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How to take a screenshot on a Windows PC or laptop

Screenshots can be helpful at work, essential for record-keeping, or requested by tech support to better illustrate a bug you’re experiencing.




5 minutes

What You Need

  • Any Windows PC

  • A keyboard

  • A mouse

There are a number of ways to accomplish this simple task in Windows, and we’ve detailed each of the available methods below. And yes, each of these methods work just as well in Windows 11 as in Windows 10.

Windows Snipping Tool screenshot showing snipping options.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Method 1: The Snipping Tool

The best native method is the Snipping Tool. This built-in screen-capture utility works well enough, but it’s not the most robust or versatile when it comes to saving a snapshot. However, it is a utility that allows users to better define and capture portions of their desktop display as a screenshot. Here's how to use it.

Step 1: To start, just type snipping tool into the taskbar’s search box and select the resulting app. If you're on Windows 10, once it opens, you’ll see a notification that it’s “moving to a new home” in a later update. Don't worry. Even in Windows 11, it's still an available tool, but Microsoft encourages you to use Snip & Sketch or the Win + Shift + S keyboard shortcut.

Step 2: With the Snipping Tool in Windows 10 opened, click the Mode button to expand its menu. You’ll find four screen-capturing options: Draw a window (Free-form snip), box in an area (Rectangular snip), capture the current window (Window snip), and capture the entire screen (Full-screen snip).

On Windows 11, you'll need to either select New or press the Windows key + Shift + S keyboard shortcut in order to start a snip. Once you've done either, the screen will darken a bit and you'll be presented with the four aforementioned "mode" options at the top of your screen. Select one of these modes to start your screenshot.

Step 3: Note that in Windows 10, if you use the Free-form and Rectangular Snip modes, the screen turns white. Once you begin defining the screenshot space, the white tint clears within that area. If you’re capturing a specific window (Window Snip), your screen tints white except for the contents within the window you select.

In Windows 11, using the Free-form and Rectangle modes will cause the whole screen to darken except for the areas you select for screenshotting. For Window snips, you'll see a dark screen until you select the window you want to screenshot. That window will brighten while everything else remains a bit dark.

Step 4: The Snipping Tool includes a delay feature, too. It can wait between one to five seconds before it snaps an awesome screenshot, so you can capture a precise moment in a video or animation. (In Windows 11, the increments are zero, three, five and 10-second delays.)

Once you capture a screenshot, the Snipping Tool interface expands to display your screenshot. You can perform light edits like using a pen or highlighter and erasing something. (In Windows 11, this editing screen may show up automatically, or you'll have to select a notification that pops up first in order to open the editing screen.)

Step 5: When you’re done editing within the Snipping Tool, click File in the upper-left corner and then click the Save As option listed on the drop-down menu.

In Windows 11: Select the Save as disk icon in the top-right corner, name your file on the screen that pops up, and select the Save button.

Using the Snip and Sketch app.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Method 2: Snip & Sketch

Snip & Sketch is Microsoft’s newer version of its snipping utility. You can access this tool from the Start menu or by typing Win + Shift + S on your keyboard. Here's how to use it.

(Note: Snip & Sketch is no longer available on Windows 11 and has been replaced by a updated Snipping Tool app that incorporates elements of Snip & Sketch. That said, the following instructions (particularly steps 1, 2 and 4) should still be generally correct for Windows 11's Snipping Tool.)

Step 1: If you use the keyboard shortcut, the screen darkens and renders a five-button toolbar along the top. You have the same functions found in the older Snipping Tool, but it doesn’t save your screenshots as a file. Instead, the image goes straight to your clipboard first.

Step 2: You’ll also see a desktop notification that informs you that the image has been copied to the clipboard. This same notification gives you the option to edit the captured image within the Snip & Sketch app. You can access this latter option by selecting the desktop notification itself. If you click on the notification, the screenshot loads within the app, allowing you to crop the image and apply a pen, pencil, highlighter, or eraser.

Step 3: If you load the Snip & Sketch app instead, select the drop-down arrow next to the New button in the top-left corner and select Snip now in the drop-down menu. The screen darkens, and the five-button toolbar appears. Take your snip, and your desired image should automatically load in the Snip & Sketch app, ready for you to edit.

