Take a Screenshot on a Home windows PC

Taking screenshots can seem a bit easy or boring in terms of technical skills, but it's a useful skill to have anyway. Screenshots can be helpful at work, required for your records, or even requested by technical support to explain an error that has occurred. Or you just want to capture a funny or interesting moment on your screen.

However, if you want to take a screenshot on a Windows PC, you first need to know that there are several ways to take it. These options may include using the print screen button, sending screenshots to OneDrive, capturing from the game bar, and others. Our featured method uses the Paint program, but you can edit screenshots with almost any first- or third-party tool.

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Step 1: take the picture

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

On external keyboards you will find a dedicated PrtScn key on the top right. The Win key is usually located at the bottom left between the Control (Ctrl) and Alternate (Alt) keys. It bears the Windows logo and is therefore not difficult to miss.

On laptops, the Print Screen command can be combined with another function on a single key, as shown above. In this case you have to press the function key (Fn) in addition to the Print screen key.

Here is a breakdown of the six screen capture commands:

  • Print screen (PrtScn) – Captures the entire screen. If you have more than one ad, this feature captures everything that appears on all connected ads as a single image. By default, this method does not save your image as a file, but only sends the captured image to the clipboard.
  • Alt + print screen – Captures a single window. Make sure that you first select the target window, e.g. For example, a document or browser before you press these two buttons (or three on a laptop). By default, this method does not save your image as a file, but only sends the captured image to the clipboard.
  • Win + Print Screen – Captures the entire screen. The difference is that Windows saves the image as a file. By default, it is sent to C: usersPictures> Screenshots on your PC.
  • Win + Shift + S. – Take a screenshot with the built-in Snip & Sketch tool. The screen is dimmed and offers four options in a small toolbar: rectangular, free-form, window and full screen. This tool does not save captures as an image, but only sends them to the clipboard. We will explain this in more detail later in the manual.
  • Win + G. – Opens the game bar. Click the screenshot button. This tool saves an image for C: usersVideos> Recordings by default. To use this tool, make sure that the screen capture function of the game bar is activated under Settings> Games> Game Bar.
  • Win + Alt + print screen – Captures the entire screen. This command saves an image in C: userVideos> Recordings by default. To use this tool, make sure that the screen capture function of the game bar is activated under Settings> Games> Game Bar.

In some cases, the screen flickers or dims to indicate that Windows took a screenshot. If it doesn't, open File Explorer and go to the default locations to see if Windows saved your picture.

OneDrive Save screenshots

If you use OneDrive, you can save screenshots in the cloud so that they can be accessed from any device. By default, screenshots are not saved. Instead, you need to right-click the cloud icon next to the system clock, select More, and click Settings on the pop-up menu. Then, in the pop-up window that appears, click the Backup tab and check the box under Screenshots.

In this case, you can press the first three print screen commands to automatically save an image to OneDrive. The screen flickers or does not go dark. You will receive a notification instead. Make sure to sync the "Screenshots" folder if you want to access the pictures on your PC.

If you have Dropbox, screenshots may automatically upload the "Screenshots" folder to your cloud storage, which may be ideal for your "Showcase".

Step 2: open the paint

If you've used a method that saves your screenshot locally as a file, you can use the Photo app to find and view the image. If everything looks fine, you can move it, attach it to an email, upload it to the cloud, and so on. However, if you need to crop an image – especially on PCs with more than one screen – three native tools are available: painting, 3D painting and photos.

Compared to Paint and Paint 3D, the newer photo app from Microsoft is somewhat limited. You can rotate and crop images, change their aspect ratio, apply filters, adjust color, remove red eyes, and more. You cannot create a picture from scratch and paste it from the clipboard.

In this manual, we use the older Paint program because it is familiar and reliable. By default, it is not listed in the Start menu. Instead, type Paint in the taskbar search box and click on the resulting desktop app.

Color may also be available when you right-click an image. When the pop-up menu appears, hover your mouse over the Open With menu option to see how color is listed in a secondary menu (see the figure below).

