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You’ve progressed further in the game than ever before, and you want to prove it. But when you hit PrtSc on your keyboard to save a snap to your Screenshot folder, you later find that your moment of success hasn’t been recorded. Instead, the desktop has.

Just how do you take a screenshot of a video game in Windows? And while we’re at it, how easy is it to record videos of your gaming activity?

Screenshots: Why PrtSc Doesn’t Work

Unless you’re playing a windowed game 2 Ways To Force DirectX Applications To Launch As Windowed Instead Of Fullscreen [Windows] 2 Ways To Force DirectX Applications To Launch As Windowed Instead Of Fullscreen [Windows] If you want to casually play a game in a windowed mode where you can watch other things and talk to friends through email or IMs, you should be able to. Certain games (most often,... Read More or one of those titles that shipped with XP, Vista, or Windows 7 such as Solitaire or Minesweeper (which can be added to Windows 8 Minesweeper: Restoring The Classic Windows Games In Windows 8 Minesweeper: Restoring The Classic Windows Games In Windows 8 Bring the default games in Windows 8 back to the desktop. If Metro-style, full screen apps aren't what you want when you play Solitaire, Minesweeper or Free Cell, you're probably disappointed with Windows 8 –... Read More ), the PrtSc button, (an abbreviated form of “Print Screen”) won’t work.

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This is because almost all Windows videogames use an overlay, which means while you can obviously see the game being played, any screenshots (certainly any taken during gameplay) will either be of the desktop, or of a segment of the displayed game.

Fortunately, a selection of alternative tools are available, capable of capturing screenshots and even videos. Start with the Windows Snipping Tool How To Take Awesome Screenshots In Windows 7 How To Take Awesome Screenshots In Windows 7 In principle, taking a screenshot is very simple. With the right technique however, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle and greatly improve the look of your screenshots. In this article I... Read More which was introduced in Windows 7. This should work for some games, particularly those that play in windowed mode. Similarly, Irfanview is capable of capturing screenshots How to Take a Screenshot & Batch Process Images with IrfanView How to Take a Screenshot & Batch Process Images with IrfanView Read More , but again if the game you’re playing uses a desktop overlay (and this accounts for the majority of titles) then you’ll need to look elsewhere.

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Capturing Screenshots in Windows 8 Modern Games

For Windows 8 / 8.1 and Windows 10, too – you’ll find that a quick browse through the store reveals a collection of free and low-cost games. Some of these are exceptional (and featured in our top Windows 8 apps list The Best Windows 10 Apps The Best Windows 10 Apps Windows 10 Store apps have come a long way. Meanwhile, you can choose from a considerable selection, free and paid. We have picked out the ones worth your while. Read More ) while others are not so good. You’ll even find modern versions of the classic Microsoft card games and Minesweeper.

Screenshots from almost all of these games can be captured using the Windows + PrtSc command which is found in Windows 8 and 8.1. The resulting grabs can be found in the Screenshots directory, typically found in C:\Users\[USERNAME]\Pictures\Screenshots.

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For Windows 8+ tablet users (such as the Microsoft Surface and Surface Pro series Enter to Win a Free Surface 3 + Last Chance to Enter for a Chromebook Pixel Enter to Win a Free Surface 3 + Last Chance to Enter for a Chromebook Pixel Today we have two giveaways for you guys. Whether you're a fan of Windows or Chrome OS, we have a device for you to win today! Read More ) you can capture a screenshot by pressing the Windows button and volume down button at the same time.

Whichever method you use on Windows 8, when the screen is captured, the display will dim momentarily to indicate that the image has been captured.

What if you find it isn’t possible to capture an in-game screenshot?

Best Screenshots Tools for Windows Games

Windows has a wide selection of desktop screenshot tools 4 Best Tools For Creating Screenshots Compared 4 Best Tools For Creating Screenshots Compared CTRL + SHIFT + 4. Three keys - that's all you need for perfect screenshots. It doesn't need to be a hassle! Try these advanced screen capturing tools and you won't ever look back. Read More , but these are on the whole useless for capturing video game grabs. In some cases, like SnagIt or Greenshot, you’re looking at a 50-50 chance of getting the shot you want, or not.

Instead of wasting time with these tools, one option is FRAPS. It’s a well-known app and comes as a trial that puts watermarks on your images unless you upgrade to the full $40 version. FRAPS hasn’t been updated since 2013 and officially doesn’t support Windows 8 or 8.1, although it should work just fine.

Screenshots in Digital Download Systems

Digital download systems such as Steam and UPlay are becoming increasingly feature packed, including access to gaming communities and other tools that can be accessed in-game. One such tool is the ability to capture a screenshot.

Using Steam? Screenshots Are Easy!

If you’re playing a game in Valve’s digital distribution platform Steam, you’ve got in-game screenshots sorted. All you need to do is open Steam, then Steam > Settings > In-Game to view the Screenshot shortcut key. This is set to F12 by default, but you can change this if F12 is already mapped in the game you’re playing. You can also configure notifications when a screenshot is taken, as per my previous guide on taking a screenshot with Steam The Secret To Capturing Top Quality Screenshots With Steam [MUO Gaming] The Secret To Capturing Top Quality Screenshots With Steam [MUO Gaming] Grabbing an action-packed screenshot from a video game can be tough. More often than not using the standard Print Screen command in Windows will result in a blank screen being captured; this is true for... Read More .

