If you need to capture the contents of your Windows 11 PC’s screen (or part of it) for future reference, it’s time to take a screenshot. You can use built-in screenshot functions or third-party tools. Here are a few different ways you can do this.
table of contents
Copy the entire screen to the clipboard: Press Print Screen
Save screenshot as file: Press Windows + Print Screen
Copy the active window to the clipboard: Press Alt + Print Screen
Capture part of the screen on the clipboard: Press Windows + Shift + S
Use the print screen to open the screen pane
Take a screenshot on a non-pushbutton device
Take a screenshot with the Snipping Tool
Take a screenshot (or video) using the Xbox Game Bar
Use a third-party screenshot utility
In Windows 11, like in previous versions of Windows, you can copy an image of your entire screen to the clipboard (a temporary storage area for copying and pasting) by pressing the Print Screen (PrtScn) key. Sometimes the Print Screen key on your keyboard is labeled “PrtScn” or “PrtScrn”.
On desktop keyboards, the print key is usually found to the right of the F12 key on the top row of keys. On laptop keyboards, you may need to press an Fn key while pressing the Print Screen key in order for it to work.
With a screenshot on your clipboard, you can paste the screenshot into any application that can receive pasted images. To the example, you can open the Paint app that came with Windows and paste the image with Ctrl + V. Then press Ctrl + S to save the screenshot as a file in the image format you want.
Copy, cut and paste on a Windows PC
If you want to immediately save a screenshot as an image file on your PC, press Windows + Print Screen on your keyboard. Windows creates a full-screen screenshot and automatically saves it as a PNG file named “Screenshot (#). Png” in the
C:Users[User Name]PicturesScreenshots Folder (where “#” is a number that increments over time based on the number of screenshots you have taken).
And keep in mind that if you have a laptop you may have to hold down the Function or “Fn” key while pressing Print Screen or “PrtSc” for it to work. So you may need to press Windows + Fn + Print Screen to capture your screen as a PNG file.
What is the difference between JPG, PNG and GIF?
To clipboard the currently active window (without having to select it or crop an image), press Alt + Print on your keyboard. Once on the clipboard, you can paste the screenshot into any app that receives images like Microsoft Paint, Adobe Photoshop, or a free photo editing app like Paint.NET.
Paint.NET is a high quality photo editing app for Windows
If you want to capture a specific area of your screen that you choose yourself, you can use a dedicated Windows 11 screen cutout tool. Press Shift + Windows + S on your keyboard at any time. The screen will get darker and you will see a small toolbar in the top center of the screen. From left to right the options look like this:
- Rectangular cut: Select a rectangular freeform area of the screen to capture.
- Freeform cutout: Select an irregular shape as a screenshot. The area around the irregular shape (in the rectangular image) is black when pasted.
- Window cutout: Select an application window and capture only that window.
- Full screen snip: Similar to pressing Print Screen itself, this option takes a screenshot of your entire screen.
To accommodate a rectangular selection of the screen, e.g. example, click the leftmost icon on the toolbar that looks like a rectangle with a plus sign in the corner.
Next, position your cursor near the object you want to capture. Click and hold the mouse button, then drag your mouse (or finger on a trackpad) until you have selected the rectangular area that you want to save.
When you release the mouse button, the selected area is copied to the clipboard. If you’ve turned on notifications, you’ll see a small pop-up in the corner of the Snipping Tool’s screen. Clicking on it will open the screenshot you just took in the Snipping Tool app, where you annotate, crop, or save as required (see section below).
If you ignore the pop-up notification, you will still need to paste the screenshot into an image-editing program such as Microsoft Paint to be able to save it to a file. However, you can also paste the picture directly into other applications such as email clients and messaging apps.
Microsoft Paints Paint with a fresh coat of paint in Windows 11
Windows 11 includes a handy option that lets you launch the screen snipping tool (see last chapter) by pressing Print Screen instead of having to press Windows + Shift + S. To activate it, open Windows Settings by pressing Windows + i. Then navigate to Accessibility> Keyboard. Scroll down and toggle the switch next to Use Print Screen To Open Screen To On.
Thereafter, close the settings. Anytime you want to open the screen snipping tool to quickly copy screenshots to the clipboard, just press Print Screen on your keyboard.
On some older Windows devices that lack a key to print (e.g. early Microsoft Surface tablets), you can take a screenshot by pressing Windows + Fn + Spacebar.
Alternatively, if you have a tablet or other device with a Windows logo key, you can press the Windows key and the Volume Down key at the same time to record the entire screen. Either method will save a screenshot in the Pictures Screenshots folder in your user folder.
Here’s how to take a screenshot on almost any device
To take screenshots with more control that you can annotate, save, or share, you can use Windows 11’s Snipping Tool. To start it, open the start menu and type in “snipping”. Then click the Snipping Tool icon when you see it.
When the Snipping Tool opens, click New to start a new recording.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll see a small toolbar at the top of the screen (like the one in the “Capture part of the screen”Section above) that allows you to perform a rectangular cutout, a freeform cutout, a window cutout, and a full screen cutout. The difference is that when the Snipping Tool app is running, these tools don’t just copy the screenshot to the clipboard. Instead, you can save them to a file.
After you take the screenshot using one of the methods on the toolbar, it will appear in the Snipping Tool window. You can crop it, annotate it with a pen, save it as a file, or share it with others using the toolbar at the top of the window.
When you need to record something with a delay, the Snipping Tool is ideal. Click the clock icon in the toolbar and select a delay time from the drop-down menu that appears.
After you have selected the time, click the “New” button and a screenshot will be triggered after the time period you selected. To save the file, click the Save to Disk icon in the toolbar and choose a location. Nice and easy!
Windows 11’s redesigned Snipping tool looks amazing
You can also take a screenshot or video using the Xbox Game Bar. To do this, first open the Xbox Game Bar by pressing Windows + g on your keyboard (or you can press the Xbox logo button on a connected Xbox controller). As soon as it appears, you can use the “Capture” widget to take screenshots in PNG format and videos in MP4 format.
If you don’t see the Capture window on the Xbox Game Bar screen, click the Widgets button on the toolbar at the top of the screen and choose Capture.
In the Capture window (which appears in the upper left corner of the screen by default), click the camera icon to take a screenshot of the current app (or the desktop if no app is active).
To record a video of the currently active app, click the record button (which looks like a small white dot inside the larger gray button circle. Note that Windows 11 for some reason does not allow you to record a video from File Explorer or the Desktop, just an active app.
To stop recording, click the square Stop button on the Xbox Game Bar floating toolbar or the Xbox Game Bar Capture widget.
After the capture, the screenshots and videos will appear in your
C:Users[username]VideosCaptures Folder. You can also check them out for yourself in the “Gallery” widget within the Xbox Game Bar user interface. When you’re done recording, click an empty area of the screen or press the Escape key to close the Xbox game bar.
6 great features in Windows 10’s new Game Bar
Although the Windows Operating System (OS) includes its own screenshot capabilities (as you saw above), you can get new functionality and flexibility by installing a third-party screenshot program.
Among the dozen free screenshot apps available for Windows, we recommend it Greetings as a good starting point. It’s free and comes with different capture and output options for different keyboard shortcuts for screenshots.
If you want something even more powerful and you don’t mind spending a few dollars on quality software, we recommend you SnagIt from Techsmith. Many of us here at How-To Geek have been using it for years. It’s a feature-rich application that makes it easy to take great screenshots (it can also take videos and animated GIFs).
SnagIt offers a Free trial, so we encourage you to try it out and see if it suits your needs. Taking a lot of screenshots can make your life a lot easier.