Step 4: When you’re ready, save the image anywhere on your PC by choosing the Disk-style button. If you want to edit and save the screenshot using any installed image editor, select the Three-dot icon on the toolbar and select the Open with option on the drop-down menu.

Method 3: Keyboard shortcuts (PrintScreen)

Windows provides six methods to capture your desktop as an image using keyboard shortcuts. Three are based on the Print Screen (PrtScn) key, while the remaining three require the Windows (Win) key.

On external keyboards, you’ll find a dedicated PrtScn key located in the upper-right corner. The Win key typically resides on the lower-left, between the Control (Ctrl) and Alternate (Alt) keys. It sports the Windows logo, so it’s hard to miss.

On laptops, the Print Screen command may be combined with another function on a single key. In this case, you must press the Function (Fn) key in addition to the Print Screen key.

Here’s a breakdown of the six screen-capture commands:

Print Screen (PrtScn): Captures the entire screen. If you have more than one display, this function captures everything shown across all connected displays as a single image. By default, this method does not save your image as a file, but merely sends the captured image to the Windows clipboard.

Alt + Print Screen: Captures a single window. Be sure to highlight the target window first, such as a document or browser, before pressing these two keys (or three on certain laptops). By default, this method does not save your image as a file, but just sends the image contained in the capture window to the clipboard.

Win + Print Screen: Captures the entire screen. The difference here is that Windows saves the image as a file. By default, it’s sent to C:UsersPictures>Screenshots or C:UsersOneDrive>Pictures>Screenshots on your PC.

Win + Shift + S: Captures a screenshot using the built-in screenshot tool called Snip & Sketch (or the new Snipping Tool app in Windows 11). The screen dims and provides four choices on a small toolbar (not including the Exit icon): Rectangular snip/mode, Freeform snip/mode, Window snip/mode, and Fullscreen snip/mode. This tool does not save captures as an image, but merely sends them to the clipboard.

Win + G: Opens the Xbox Game Bar. Select the Capture button and then the Camera icon, and this tool will save an image to C:Users>(user name)>Videos>Captures by default.

Win + Alt + Print Screen: Captures only the active window. This command saves an image to C:Users>(user name)>Videos>Captures by default.

In some cases, the screen flickers or dims to signify that Windows has grabbed a screenshot. If this doesn’t happen, open File Explorer and head to their respective default locations to see if Windows saved your image.

how to take a screenshot on pc onedrive 4 2 768x768
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Method 4: Using OneDrive

If you’re using OneDrive, you can save screenshots to the cloud so they’re accessible from every device. It does not save screenshots by default, however. Instead, you must select the Cloud icon parked next to the System clock (or in the Hidden icons menu marked with an upward-facing arrow).

If this icon isn’t appearing, you may need to open the OneDrive app first and sign in to your account. After clicking on the Cloud icon, select the Help & settings gear icon, and click Settings on the pop-up menu. Next, click the Backup tab in the resulting pop-up window and check the box under Screenshots. Then click OK.

(In Windows 11, after selecting Settings, choose the Sync and backup tab on the left-hand side. On the Sync and backup screen, turn on the Save screenshots I capture to OneDrive option.)

In this case, you can press the first two Print Screen commands to automatically save an image file to OneDrive. You won’t see the screen flicker or dim for these commands — you’ll receive a notification instead. Be sure to sync the Screenshots folder if you want to access the images on your PC.

If you used a method that saves your screenshot locally as a file, you can locate and view the image using the Photos app. And if you need to crop an image — especially those taken on PCs with more than one screen — you have three native tools at your disposal: Paint, Paint 3D, and Photos.

Paint and Paint 3D will allow you to quickly paste in your selected image and then crop it down — or save it as a different file format.

How to take a screenshot on other devices

If you’re trying to learn how to take a screenshot on a Mac instead of a Windows PC, taking a screenshot is super simple as well. There are a number of methods to get it done, but the easiest involves using some handy keyboard shortcuts. Command + Shift + 3 will capture the whole screen, while Command + Shift + 4 will let you draw out a selection box.

Need to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface product? Check out our handy guide that covers a variety of methods.

In order to take a screenshot on a Chromebook, again, there are a few different methods, but the easiest is a keyboard shortcut. Control + Show Windows keys will capture the whole screen, while Control + Shift + Show Windows will let you capture a selected area.

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