Sometimes, you need to know how to take a screenshot in Windows. Perhaps you’ve just completed a big transaction and want a record of the ‘accepted’ screen? Maybe you’re after tech support and need to show someone exactly what you’re seeing? You may have seen somebody tweet something that will almost certainly be deleted and want to keep a record of it.
Whatever the reason, there are plenty of ways to take a screenshot in Windows. While you may think you only need to know one, different methods work depending on the version of Windows you’re using, and some are better suited for one use case than another. We’ll explain the differences and the versions of Windows supported along the way.
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Six ways to take a screenshot in Windows
1. Print Screen
The big advantage here is that it works on any version of Windows. Simply locate the Print Screen button on your keyboard (sometimes abbreviated to PrtScr), press it and a snap of your screen will be copied to your clipboard, ready to be pasted into anything from a Microsoft Word document to an email in Gmail.
But it’s not very flexible. Not only is PrtScr not present on every keyboard, but the shortcut will take a screenshot of your entire screen, and not just the part you want to draw attention to. Moreover, it also won’t be automatically saved, and if you copy any text or shut down your computer, the image will be lost if you haven’t already pasted it somewhere for posterity. Still, it’s quick, easy and will get the job done in a pinch.
If you’re feeling advanced, there are two other shortcuts for Print Screen for modern versions of Windows, which both offer a bit more flexibility:
This will do the same as above, but also automatically save a screenshot as well. This will go to your Pictures > Screenshots folder.
This is a bit more targeted, and will only take a screenshot of the specific window you’re working within. It will, however, need you to save a copy as it’s only on your Clipboard until something else replaces it.
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2. Snip & Sketch
If you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11, Snip & Sketch is the most versatile way of getting a screen shot. The quickest way to activate it is to press Windows Key + Shift + S, but if you want more than a full screenshot instantly saved to your PC, you can also access the app via the Start menu or with a search. I use it so often that I’ve pinned it to the taskbar, so it’s always on hand.
When you take a screenshot via the app itself, the whole screen will go dark, allowing you to drag a box or custom shape around the area you want captured. From there, you can annotate it to your heart’s content, before saving the custom screenshot for easy sharing. Rather neatly, you can also choose to capture a screenshot in three or five seconds — perfect for if you need a bit of time to get what you want to catch on screen.
3. Snipping Tool
Before Snip & Sketch, there was Snipping Tool, available in every version of Windows from Vista onwards. While there’s always the threat that it’ll ultimately be replaced by Snip & Sketch, the fact that it’s still included in Windows 11 makes it seem that there’s life in the old tool yet.
It’s actually pretty similar to Snip & Sketch, albeit with a slightly less complicated user interface and a few fewer options. But the basics are the same: you still take a screenshot, then crop it down to the area you want highlighted, with the ability to set a time delay on the capture, giving you time to line up your desktop as you like.
4. Browser plugins
What if you just want to capture webpages? Web browser plug-ins are the answer here, and while they may appear less flexible on the surface, they have two key advantages. Firstly, they’re not limited to specific versions of Windows (if the browser can run, then so can the plugin) and secondly some can take in whole web pages at a time, and aren’t limited to just what’s visible on screen.
While it’s also available for Edge, you don’t actually need it, as Microsoft’s browser now has the functionality built in. Just press the three dots in the top-right of the screen, and select “Web capture”. From there, you can choose whether to take the whole web page, or just the visible area.
5. Game Bar
What if you want in-game screenshots? Well, for titles played on Valve’s Steam platform you can grab an in-game shot with a press of F12, but as long as you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 11, the built-in Game Bar can capture screenshots from any software, game or not.
Just press Windows Key + G to open the Game Bar overlay, and then press the camera icon to capture a full-screen screenshot. Or, if you want a video clip, you can press the record button — and you can optionally include commentary from your microphone too.
Screenshots and footage captured via Game Bar are saved in a different place. Confusingly, both are saved to Videos > Captures.
6. For Microsoft Surface tablets
But what if you’re using a Windows tablet, or a 2-in-1 device without the keyboard attached?
For Microsoft Surface devices, the most popular 2-in-1 out there, Microsoft says you can hold down the Windows Logo touch button on the bottom of the Surface Screen and hit the volume down button at the same time. The screen will dim, and the screenshot will appear in Pictures > Screenshots.
Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. He often writes for T3 and Tom's Guide. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.
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