Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.
Taking a screenshot is so useful in all kinds of situations that everyone should know how to do it. From saving information to sharing error messages for troubleshooting, screenshots are vital.
We’ll show you everything you need to know about how to take a screenshot on Windows. You’ll never again have to take a picture of the screen with your phone!
How to Take a Screenshot on Windows Using Print Screen
The most basic way to take a screenshot in Windows is to hit the Print Screen key on your keyboard. Depending on your computer, this may be labeled PrtSc or something similar. On a laptop, you may have to hold the Fn key in combination with another key to activate Print Screen.
When you press this key, the entire contents of your screen are copied to your clipboard, a temporary storage location for copying and pasting. You can’t see the Windows clipboard, but you can paste its contents into any app.
Thus, simply open Microsoft Paint (or another image editing app) and press Ctrl + V to paste the screenshot into the editor. From there, you can crop and edit your screenshot in Paint as needed.
Using Print Screen Modifiers
If you have multiple monitors, PrtSc will capture all of them, which isn’t very useful. Press Alt + PrtSc to capture only the active window, which works in all modern versions of Windows.
You can also press Win + PrtSc to instantly take a screenshot and save it as a file. This will save to a folder called Screenshots in your Pictures folder. However, this option is only available in Windows 8 and Windows 10.
There are lots of ways to screenshot without the Print Screen button, which we’ll cover below.
How to Quickly Take a Screenshot in Windows 10
The above method works in all versions of Windows, but it’s clunky. Modern versions of Windows 10 include a much better universal shortcut for taking a screenshot. Press Win + Shift + S to access the more robust screenshot tool.
You’ll see a toolbar at the top with a few different screenshot methods. By default, this is set to a regional screenshot, where you click and drag to select an area to capture. Other options include freeform (freely select an area), window snip (capture an entire app window), and full-screen (grabs everything).
Once you take a screenshot using any method, you’ll see a notification that it saved to your clipboard. If you’re happy with the screenshot, you can paste it into whatever app you’d like.
Editing With Snip & Sketch
Alternatively, click the notification to open the screenshot in the new Windows 10 Snip & Sketch app. Here you can perform basic markup on the screenshot, such as drawing on it and cropping. Once you’re done, you can use the buttons on the bottom toolbar copy the modified version to your clipboard or save it as a file.
Notably, if you open the menu next to New in the Snip & Sketch app, you can take a delayed screenshot. This lets you easily capture tooltip menus that disappear when trying to take a normal shot.
If you like this method and want to make it more accessible, you can replace the default PrtSc behavior with Snip & Sketch’s functionality. Head to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and enable Use the PrtScn button to open screen snipping. You may need to reboot your PC before this takes effect.
How to Take Windows Screenshots Using the Snipping Tool
The Snipping Tool is available in Windows 7 and newer. On Windows 10, it’s pretty similar to Snip & Sketch, but since the latter has a few extra features, we recommend using that. However, on Windows 7 and Windows 8, the Snipping Tool is the best built-in way to take screenshots.
To access it, just search for Snipping Tool using the Start menu or Start screen. Once it’s open, select the New dropdown to choose the mode (they’re identical to the four mentioned above) and take a screenshot.
After you’ve captured a screenshot, it will open in the Snipping Tool editor. This provides a few basic markup tools and allows you to save or copy the modified image. Windows 8 and earlier do not include the delayed screenshot function in the Snipping Tool.
How to Print to PDF in Windows
While printing a file or webpage to PDF isn’t quite the same as taking a screenshot, it can be useful in some circumstances. For instance, if you want to capture a large page without stitching screenshots together, or need to send someone a PDF and want to do it in one step, this method is handy.
In Windows 10, there’s a built-in option to print to PDF. Simply go to File > Print (or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + P) to open the printing dialog in the app you’re using. When you see the list of available printers, select Microsoft Print to PDF.
Now, when you hit Print, instead of physically printing a page, you’ll get a prompt to save a PDF file.
If you’re on Windows 8 or earlier, you won’t see the built-in Microsoft Print to PDF option. Instead, you can install a free third-party tool like CutePDF. Watch out for third-party junkware while installing it.
Once installed, it functions in the same way as the Windows 10 method—just select it from the list of printers to create a new PDF.
While it’s a great option to have, printing to PDF isn’t always ideal. Often, when you capture a webpage as a PDF, it will have issues like misaligned text. Thus, screenshots are the best way to capture information exactly as it appears on your screen.
Using Third-Party Screenshot Tools
We’ve looked at all the ways Windows lets you capture screenshots without installing anything extra. However, anyone who regularly takes screenshots should look at using a dedicated tool for the job.
These provide much more utility, including features like:
- Powerful editors for adding common elements like arrows, text, boxes, and obfuscation
- Quick sharing to various apps and locations, like cloud storage
- A variety of keyboard shortcuts for its various functions
Professional tools like Snagit have even more advanced functions, including scrolling screenshots that can capture the entire length of a page. However, Snagit isn’t cheap, and most home users don’t need it.
We’ve looked at the best screenshot tools for Windows, so review that list to find the right one for you.
Grabbing Windows Screenshots With Ease
Now you know the many ways to capture screenshots in Windows. The best options are available in Windows 10, but those still on Windows 7 or Windows 8 have ways to do this too.
If you take a lot of screenshots for reference, you should know how to take screenshots that are easily searchable.