How To Capture a Screen Shot in Windows

Windows Screenshots: The Mystery of the PrtScn Key Revealed

Print Screen keyboard
solylunafamilia via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]


The method for taking a screen shot in Windows is hiding in plain sight! Have you ever pressed the PrtScn (print screen) key on your Windows keyboard and wondered why it was there since it never seemed to do anything? Well, it does do something! It copies an image of your screen onto the "clipboard," ready to paste into any graphics program. These steps show you how to use it along with Windows' standard image editor, Microsoft Paint, to save an image of your screen.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 1 minute

Here's How:

  1. Press the Windows key and thePrint Screen key on your keyboard. It may be labeled [PrtScn].
  2. Open an image editing program, such as Microsoft Paint, or any of these free photo editors.
  3. The screen shot is saved as a file in the Screenshots folder (in /Users/User Name/Pictures). If the Screenshot folder does not exist, Windows will automatically create it. The screenshot is automatically labeled with the file name as “Screenshot (Number).png” with number indicating the screenshot index counter. Each screenshot you take increases the counter by one.
  4. If prompted to enlarge the image, choose Yes.
  5. Optional: Use your image editor's crop tool to crop out unnecessary portions of the screen shot.
  6. Go to the File Menu and choose Save As.
  7. Navigate to the folder where you want to save the image.
  8. Type a file name for the image.
  9. Select a file type. See Which Graphics File Format Is Best To Use When? if you are unsure what to choose.
  1. Click the Save button.


  1. Hold the Alt key down while pressing Print Screen to capture only the active window.
  2. Generally the PNG or GIF format works best when saving screen shots of application windows. The JPEG format usually makes screen shots (especially those with text) blurry, blotchy and discolored.
  1. See related resources below for more screen shot tips and listings of screen capture software that offers many more options for capturing screens and portions of screens on Windows and Macintosh computers.
  2. The Windows "clipboard" is a term used to describe the temporary storage space in memory where an item is placed when you copy or cut. When you paste, the item is transferred to the program you're working in. If you copy something else, the old item is replaced with the new. You can't manipulate the clipboard directly; it's only used for copy and paste operations.
  3. If you have windows Vista or later (Windows 7, Windows 8, etc.), you can capture screen shots much more easily using the Snipping Tool included with these versions of Windows.