8 ways to take screenshots in Windows, using built-in tools

Do you use Windows and you need to take a screenshot quickly? Do you have trouble with the PrtScn key not working? Do you want to take a screenshot of the active window instead of the whole screen? Or maybe you want to take a free-form screenshot of a particular area of the screen? Or maybe you are playing a game in Windows, and you want to capture your achievements with a screenshot? It doesn’t matter why you want to take a screenshot; this guide has you covered:

NOTE: This guide applies to ALL modern versions of Windows: Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. Some of the methods described in our tutorial, work only in one or two of these operating systems. Where that is the case, we appropriately highlight this fact.

1. Use the keyboard shortcut: PrtScn (Print Screen) or CTRL+ PrtScn

The first method is also the best known and it works in all versions of Windows: on your keyboard, press the PrtScn (Print Screen) key or CTRL+PrtScn keys. Windows creates a screenshot of the whole screen and saves it to the clipboard. It is not stored as a file on your hard drive. Then, open an image editing program like Paint and paste the picture from the clipboard. Then, you can save it as a file and even do some basic editing.

2. Use the keyboard shortcut: Windows + PrtScn

If you want to take a screenshot of the whole screen and save it as a file on the hard drive, without using any other tools, then press Windows + PrtScn on your keyboard. Windows stores the screenshot in the Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder. The file is named “Screeenshot(number).png,” where the number will vary based on how many screenshots you have taken.

In Windows 10, you can also find your screenshots if you use the Photos app, by going to “Folders -> Pictures -> Screenshots.”

3. Use the keyboard shortcut: Alt + PrtScn

In Windows, you can also take screenshots of the active window. Open the window that you want to capture and press Alt + PrtScn on your keyboard. The screenshot is saved to the clipboard. Open Paint or any other photo editing software and paste the image so that you can edit it and save it to your Windows computer or device.

If you have a laptop, a tablet or a keyboard with the Fn key, do this instead of the first three methods:

The first three methods should work perfectly well on desktop computers with Windows or on Windows devices with a standard keyboard. However, if you have a laptop or a convertible device with a Fn key, then the PrtScn key will do other things too, not just take screenshots. Therefore, when you press the PrtScn key, it will not take a screenshot. Instead, use one of the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Fn + PrtScn - makes a screenshot of the whole screen and copies it to the clipboard. It is the equivalent of pressing the standard PrtScn key.
  • Fn + Windows + PrtScn - takes a screenshot of the whole screen and saves it as a file on the hard drive, without using any other tools. Windows stores the screenshot in the Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder. It is the same as pressing Windows + PrtScn on a standard keyboard.
  • Fn + Alt + PrtScn - takes a screenshot of the active window. It is the equivalent of pressing Alt + PrtScn on a standard keyboard.

On some keyboards, the PrtScn button might not perform two or more actions. However, it won’t work until you press Fn lock key. On such keyboards, the Fn key works as a lock for the function and multimedia keys on the top, including the Print Screen key.

If you have such a keyboard, press the Fn key to unlock the top row of keys and then use the shortcuts we described in the first three sections of this article. They should work now.

If you have a Surface or Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft with Windows 10, you need to use completely different keyboard shortcuts, because there is no PrtScn key on the Type Cover. Instead, Microsoft offers the following Surface-device specific shortcuts for Windows 10:

  • Fn + Spacebar - saves an image of your current screen to the clipboard, so that you can paste it into any application. It is the equivalent of pressing the standard PrtScn key.
  • Fn + Alt + Spacebar - saves a screenshot of the active window, to the clipboard, so that you can paste it into any application. It is the equivalent of pressing the Alt + PrtScn keyboard shortcut.

4. Use the keyboard shortcut: Windows + Shift + S (Windows 10 only)

If you use Windows 10, press Windows + Shift + S to capture a region of your screen and copy it to your clipboard. After you press Windows + Shift + S, the screen is dimmed, and a cursor is shown, that you can use to draw on the screen the region that you want to capture in a screenshot. Draw the area that you want to capture and release the mouse cursor.

The screenshot is saved to the clipboard. Open Paint or any other photo editing app and paste the screenshot so that you can edit it and save it. This feature was originally part of OneNote 2016 but has been added to Windows 10 itself, which is great.

5. Use the Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool is a great desktop app for taking screenshots. It can create all kinds of screenshots, and you can also use it to do some light editing. Search for the words “snipping tool” in the Start Menu search box (if you use Windows 10 or Windows 7) or on the Start screen (if you use Windows 8.1) and click or tap on the appropriate search result.

To learn how to use it, read this tutorial: How To Take Screenshots With The Snipping Tool In Windows.

6. Take screenshots on a Surface tablet or any other Windows tablet

If you have a Windows tablet, like a Microsoft Surface or an ASUS Vivotab or a Dell Venue, then you won't have a keyboard with a PrtScn key available. Yes, you can use the Snipping Tool, but that's not great on a device with touch. The best solution is to use the hardware buttons available on your tablet. On most (if not all) Windows tablets, you can take full-screen screenshots by pressing the Windows logo and the Volume Down key at the same time.

 

You will see the screen getting darker when you do this. This signals that a screenshot was made. You will find the screenshot in your Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder.

7. Take screenshots with the Share charm (Windows 8.1 only)

Windows 8.1 has improved the Charms concept from Windows 8, and they can also be used to take and share screenshots. This guide shares how they work: Introducing Windows 8.1: How to Share Screenshots from Any App

If you would like to learn more about the Charms, read this guide: Introducing Windows 8.1: What are the Charms & How to Use them.

8. Use the keyboard shortcut: Windows + Alt + PrtScn (Windows 10 Creators Update only)

In Windows 10 Creators Update, Microsoft has introduced new features for gamers, including a new Game Bar that can be used when playing games of all kinds. You can read more about it, here: What is Game Mode and how to use it in Windows 10?.

One of the things you can do with this Game Bar is take screenshots of the active game window. While playing a game, press the keys Windows + Alt + PrtScn, and a screenshot is automatically created and stored on your Windows 10 computer or device.

The screenshot is saved in your Videos library, in the Captures folder. Its filename will include the name of the game that you are playing and the date and time when the screenshot was made.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many ways to take screenshots in Windows. Unless you have complex needs, you can use the built-in tools and features, without having to install third-party programs. You will get the same results, and it only takes a bit of effort.