Screenshots are saved to C:\Program Files\Steam\userdata\[YOUR USER NUMBER]\760\remote.

Configuring a shortcut key for screengrabs in Steam

Also, don’t overlook the ability to add virtually any game into Steam, whether you downloaded through the service or not. By doing this, you gain the ability to use the Steam screenshot tool on virtually any game! This is an advantage when you consider that third party capture apps – like, for instance, WeGame Capture Video Footage & Screenshots From Your Games For Free With WeGame [Windows] Capture Video Footage & Screenshots From Your Games For Free With WeGame [Windows] While there are many ways to capture screenshots from video games, recording video footage isn’t quite as simple. There are two main choices. The first is FRAPS – the choice of pro gamers who want... Read More – might close at any time.

Capture Screeners in UPlay

Is your game attached to Ubisoft? If so, you’ll be able to use the UPlay digital download service, and this has the ability to capture screenshots from games you have in your UPlay account.

To check this, open the UPlay window, then click the gear icon. From here go to Settings > Other and set the screen hotkey and save location.

Check Your Game’s Instructions

It’s also worth checking the manual or downloaded documentation that accompanies your game, as you may find that your game has a built-in screenshot facility. You never know, it might even have the tools to record in game footage…

Recording Video Of Your Gaming Session

Like photographs, screenshots are good at capturing a mood, but don’t tell the full story. For this, you’ll need to be able to record video footage of your gaming highs. Several apps are available that can help here.

FRAPS – as mentioned above, FRAPS does screenshots and video (as well as benchmarking), but it’s fair to say that its time is past. Lighter alternatives are available.

PlayClaw – this FRAPS alternative is $39 and will display and record FPS, GPU and CPU statistics, Teamspeak overlay and webcam overlay, as well as the basic game record feature that you were expecting. Here’s a demo:

DxTory – available for around $30, this app captures video from the surface memory buffer and as such is pretty fast. It will capture video from games (and applications) using DirectX and OpenGL.

Bandicam – the aim of this app is to enable you to record everything on your PC desktop, and is available for $39 for a single device license. Games, desktop, and even webcam can be recorded, as high as H.264 quality.

GeForce Shadowplay – if your system has an NVidia GPU and a suitable CPU (at least an Intel Core i3-2100 at 3.10 GHz) then this free component of the GeForce Experience can be used to record games.

Action! – ready to buy online for $29.95, this is another total desktop recorder, much like Bandicam. This is a popular option with minimal performance loss.

Open Broadcaster Software – a free, open source option, this is mostly used by gamers for streaming gameplay online How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions Using Open Broadcaster Software How To Live Stream Your Gaming Sessions Using Open Broadcaster Software Live streams have become all the rage these days in the world of gaming, and with Open Broadcaster Software you can join in with your own streaming sessions for the world to watch. Read More through services like Twitch.tv (although it isn’t just gamers; artists use Twitch too Watch Artists Work In Real-Time on These 4 Twitch Channels Watch Artists Work In Real-Time on These 4 Twitch Channels One effective way to learn digital art is watching live experts draw and teach in real time. Did you know that Twitch.tv has a category dedicated to Creative Arts? Read More !).

Remember, whichever solution you opt for to record your game progress, have the footage saved to a separate HDD or storage device. If you’re using the same HDD the game speed is likely to drop considerably as the game reads the HDD and your capture tool writes to it. While this isn’t too bad for compressed video formats, writing raw video (such as that produced by FRAPS) is massive resource hog, and counter-productive.

Some games now offer the ability to upload key moments directly to YouTube, so check if this is a feature your game has. All you’ll need to do is add your YouTube login details, and be aware of the process for uploading, which should be included in the game manual.

Windows 10 Screenshot Options

The future is almost upon us, and although Windows 10 screenshot captures are unlikely to change, the addition of video footage – in line with Xbox One – is set to be included and activated via the Windows + G keyboard command to record the last 30 seconds of gameplay Here's How Gaming Will Work With Windows 10 Here's How Gaming Will Work With Windows 10 With Windows 10, Microsoft is bringing PC gaming and the Xbox One together in a big way. Find out what to expect once Windows 10 arrives. Read More .

This is one of the benefits of having a single operating system across all devices Windows 10: The Dream Of A Cross-Device Operating System Is Becoming Reality & It's Free Windows 10: The Dream Of A Cross-Device Operating System Is Becoming Reality & It's Free Microsoft is boldly stepping into the future with innovative software and hardware. Windows as a service and mobility of experience were the major keywords from the recent Windows 10 briefing. Most importantly, Windows 10 will... Read More !

Remember, it isn’t only Windows users who can record game footage. Android gamers can call upon a selection of screen recorder tools What's the Best Way to Record Your Screen on Android? What's the Best Way to Record Your Screen on Android? Need to record the screen on your Android phone or tablet? Here is exactly how to get it done. Read More while next gen consoles also have tools available for recording and streaming games How To Capture And Stream Video Games From A Console How To Capture And Stream Video Games From A Console Read More .

How do you capture screenshots or record your gaming progress? Have we missed what you consider to be a killer screencap or recording app? Tell us about it in the comments.

  1. Dennis Primm
    June 3, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    How about CamStudio? It's free and open source.

    • jeffcard
      October 19, 2016 at 9:31 am

      CamStudio piggybacks malware and adware on download. I always use acethinker screen recorder to make screencast, it's a web-based program. you don't have to download or install anything. More important, it's totally free. Share it here.

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