9 ways to take a screenshot on a Windows PC, laptop, or tablet, 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? There are numerous Windows apps, paid or free, that take screenshots. Before you install another app, make sure that you are familiar with the whole range of screenshot options you already have available in Windows:

NOTE: This guide applies to ALL modern versions of Windows: Windows 10, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. If a method works only in one or two of these operating systems, 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. Next, open an image editing program like Paint and paste the picture from the clipboard. You can now save it as a file and do basic editing.

Screenshot of the whole screen, pasted in Paint

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 varies based on how many screenshots you have taken.

Screenshots stored by Windows in your Pictures library

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

Screenshots viewed in the Photos app from Windows 10

Besides creating the file with the screenshot, Windows also places a copy of the screenshot in the clipboard.

3. Use the keyboard shortcut: Alt + PrtScn

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 app and Paste the image so that you can edit it and save it to your Windows computer or device.

Screenshot of an active window in Paint

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 does other things too, not just take screenshots. Therefore, when you press the keyboard shortcuts that include PrtScn key, Windows does not take a screenshot. Instead, use one of the following:

  • 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.
Keyboard shortcuts for screen captures on keyboards with the Fn key

On some keyboards, the PrtScn button might not perform two or more actions. However, it will not 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.

Fn (Function) key on a keyboard

If you have a Surface Pro tablet from Microsoft with Windows 10, you need to use 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 - this shortcut 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 - this shortcut 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.
Keyboard shortcut for taking a screenshot on a Surface Type Cover

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. Press the left-click mouse button, draw the area that you want to capture and release the mouse button. If you have a touchscreen, draw the area that you want to capture with your finger (or pen) on the screen.

Screenshot of a region in Windows 10

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 but it has been added to Windows 10 itself, which is excellent.

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.

Snipping Tool in Windows

To learn how to use it, read this tutorial: How to take screenshots with the Snipping Tool in Windows.

6. Use the Snip & Sketch app (Windows 10 only)

Starting with the October 2018 Update, Windows 10 brings in a new app that is meant to replace the Snipping Tool. For the time being, the two apps are both available in Windows 10. Snip & Sketch adds new features and, as its name suggests, they focus on modifying (sketching) the screenshots after you take them. Snip & Sketch has more than one method to capture screenshots. The first is to press the New button in the Snip & Sketch app or CTRL+N keyboard shortcut:

Start a screenshot in Snip & Sketch from Windows 10

Snip & Sketch offers three options to take a screenshot: rectangular, free-form, and fullscreen.

Screenshot options offered by Snip & Sketch in Windows 10

Once the screenshot is taken, Snip & Sketch opens an editing window ready to process the screenshot further. You can learn more about working with it, here: How to use Snip & Sketch to take screenshots in Windows 10.

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

If you have a Windows tablet, like a Microsoft Surface, HP ENVY, or a Lenovo Tablet 10, and you use it without a keyboard attached to it, then the PrtScn key is not available. 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.

Take screenshots on a Windows tablet without a keyboard

You see the screen getting darker when you do this. It signals that a screenshot was made. You find the screenshot in your Pictures library, in the Screenshots folder. Please note that Snip & Sketch has a good user interface for touchscreens, and it is a good option for Windows 10 tablets.

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

In Windows 10, Microsoft has introduced the 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. You can also bring up the Game Bar by pressing Windows + G, and then click or tap the "Take screenshot" button highlighted below.

Take a screenshot using the Game Bar from Windows 10

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

9. 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

Take screenshots using Charms in Windows 8.1

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.

Which method do you like best for taking screenshots in Windows?

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 apps for this task. You get the same results, and it only takes a bit of effort. Before closing this tutorial, tell us what is your favorite way of taking screenshots, in Windows. Comment below and let's discuss.