In any version of Windows, the PrintScreen key can be used to copy the screen to the clipboard, which can then be pasted in Paint or any image editor in order to save it to a file. Windows 8 and Windows 10 saves you that additional step, making it very easy to capture your screen and saving to a file in a single keystroke.
Different ways to take screenshots in Windows
These are the conventional ways to capture the screen, works in any version of Windows.
- PrintScreen : Copies the entire screen to clipboard.
- Alt+PrintScreen : Copies the current active window to clipboard.
Then open Paintbrush, paste (CTRL + V) the clipboard contents and save the file.
Easiest way – in Windows 8 and higher
You no longer need to open Paint or any other editor to paste the image, as Windows 8 (and higher) saves the image automatically, when you use this keystroke:
- WinKey + PrintScreen : Copies the entire screen to clipboard & automatically saves it to a .PNG file in your Pictures\Screenshots folder.
The files are named "Screenshot (n).png" where n is the index/counter which automatically increments after you use the WinKey + PrintScreen.
Use Fn Key for Notebooks
If you’re using a laptop, use the Fn key in addition:
- Fn + PrintScreen
- Fn + Alt + PrintScreen
- Fn + WinKey + PrintScreen
The screenshots index is stored in a value named ScreenshotIndex the following registry key, and is updated (+1) everytime you press WinKey + PrintScreen:
Using the built-in Snipping Tool
The above methods can be helpful to capture a specific window or the entire screen. What if you need to capture a specific area in the screen? You may use the built in Snipping Tool for that. This excellent tool was first introduced in Windows Vista as a Tablet PC feature, and available even in later versions of Windows.
Type snipping tool in Start to find the utility. Click Start, type snipping tool
Click Snipping Tool from the results. This tool offers you 4 screen capture choices:
Free-form Snip – Captures the area you draw, can be an irregular shape. You can draw any shape around an object with your finger, mouse, or tablet pen.
Rectangular Snip – Captures a specific portion (rectangular area) in the screen.
Window Snip – Captures a specific window.
Full-screen Snip – Captures Full screen.
Once a snip is taken, you can save it as .PNG | .JPG | .GIF | .MHT.
Capture a menu
Open Snipping Tool, and then open the menu that you want to capture.
Click the arrow next to the New button, choose the kind of snip you want from the 4 choices displayed. Select Free-form Snip or Rectangular Snip, and select the area you want to capture.
Alternate way to capture a menu, using time delay
Click Delay button and set the time (seconds) accordingly.
Click the arrow next to New, and click an option.
Meanwhile, quickly switch over to the program wherein you need to capture a menu or dialog, and keep it ready. Snipping Tool capture mode will kick in after the specified time-delay.
What if Print Screen does not work?
If the PrintScreen or one of the above key combinations doesn’t work, then another application running in the background may have registered the hotkey. For example, if you’re using OneDrive, DropBox or any cloud storage service, the respective client software can include an option to save screenshots to your cloud storage account directly. For this to work, the client software takes over the PrintScreen hotkey.
Check your settings in OneDrive, DropBox or any other utility and disable the screen capture feature in those programs. If you have two programs competing for the PrintScreen hotkey, the first program which registers the hotkey will takeover the key.
And, if you’ve redirected your Pictures folder to OneDrive, the Screenshots would be saved to Onedrive\Pictures\Screenshots folder, instead of Pictures\Screenshots. That’s another thing to watch out for.
Greenshot (3rd party)
Greenshot is a light-weight screenshot software which provides many useful features that are not available in Snipping Tool: It allows you to:
Quickly create screenshots of a selected region, window or full screen
Capture complete (scrolling) web pages from Internet Explorer
Easily annotate, highlight or obfuscate parts of the screenshot
Save screenshot to file, send to printer, clipboard, e-mail, send to Office programs
Upload to photo sites like Flickr or Picasa, and others.
When you capture a rectangular area, Greenshot also shows you the dimensions (px) of the selected area.
That’s a great feature to have especially if you write a lot of web content, and need to capture screenshots with dimensions not exceeding the web page width.
About the author
Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and has a vast experience in the ITeS industry — delivering support for Microsoft's consumer products. He has been a Microsoft MVP [2003 to 2012] who contributes to various Windows support forums.