Taking screenshots on Windows has never been as straightforward as it could be. If it’s not something you have to do regularly, it can be easy to forget the shortcuts for capturing your screen without having to paste your clipboard into an image editor.
If you’ve forgotten how to take a screenshot on a PC, we’ve compiled a rundown of the many ways you can save your screen on Windows.
We’ll start with the most common method in case you’ve never had to take a screencap before, and then we’ll delve into various screenshot shortcuts and more.
How to Take a Screenshot on a PC (the One You Know)
This is probably the method that most people are familiar with using: You tap the Print Screen key toward the top right of your keyboard, that copies an image of your entire screen to the Windows clipboard, and then you paste that into an image editor like Microsoft Paint where it can be saved as a file.
Note: If you are on a laptop, you may also have to hold the Function (Fn) key to take screenshots.
That method works well and even makes sense to use in some situations – mainly if you aren’t taking a ton of screen grabs in rapid succession, if you don’t need a specific window captured, or if you intend to open the screenshot in an image editor anyway.
However, there are many more efficient ways of taking screencaps on Windows that vary from letting you automatically save screenshots without opening an image editor, to letting you snag a specific part of your screen.
Along with covering the shortcuts and tools already built into Windows, we’ll also recommend some third-party software and services with more advanced features – including some that can capture your screen as an animated GIF or video.
Let’s get started.
Windows 10 Screenshot Shortcuts, Tips & Tricks
Windows has gradually added more shortcuts and built-in utilities for taking screenshots, Windows 10 being the most feature-rich and the focus of this article considering Windows 7 recently lost official support from Microsoft.
However, if you’re running an older version of Windows, most of these shortcuts and tips will still work for you.
Screenshot an active window to your clipboard
Alt + Print Screen – Copies a screenshot of the active window to your clipboard so you can paste it into an image editor and save the picture manually.
Automatically save a screenshot of your whole screen
Windows key + Print Screen – Instead of saving screenshots manually, you can hold the Windows key and tap Print Screen to automatically save a screenshot of your entire display. By default, the file is saved under C:\Users\NAME\Pictures\Screenshots. This is particularly useful when gaming or trying to take a lot of screenshots quickly.
Change the default screenshot folder location
You can change the default folder that Windows saves screenshots if you’d prefer them to be stored in another location. For instance, you might want screenshots saved as a sub-folder of your cloud storage for easy syncing. How to move the folder:
1) Go to C:\Users\NAME\Pictures, right-click on the Screenshots folder, and open Properties.
2) Go to the Location tab in Properties, click the “Move…” button, and choose a new location.
3) If you see the new location listed as your directory in Properties, click OK and that’s it.
Select an area to capture with Snip & Sketch
Windows + Shift + S (Windows 10 Oct. 2018 and later) – Opens a Snip & Sketch software overlay that lets you click and drag a box over the specific area you want to capture. Then that screencap is opened in Snip & Sketch where you can make quick edits and save it as a file. This is essentially an updated version of the Snipping Tool from previous versions of Windows that has new features such as a pencil tool, more colors to choose from, the ability to crop so you don’t have to retake screenshots, support for touch input, and more.
Note: Taking a screenshot with Snip & Sketch also copies the area you select to your clipboard, making it super convenient to share it with someone via instant messenger or email.
Select an area to capture with the Snipping Tool
There’s also a separate “Snipping Tool” available on Windows operating systems dating back to Vista. As mentioned, it provides similar functionality as the new Snip & Sketch software available on Windows 10, allowing you to select a specific area to capture then opening that screenshot in a super basic image editor for you to make annotations and save the file.
There is no default keyboard shortcut to launch SnippingTool.exe so you’ll have to search for Snipping Tool through the Start menu or some other means. If you plan to use the software regularly, you can apply your own shortcut key to the .exe’s properties. Microsoft plans to eventually remove the Snipping Tool in favor of Snip & Sketch but both are available on current builds of Windows 10.
Automatically save screenshots to OneDrive
If you have a Microsoft account, Windows also has a built-in option for syncing files to the cloud, including screenshots. Launch OneDrive from the Start menu if it isn’t already running in your system tray. Right click the OneDrive icon near your clock, go to Properties, then the Backup tab. You should see two options that can be enabled: “Automatically save screenshots I capture to OneDrive” and “Automatically save photos and videos to OneDrive whenever I connect a camera, phone, or other device to my PC.”
Screenshot an active window with Xbox Game Bar
Alt + Windows + Print Screen (Windows 10) – If you have the Xbox Game Bar enabled (Settings > Gaming > Game bar) then you have another option for quickly capturing screenshots and video recordings. Note that the default keystroke can be changed on the aforementioned Settings page and that the default location for saving screenshots is different than the Pictures folder mentioned above. You can check your settings in the Xbox Game Bar pressing the Windows key + G.
Remap the Print Screen key to open Snip & Sketch
There are countless ways you can change the functionality of your Print Screen key so it does more than just copy a screenshot to your clipboard. And at least one of those methods is built right into Windows 10, which has an option to automatically open the Snip & Sketch tool when you press the Print Screen key. Go to Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard and then enable “Use the PrtScrn button to open screen snipping.”
Third-Party Tools for Screenshots, GIFs, and Video
Many applications and services exist that make it easier to capture and share screenshots on a PC. Most of them are like the Snip & Sketch tool on steroids, with extra features often including built-in file syncing so you can capture and share screenshots as efficiently as possible through cloud storage.
Here’s a quick list of popular tools that might be of interest if you’re trying to grab what’s on your screen:
- LightShot (free)
- ShareX (free)
- PicPick (free)
- Greenshot (freemium)
- ScreenToGif (free) – Quick start guide.
- OBS (free – full video and audio capture) – Quick start guide.