Open with paint

Alternatively, you can search for the program – mspaint.exe – in the directory C: WindowsSystem32. Right-click the file and choose Pin to Start from the pop-up menu.

Step 3: paste the screenshot (clipboard only)

You will need this step if you have used a screenshot method to send your recording to the clipboard.

With the color open, click the Clipboard Style Paste button in the upper left corner. You can also press the Ctrl and V keys on the keyboard to paste the image onto Paint's blank canvas, which expands accordingly.

When your screenshot is properly pasted into Paint, you can crop, paint, create shapes, add text, and more. To add stickers, 3D shapes, effects, and more, click the colorful 3D Color Edit button at the right end of the toolbar.

Step 4: save the screenshot

Paint screenshot window

This method applies to all screenshot methods.

When you are finished editing the image, click the File main option in the upper left. Then select Save As from the drop-down menu. This option is expanded to include a choice of four file formats – PNG, JPEG, BMP and GIF – along with the Other Formats option to save your image as a TIFF or HEIC file.

If you're unfamiliar with image formats, check out our guide to JPEG vs. PNG: When and why you should use one format over the other.

A pop-up window is displayed regardless of the format selected. Enter a file name and select the desired file format from the dropdown menu. You can also choose a specific destination if you don't want to save your screenshot in the default location.

When you're done, click the gray "Save" button in the lower right corner.

And that's it! You're done.

Alternatives: The Snipping Tool

Windows snipping tool

The best alternative native method is the snipping tool. This built-in screen capture utility works well enough, but isn't 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 parts of their desktop display as a screenshot.

First, simply type Snipping Tool in the search box on the taskbar and select the resulting app. After opening, a notification is displayed that a new home will be moved to in a future update. It's still an available tool, but Microsoft recommends that you use Snip & Sketch or the Win + Shift + S key combination mentioned above.

With the snipping tool open, click the Mode button to expand the menu. There are four options for screen capture: Draw a window (free form snip), a field in an area (rectangular snip), capture the current window (window snip) and capture the entire screen (full screen snip).

Note that the screen turns white when you use free-form and rectangular modes. As soon as you start defining the screenshot area, the white tone in this area is deleted. When you capture a particular window, your screen turns white except for the content in that window.

The snipping tool also includes a delay function. It can take between one and five seconds for a screenshot to be taken so that you can capture an exact moment in a video or animation. You can then snip repeatedly in the same mode by simply pressing the Alt and N keys.

Once you've taken a screenshot, the snipping tool interface expands to show your screenshot. You can make slight changes like using a pen, a highlighter and an eraser. You can also click the colorful Paint 3D button to make additional changes in the newer application.

When you're done editing in the snipping tool, click "File" in the top left, then click the "Save As" option listed in the drop-down menu.

Alternatives: Snip & Sketch

Snip and sketch

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

When you use the keyboard shortcut, the screen darkens and a five-button toolbar appears at the top. They have the same functions as in the older snipping tool, but do not save your screenshots as a file. Instead, the image is moved directly to your clipboard.

If you load the Snip & Sketch app instead, click New in the top left and choose Snip Now from the drop-down menu. The screen darkens and the five-button toolbar appears. In this case, the screenshot will be loaded into the app so you can crop the image, apply a marker, pencil, highlighter and eraser.

When you're ready, save the image anywhere on your PC by clicking the floppy style button. If you want to edit and save the screenshot with an image editor installed, click the three-dot icon in the toolbar and select the Open with option from the drop-down menu.

Third party alternatives

If you want even more options to choose and customize your screenshots (and don't feel like downloading a new app), we recommend you try LightShot. LightShot may be a better option for more professional work or screenshots that need a lot of editing.

We also recommend the GNU Image Manipulation Program or GIMP. It is an open source tool for creatives who do not want to pay an Adobe Photoshop subscription. It has everything you need to create graphics, edit high-resolution images, and more.

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