How to Take Screenshots on Windows PCs and Laptops: The Ultimate Guide

Taking screenshots on Windows devices is an essential skill for capturing images of your screen. With the right tools and techniques, you can create high-quality screenshots for documentation, instructions, reports, presentations and more.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about taking screenshots on Windows PCs and laptops.

Types of Screenshots

There are several types of screenshots you can take on a Windows device:

Fullscreen Screenshots

These capture the entire contents of your screen. They are great for tutorials, documentation and sharing your whole desktop or app window.

Region/Selection Screenshots

You can take a screenshot of only a selected portion of your screen. Useful for capturing a specific area like a menu, button or paragraph of text.

Window Screenshots

Capture a single open window. Perfect for documenting features and steps in an application.

Scrolling Screenshots

Allows you to take a tall or long screenshot that extends beyond your current screen view. Handy for capturing webpages, documents and conversations.

Ways to Take Screenshots on Windows

Windows offers various built-in methods for taking screenshots:

Print Screen Key

The Print Screen (PrtScn) key on your keyboard lets you copy an image of your screen to the clipboard.

Snipping Tool

This app provides customized screenshot capabilities like free-form snips, rectangular regions and fullscreen captures.

Game Bar

Windows 10 has a Game Bar with a screenshot tool for capturing images while gaming. Open with Win + G.

File Explorer Preview

You can screenshot a File Explorer preview pane by right-clicking the image and selecting Copy.

How to Take Different Types of Screenshots

Now let’s go through how to take each kind of screenshot in Windows 10 and 11:

Fullscreen Screenshots

Taking a screenshot of your entire display is simple with the Print Screen key:

  1. Press the Print Screen (PrtScn) key. Your fullscreen will be copied to the clipboard.
  2. Open an image editing app like Paint and paste (Ctrl + V) to save the image. You can also paste directly into a document.
  3. You’ll now have a screenshot image of your whole screen.

Alternatively, open the Snipping Tool app and click the ‘New’ button or press Ctrl + N. Your fullscreen will appear in the preview window. Click the ‘Save’ button or press Ctrl + S to save the screenshot image.

Selected Region/Section Screenshots

To capture just a portion of your screen:

  1. Open the Snipping Tool app.
  2. Click the ‘New’ button or press Ctrl + N.
  3. Click and drag your mouse cursor to select the area you want to screenshot. You’ll see a bordered region appear.
  4. Release your mouse button and your selected area will show in the preview window.
  5. Click ‘Save’ or press Ctrl + S to save the screenshot image.

You can also press the Windows key + Shift + S keyboard shortcut to take a custom screenshot with your mouse.

Single Window Screenshots

To capture an image of a single open window:

  1. Open the window you want to screenshot.
  2. Hover your mouse over the window title bar and press Alt + Print Screen.
  3. The window will be copied to your clipboard.
  4. Open Paint, paste the image and save it.

Alternatively, open the Snipping Tool app and change the mode selector to ‘Window Snip’. Click the ‘New’ button, click on the window you want to capture, and it will appear in the preview. Save the image.

Scrolling Screenshot

To screenshot content that extends beyond your current display:

  1. Open the Snipping Tool app and select ‘New’.
  2. Click the down arrow next to ‘New’ and enable ‘Scroll’.
  3. Click and drag to take the screenshot. The capture will extend downwards with scrolling.
  4. Release the mouse and Snipping Tool will stitch together a tall screenshot.
  5. Save the image.

Delayed Screenshots

To set up a delay before taking a screenshot:

  1. Open Snipping Tool and click ‘New’.
  2. Click the down arrow next to ‘New’ and select your delay time.
  3. When ready, click ‘New’ again and Snipping Tool will wait the set delay before capturing.

This allows you time to prepare and pull up what you want to screenshot.

Snipping Tool Settings

The Snipping Tool app provides additional settings to customize your screenshots:

  • Delay: Sets a delay before capturing the screenshot. Useful for prepping the window or region.
  • Mode: Select between free-form, rectangular, window, and fullscreen snips.
  • Pen: Enables drawing or annotations on your screenshots. Choose pen color and thickness.
  • Highlighter: Highlights areas of your screenshots after taking them. Pick highlight color and thickness.
  • Eraser: Removes any pen drawings or highlights on a screenshot.
  • Clear: Deletes annotations on a screenshot.
  • Copy: Copies the screenshot to clipboard for pasting into documents.
  • Save As: Saves your screenshot image to location and file format of your choice. Default is .png.
  • Print: Prints the screenshot directly to your default printer.

Using these options, you can customize and annotate screenshots before saving or sharing them.

Keyboard Shortcuts for Screenshots

For quick access without needing to open apps, Windows provides keyboard shortcuts for screenshotting:

  • Print Screen: Copies fullscreen to clipboard.
  • Alt + Print Screen: Copies active window to clipboard.
  • Windows key + Shift + S: Opens screenshot snipping tool for selections.
  • Windows key + G: Launches Game Bar for screenshots while gaming.

