How to Take a Screenshot on a PC

How to screenshot or print a screen on Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista and XP

Screenshots, also called screen captures or screencaps, are pictures of whatever it is that you're looking at on your monitor. This is also known as a 'print screen.' They can be pictures of a single program, the whole screen, or even multiple screens if you have a dual monitor setup.

There are a handful of ways to take a Windows screenshot depending on the version of Windows you are using.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

How to Take a Screenshot 

A Gif indicating the ways you can use the Print Screen button.
 Grace Kim ©Lifewire

The basic way to take a screenshot in Windows is the same way no matter what version of Windows you're using, and it's very, very, easy: ​press the PrtScn key on the keyboard.

  • PrtScn: Hitting the button once saves a screenshot of the entire screen. If you have multiple monitors connected, a single press of the print screen button will save a screenshot of all the screens in one single image.
  • Alt+PrtScn: Strike these buttons at the same time to take a screenshot of a single window that you're focused on. Select the window once to make sure it's in focus, and then hit these keys.
  • Win+PrtScn: Using the Windows key with the print screen button (in Windows 8 and newer) will take a screenshot of the whole screen and then save it in the default Pictures folder in a subfolder called Screenshots (e.g. C:\Users\[user]\Pictures\Screenshots).

How to Paste or Save a Screenshot

The easiest way to save a screenshot is to first paste it in the Microsoft Paint application. This is simple to do in Paint because you don't have to download it – it's included with Windows by default.

You do have other options like to paste it in Microsoft Word, Photoshop, or any other program that supports images, but for the sake of simplicity, we'll use Paint. The quickest way to open Paint in all versions of Windows is through the Run dialog box.

  1. Press Win+R keyboard combination to open that box.

  2. Type mspaint into the Run field and press Enter.

    Screenshot of mspaint in Run dialog
  3. With Microsoft Paint open, and the screenshot still saved in the clipboard, just use Ctrl+V to paste it into Paint or select Paste.

    Screenshot of Paste button in Paint
  4. Press Ctrl+S or select File > Save as to save the screenshot.

    Screenshot of File > Save As in Paint

At this point, you may notice that the image you saved looks a bit off. If the image doesn't take up the entire canvas in Paint, it will leave white space around it. To fix this, drag the bottom right corner of the canvas toward the top left of the screen until you reach the corners of your screenshot.

Take a Screenshot on PC with the Windows Snipping Tool

Another way to take screenshots is to use the Windows Snipping Tool.

  • In Windows 10, type "snipping tool" in the search box on the taskbar and select the Snipping Tool from the list of results.
  • In Windows 8, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, select Search, type "snipping tool" in the search box, and select Snipping Tool from the list of results.
  • In Windows 7, select the Start button, type "snipping tool" in the search box, and select the Snipping Tool from the list of results.
Screenshot of Snipping Tool

Windows 10 users also have the option of using Snip & Sketch.

Download a Print Screen Program

While Windows works great for basic screenshotting abilities, there are both free and paid third-party applications that you can install for more advanced features like fine-tuning the screenshot by pixel, annotating it before you save it, and easy saving to a predefined location.

One example of a free print screen tool that's more advanced than the Windows one is called PrtScr. Another, WinSnap, is good but the free edition lacks some of those more advanced features of the premium version.