Screenshots can be really handy. You can use them to show your grandparent how to use a new app. You can use them to send a shot of a strange error message to your company’s IT department. And you can use them to capture tweets before they disappear into the black hole of deletion. So, in case you need to capture a screenshot or two, here’s a quick and simple guide to taking screenshots on your PC.
Windows 10 introduced a screenshot tool called Snip & Sketch, but Windows 11 relies on the simpler Snipping Tool. And there are other ways you can take screenshots as well. We’ll start with the simplest.
Use the PrintScreen key
Until recently, if you wanted to take a quick screenshot of your entire screen, you could either just press the Print screen key (which could be labeled PrtScrn or PrtScr) or, depending on your system, press the Windows logo key at the same time as the Print screen key. The image would be saved in your Screenshots folder as a PNG file. You would easily find the Screenshots folder in File Explorer; if you don’t see it immediately, look for it in the Pictures folder.
However, a forthcoming Windows 11 update may change things somewhat. Update KB5025310 will set your system so that if you pressed the Print screen key, you will instead get the Snipping Tool, a handy app that lets you take a screenshot of a rectangular or freeform area of the screen, a single window, or the whole screen. That is not a bad thing — in fact, you’ve been able to switch your Print screen key to bring up the Snipping Tool for some time. But if you prefer just hitting the Print screen key to get a screenshot of the entire screen, it’s not hard to get things back the way they were.
- Go to Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard
- Look for the toggle for “Use the Print screen button to open screen snipping.” (It may read “Use the Print screen button to open Snipping Tool.”) Toggle it off.
Note that if you already had that feature toggled on when the update was installed, nothing will change.
Use the Snipping Tool to make a screenshot
The Snipping Tool that comes with Windows 11 takes an extra mouse click or two, but it gives you more options than simply a full-screen screenshot.
If you prefer to access it via the Print screen key and it hasn’t switched to that automatically, you can enable it via the above directions (at Settings > Accessibility > Keyboard).
If you have configured the Print screen key to do a full-screen screenshot instead, you can still access the toolbar by pressing Shift + Windows logo key + S.
Either way, you’ll get a set of four icons across the top of your screen that offer you the following choices:
- A rectangular crop that you create by left-clicking and dragging your cursor until you have the area you want to snip
- A freeform crop that you create in the same manner
- A screenshot of a specific window
- A full-screen screenshot
Once you’ve created your screenshot, a thumbnail will appear in the lower-right corner for a couple of seconds; click on it to bring it into the Snipping Tool app for edits like adding lines and text or cropping. (If it disappears before you have a chance to click on it, look for it in the Pictures > Screenshots folder.) The app also lets you share the image or save it as a PNG, JPG, or GIF file.
Use the full Snipping Tool for recording and time delay
Unfortunately, the version of the Snipping Tool that launches with the Print screen button doesn’t include some important features, including record, time delay (you can delay a screenshot by three, five, or 10 seconds), and a variety of setup options. In order to access these tools, you need to open the full version.
You can access the full Snipping Tool by clicking on the Search icon in the taskbar and searching for it. You can also click on the Start button in the taskbar to see your pinned apps; if it’s not there, click on the All apps button to find it.
If you think you’re going to be using the full Snipping Tool fairly often, it may be a good idea to pin it to the taskbar: just open the app, right-click on the app’s icon in the taskbar, and select Pin to taskbar.
Use the Xbox Game Bar
The Xbox Game Bar was created to help gamers record their games, among other things. As a result, for a long time, it was an alternate way to take screenshots and Windows’ only built-in way to make recordings.
You access Game Bar by pressing Windows Key-G on your keyboard. Because it works using a variety of different toolbars, it can be a little confusing at first. If you just want to do a screenshot or recording, look for the toolbar labeled Capture. If you don’t see it, look for the Capture icon (which looks like a camera facing forward) on the main toolbar.
The Capture toolbar offers four tasks: you can take a screenshot; record the last 30 seconds; start recording; and turn the mic on or off while recording. But since it does have some limitations — for example, you can’t record the Windows desktop or File Explorer — you are probably better off simply using the Snipping Tool.
Update April 13th, 2023, 11:15AM ET: This article was originally published on July 27th, 2020, and has been updated to account for changes in Windows 11 apps.