Check out the following keyboard references for Windows 10 and 11:

Windows 10 Keyboard Shortcuts

| Key Combo | Action |
|-|-|
| Print Screen | Copy fullscreen to clipboard |
| Alt + Print Screen | Copy active window to clipboard |
| Windows key + PrtScn | Save fullscreen screenshot to Pictures > Screenshots folder |

Windows 11 Keyboard Shortcuts

| Key Combo | Action |
|-|-|
| Print Screen | Copy fullscreen to clipboard |
| Alt + Print Screen | Copy active window to clipboard |
| Windows key + Shift + S | Snip & Sketch screenshot tool |

Memorize these shortcuts to quickly capture screenshots without extra clicks.

Where Screenshots are Saved

By default, screenshots taken with Windows tools are saved to the Pictures > Screenshots folder.

You can access your screenshots here or change the default save location by going to Settings > System > Screenshots.

If taking screenshots using Print Screen or Alt + Print Screen, you’ll need to paste the image into an app like Paint first and save it.

Image Formats for Screenshots

Windows screenshots are typically saved as .png files by default.

.png format is best for image quality since it’s lossless. It supports transparency which is great for capturing app windows.

You can also save screenshots as .jpg/.jpeg files. Though .jpg is lossy, the compression works well for sharing screenshots online or attaching to emails.

For documents like reports and presentations, .png or .jpg will both work. Choose .png when high quality matters and .jpg for smaller file sizes.

How to Edit Screenshots

Once you’ve captured a screenshot, you may want to edit or annotate it:

  • Crop: Remove outer areas not needed using an app like Paint 3D or Photos.
  • Draw/Annotate: Use Snipping Tools or Paint 3D pen to add arrows, text boxes or callouts.
  • Highlight: Make key areas stand out with Snipping Tool highlighter.
  • Blur/Pixelate: Mask sensitive data like phone numbers or email addresses.
  • Resize: Shrink or enlarge to desired dimensions and resolution.
  • Rotate/Flip: Change orientation as needed.
  • Compress: Reduce file size without sacrificing too much quality.
  • Convert Format: Change from .png to .jpg or vice versa.

Editing allows you to polish screenshots before saving or sharing.

Top Screenshot Apps and Tools

While Windows has built-in screenshot capabilities, third-party apps provide additional helpful features:

ShareX

  • Open source screenshot tool with annotations, editing, screen recording and auto uploads.

Greenshot

  • Lightweight app to customize, edit, obfuscate and export screenshots.

Lightshot

  • Allows quick region screenshots, editing and uploads to image hosts. Browser extension available.

PicPick

  • Full-featured screenshot tool with editor, annotation tools, effects, resize and sharing options.

Snagit

  • Popular advanced tool from TechSmith with robust image capture, markup and video recording features.

Flameshot

  • Open source screenshot software for Linux that also works on Windows. Tons of markup tools.

Checkout these apps to level up your screenshot game with additional capabilities for capturing, annotating, editing and sharing screenshots.

Common Screenshot Problems and Solutions

Taking screenshots on Windows can sometimes fail or give unexpected results. Here are fixes for common issues:

Problem: Screen goes black in screenshots.

Solution: Disable ‘Hide background images’ in Personalization settings to include full background.

Problem: Can’t paste screenshot after Print Screen.

Solution: Open an image app like Paint before pasting to be able to save the image.

Problem: Screenshot only captures part of the window.

Solution: Maximize the window completely and avoid snipping partial areas.

Problem: Screenshot looks fuzzy/low quality.

Solution: Try saving as .png instead of .jpg for better quality images.

Problem: Can’t find screenshots after taking them.

Solution: Screenshots are saved to Pictures > Screenshots folder by default in Windows.

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Problem: Screenshot excludes mouse pointer.

Solution: Enable ‘Include pointer in screenshots’ in Ease of Access settings.

Knowing these common troubleshooting steps will help you resolve any issues that arise.

Conclusion

With the wide range of built-in and third-party screenshot tools available, Windows makes it easy to capture, edit and share images of your screen.

The key is understanding the different options at your disposal and how to access them – from keyboard shortcuts to snipping tools.

A few simple screenshots can clearly illustrate processes, demonstrate bugs, preserve memories and much more.

Now you have all the tips, tricks and techniques to become a screenshot pro on any Windows PC or laptop. Snap away!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main ways to take a screenshot on Windows?

The main options for taking screenshots on Windows include the Print Screen key, Snipping Tool, Game Bar, and keyboard shortcuts like Windows key + Shift + S. You can also use third-party screenshot apps.

How do I take a full screenshot on Windows?

To take a full screenshot, simply press the Print Screen key on your keyboard. This will copy the entire contents of your display to the clipboard. Then paste it into an image app like Paint and save.

How do I screenshot just part of my screen?

Open the Snipping Tool app, click ‘New’, and drag your mouse to select a specific region. Snipping Tool will capture just that area. You can also use Windows key + Shift + S to select a custom area with your mouse.

What is the best format to save screenshots in?

The .png format is best for preserving image quality since it’s lossless compression. .jpg is also commonly used for saving screenshots, especially for sharing online or attaching to emails since the smaller file size works well.

Where are screenshots saved by default on Windows?

Screenshots taken with built-in Windows tools are automatically saved to your Pictures > Screenshots folder. Screenshots taken with Print Screen or other shortcuts will need to be pasted into an image app first before saving.

How can I edit or annotate my screenshots?

Use the editing tools in Snipping Tool or apps like Paint 3D to add arrows, text, highlights, pixelation for sensitive data,cropping, resizing, rotating, and more. This allows you to polish screenshots before sharing them.

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