How to Take Screenshots in Windows 10, 8, and 7

Windows offers several built-in ways to capture screenshots

What to Know

  • There are several ways to take a screenshot in Microsoft Windows, but the methods depend on which version you're using.
  • The keyboard shortcuts Win+Shift+S, Win+PrtScn, or Fn+Win+PrtScrn are the easiest ways to take screenshots in Windows 10.
  • Using the Snipping Tool to take screenshots in Windows also allows you to delay screenshots to capture menus.

Microsoft Windows offers several ways to take a screenshot, sometimes called a screen capture. The methods depend on which version of Windows you use.

Information in this article covers Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 7.

Screenshots in Windows 10

Snap a screenshot in Windows 10 by pressing Win+Shift+S. This hotkey opens a small clipping menu at the top of the screen.

The screenshot options in Windows 10

You have three options for the type of area you want to capture:

  • Rectangular Snip
  • Freeform Snip
  • Window Snip
  • Fullscreen Snip

Select the kind of screenshot you want to capture. To use a Rectangular or Freeform Snip, click and drag the mouse to define the capture area. When you release the mouse button, the area saves to your clipboard.

If you select Window Snip, the active window that you select will be saved to the clipboard.

If you select Fullscreen Snip, the entire desktop (including any additional attached monitors) will be saved to the clipboard.

With any of the snips, you will get a notification that the Snip saved to clipboard.

Windows notification of a snip in Windows 10
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If you select the notification before it disappears, it will open your snip in Snip & Sketch, the new version of the Snipping Tool in Windows 10. Or, you can paste the copied screenshot into an image editor, email message, OneNote, or other application.

A screenshot is displayed in Snip & Sketch
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Snip & Sketch (Windows 10)

Snip & Sketch takes the above quick screenshot and adds cropping and annotation tools. If you take a screenshot with other techniques and have Snip & Sketch installed, Windows notifications prompts you to access your screenshot in Snip & Sketch. The tool offers a timer set to a delay of 3 or 10 seconds.

The options in Snip & Sketch

Full-Screen Captures (Windows 10, 8, and 7)

No matter which Windows version you run, capture a screenshot of the entire desktop by pressing the PrtScn (or Print Screen, or on some laptops Fn+Prnt Scrn).

Using PrtScn takes a screenshot of the full screen and copies it to your system clipboard. From there you can paste the image where you need it, such as into an email, or into an image editor such as Microsoft Paint or Gimp for Windows.

To paste the image, select the location where you want to put it and press Ctrl+V.

The screenshot captures all active monitors.

Alternate Full-Screen Capture (Windows 10 and 8)

The PrtScn method above works in all versions of Windows. Windows 10 and Windows 8, however, offer an additional trick that makes screen capturing a little faster.

Press Win+PrtScn (or Fn+Win+PrtScrn). Your display momentarily dims as if a camera shutter just snapped, indicating the screenshot. Instead of having to paste the image into another program, however, Windows saves the image to your Pictures > Screenshots folder.

Windows File Explorer displaying the Screenshots folder
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Single-Window Screenshots (Windows 10 and 8)

To take a screenshot of a single window, first make it the active window by selecting its title bar (the top). Press Alt+PrtScn. A screenshot of just the active window saves to your clipboard. You can then paste the image to another program or location, like an email message or the Microsoft Paint app.

Windows Snipping Tool (Windows 10, 8, and 7)

Microsoft includes a built-in utility for Windows called Snipping Tool that gives you another way to make screenshots but with much more control over the area that is captured. It is available in Windows versions starting with Vista, but some versions differ from one another.

The Snipping Tool in Windows is being incorporated into a new tool called Snip & Sketch. Snip & Sketch lets you take screenshots just like Snipping Tool, but also to annotate and crop images. Both tools are still available to use in Windows 10.

  1. Select Start and type snipping into the Search box. Select Snipping Tool in the search results.

    Snipping Tool in Windows 10 search
  2. This is where Snipping Tool in Windows 10 differs from earlier versions.

    In Windows 10: Select Mode in the Snipping Tool menu.

    The Mode menu in Windows 10's Snipping Tool

    In Windows 7 and 8: Select New dropdown.

    Windows Snipping Tool in Windows 8 and older
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    Pick from among several options for the shape of the screenshot area:

    • Free-form Snip lets you draw the screenshot area freehand. Click and hold the left mouse button and move the mouse to draw the area you want to capture.
    • Rectangular Snip uses the familiar left-click-and-drag to create a rectangular area on the screen. Everything inside the rectangle will be captured in the image.
    • Window Snip captures an entire window. After activating a Window Snip, move the mouse to the window you want to capture. The window that will be captured will become selected. Left-click the mouse to create the image.
    • Full-screen Snip captures an image of the entire desktop and opened in Snipping Tool.
  3. Free-form or Rectangular Snip options: After you draw the area that you want to capture in a screenshot, release the mouse button and the image will open in Snipping Tool. The screenshot will also go to your clipboard.

    Getting a screenshot with the Snipping Tool
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    Window Snip: Move the mouse pointer to the active window and click to capture the window image.

    If you use the Window Snip option and click on a window behind the active window, a screenshot will be taken of that window behind, plus any other windows in front of it.

    Full-screen Snip: As soon as you choose this selection, the Snipping Tool captures the full desktop image.

  4. If the screenshot is not as you expected, take another by selecting New in the menu.

  5. When you're satisfied with your screenshot, select File > Save As to save it or press Ctrl+S or select the floppy disk in the Snipping Tool menu to save.

Snipping Tool does not capture opened context menus or other pop-up menus. When you attempt to make a screenshot of these, as soon as the Snipping Tool is activated, those menus close.

Using Delay to Capture Pop-up Menus (Windows 10)

Windows 10 offers a delay feature for making screenshots with Snipping Tool. The delay allows you setup your desktop before the program freezes your screen.

  1. Click Delay and select the amount of time you'd like Snipping Tool to wait before capturing the image, up to a maximum of five seconds.

    Delay options in Snipping Tool
  2. Select New and set up your screen the way you want it to appear before the timer runs out. For example, if you're trying to capture an open context menu, open that menu before the timer runs out. When the delay ends, Snipping Tool will capture the screenshot, including open menus.

The Snipping Tool doesn't have a live timer to show you how much time you have left. To be on the safe side it's best to give yourself five seconds for each shot.

Other Methods for Screen Capture

OneNote used to have a screen clipping function you could use to take screenshots. The screen clipping function is not available in newer versions, however, but if you have an older version of OneNote, you may still use this method to make a screenshot.

Use the autosave screenshot feature on a Windows tablet by pressing Win+VolumeDown.