuts (PrintScreen)

Windows provides six keyboard shortcuts to capture your desktop as an image. Three are based on the Print Screen (PrtScn) key, while the remaining three require the Windows (Win) key.

On external keyboards, you’ll find a dedicated PrtScn key in the upper-right corner. The Win key is typically located on the lower-left, between the Ctrl and Alt keys, sporting the Windows logo.

On laptops, the Print Screen command may be combined with another function on a single key. In such cases, you’ll need to press the Function (Fn) key along with the Print Screen key.

Here’s a breakdown of the six screen-capture commands:

  • Print Screen (PrtScn): Captures the entire screen, including all connected displays, as a single image. By default, this method copies the image to the Windows clipboard without saving it as a file.
  • Alt + Print Screen: Captures the active window. Make sure to select the target window (e.g., a document or browser) before pressing these keys. It also copies the captured image to the clipboard without saving it as a file.
  • Win + Print Screen: Captures the entire screen and saves the image as a file. By default, it’s saved in either C:UsersPictures>Screenshots or C:UsersOneDrive>Pictures>Screenshots on your PC.
  • Win + Shift + S: Initiates the built-in screenshot tool called Snip & Sketch (or the new Snipping Tool app in Windows 11). The screen dims, presenting four snipping modes: Rectangular snip/mode, Freeform snip/mode, Window snip/mode, and Fullscreen snip/mode. This tool doesn’t save captures as images but sends them directly to the clipboard.
  • Win + G: Opens the Xbox Game Bar. By selecting the Capture button and then the Camera icon, you can capture and save an image by default in C:Users>(username)>Videos>Captures.
  • Win + Alt + Print Screen: Captures only the active window and saves the image by default in C:Users>(username)>Videos>Captures.

In some cases, the screen may flicker or dim, indicating that Windows has successfully captured a screenshot. If not, you can check the default locations mentioned above using File Explorer to locate your saved images.

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Method 4: Using OneDrive

If you’re using OneDrive, you have the option to save your screenshots to the cloud, allowing access from any device. By default, screenshots aren’t saved automatically. However, you can configure this feature by following these steps:

  • Click on the Cloud icon next to the System clock (or in the Hidden icons menu marked by an upward-facing arrow).
  • If the icon isn’t visible, open the OneDrive app, sign in to your account, and then click on the Cloud icon.
  • Select the Help & settings gear icon, click Settings, and choose the Backup tab.
  • Check the box under Screenshots. In Windows 11, select the Sync and backup tab and turn on the “Save screenshots I capture to OneDrive” option.

With these settings in place, you can use the Print Screen commands mentioned earlier to save your screenshots automatically to OneDrive. Instead of a screen flicker or dimming effect, you’ll receive a notification. If you want to access the images on your PC, make sure to sync the Screenshots folder.

If you saved your screenshot as a file locally, you can view it using the Photos app. Additionally, you have three native tools at your disposal—Paint, Paint 3D, and Photos—for cropping and editing images, especially those taken on PCs with multiple screens.

How to Capture Screenshots on Other Devices

While this article primarily focuses on capturing screenshots on Windows PCs and laptops, it’s worth mentioning a few methods for other devices:

  • Mac: Taking a screenshot on a Mac is straightforward using keyboard shortcuts. Command + Shift + 3 captures the entire screen, while Command + Shift + 4 allows you to draw a selection box.

  • Microsoft Surface: If you’re using a Microsoft Surface product, check out our helpful guide that covers various methods for capturing screenshots.

  • Chromebook: On a Chromebook, you can use keyboard shortcuts to capture screenshots. Control + Show Windows keys captures the entire screen, while Control + Shift + Show Windows enables capturing a selected area.

Remember, capturing screenshots can be quick and easy on various devices, allowing you to save and share important information effortlessly.

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