In a smartphone-centric world, screenshots have become one of the easiest and most popular ways to share what you’re seeing with your friends, family, or colleagues.
But we aren’t always on our phones (only almost).
In fact, many of us spend eight or so hours a day in front of a slightly larger screen: the desktop computer.
If that sounds like you, then you’ll also want to know how to take a screenshot—one of two types of screen capture, which encompasses both images and videos—on a Windows device. (Unless you’re a Mac user, in which case you should check out this tutorial).
Thankfully, it's not all that hard.
How do you take a screen capture on Windows?
There are several ways that you can take a screen capture on a Windows computer, using both built-in tools and third-party software.
First, let’s look at the four native options:
Print Screen keyboard shortcut
Snip & Sketch
1. How to use the Windows Print Screen keyboard shortcut
The easiest way to take a screen capture on a Windows device is by using the Print Screen key.
If you hit the PrtScn key on your keyboard, a picture of the entire computer screen will be captured and added to your clipboard, so you can then paste it into a given document.
If you want to capture the screen as its own image, you’ll need to add the Windows Logo key.
Hit the Windows Logo key at the same time as the PrtScn key, and your device will automatically capture the whole screen.
A third option—for if you only want to capture the active window (the one you’re working in)—is to use Alt + PrtScn.
Can’t find the Print Screen button? Some devices don’t have it. In this case, try the Windows Logo key + the Fn key + Space Bar.
If you’re using a Microsoft Surface device, then you’ll need to combine the Windows Logo touch key with the physical Volume Down button on the side of the device.
2. How to use the Windows Game Bar
The Game Bar (aka the Xbox Game Bar) is a digital overlay that you can use in the majority of Windows programs.
It can also be used as a method for taking a screen snip.
To open the Game Bar, use the keyboard shortcut Windows Logo key + G.
In the toolbar that pops up, select the Capture menu.
Then, click on the camera icon to take a screen capture.
When using the Game Bar, these are saved as PNG files, and you locate them in File Explorer under Videos > Captures. Alternatively, you can see saved images in the Game Bar's Gallery.
Just hit Show my captures > See my captures.
3. How to use the Windows Snipping Tool
The Print Screen options discussed above are suitable for capturing the entire screen.
But what if you only want to focus on a specific element, like a particular image or part of an email chain?
You’ll want to use the Windows Snipping Tool for that.
First, you’ll need to open the Snipping Tool. There are two options for this:
Open the Start menu and type in “Snipping Tool”
Use the key command Windows Logo key + Shift + S.
Next, you’ll select which mode you want to use. Rectangular is the default and the one you’ll use in most cases.
The other mode options include:
Window mode (the same as the Alt + PrtScn command we covered above)
Full-screen mode (captures your entire screen, the same as the Windows Logo key + PrtScn command we covered above)
Free-form mode (allows you to capture an image of any shape)
Assuming you’re using the Rectangular mode, use the mouse to select the area of the screen you want to capture as an image. The screen capture is now automatically copied to your clipboard.
Use the key command Ctrl + V (or right-click and hit Paste) to add it to a document.
It will also now open in the Snipping Tool where you can make edits and then save it as an image file.
4. How to use Windows Snip & Sketch
The third way to take screen captures is through Snip & Sketch, a tool that’s only available for users of Windows 10 or Windows 11.
It’s similar to the Snipping Tool in that you need to open it to capture screenshots, but it offers more editing and annotation functionality, plus additional sharing features.
To open Snip & Sketch, use the key command Windows Logo key + Shift + S.
You have the same options as with the Snipping Tool for the shape of your screen capture (Rectangular, Free-form, Window, Full-screen).
Once you take your screenshot, it will be saved to your clipboard, and you’ll see a small notification pop up in the bottom corner of your screen.
Click it, and the new screen capture will open in the Snip & Sketch image editor, where you can edit and annotate, save, and even share your image.
Upgrading your tools: When to try other screen capture software
Windows 10 and 11 have some reasonable native options for capturing your screen.
However, as built-in tools, they aren’t the most sophisticated, and they fall short on a few factors:
Lack of personalization and editing functionality
Limited communication features
No face capture (more important for video but can still be useful in the screenshot context)
Few screen resolution options
When these limitations start to become an issue (particularly the first one), you’ll want to turn to a third-party screen capture tool for Windows.
Conveniently, we’ve got three ready for you right here.
Top 3 screen capture tools for Windows
Traditionally, Windows hasn’t been the most user-friendly screen capture solution.
While the last few releases of the Windows OS have made this easier, due to the history of difficulty, many Windows users prefer to use a third-party solution, such as Loom, for screen captures.
These software tools offer much more than a screenshot feature. They can also be used to record and edit videos or for annotating and marking up images.
Some even work well as a smart storage solution for all of your screengrabs.
Loom (that’s us) is the perfect tool for capturing, editing, storing, and sharing screenshots on both Windows and Apple devices.
That last point is important. Most of the native solutions offered by Windows don’t have built-in sharing capabilities. Unlike many other screen recording tools, Loom is built for collaboration.
Loom offers much more than screen captures.
You can also use it to screen record and take videos from your smartphone or laptop, and then:
Embed videos on your website
Add closed captions to improve accessibility
Include external links to outside resources
Use drawing tools for annotations and emphasis
Ask for long-form feedback or emoji reactions from viewers
Many of Loom’s screen recording features are available via Chrome extension, and you can download our desktop app to take advantage of both screenshot functionality and helpful editing and annotation features.
Using Loom to take screen captures on Windows
First, open the desktop app.
Then, you can either find the Screenshot button under the pre-recording menu like this:
Or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Shift + 1 to take a custom-sized screenshot.
Once you’ve taken the screen capture, it will automatically be copied to your clipboard, and the image will open in a new tab for editing and sharing.
You can then download the image to your desktop, should you wish to store it safely on your computer (though Loom also has a handy built-in screenshot management folder as well).
Snagit is a screen capture and video recording software tool for both Mac and Windows operating systems.
It has a built-in content management library (so you can manage your screenshots cleanly), but what’s most impressive is its editing feature.
Snagit has built-in text recognition, allowing you to edit the text of a screen capture you take, and even offers the ability to move UI elements around.
Droplr is another screenshot tool for capturing and editing images on Windows devices and Chromebooks.
The image editor allows you to annotate or add lines, boxes, and shapes.
Droplr is well-known for having plenty of strong integrations with tools you already use, such as Jira, Intercom, Slack, and Gmail.
How to manage your screen captures
Screen captures are a fantastic way to quickly share what you see on your device with others or to add a visual element to business communications.
To make sure you can always find the screenshot you’re looking for right when you need it, a little document management hygiene is in order.
Here are a few tips to help you out:
Give each new screen capture a clear and obvious name.
Create subfolders in your screenshot folder to organize images by type or purpose.
If you’re using a cloud-based storage solution like Google Drive, make sure your sharing settings are set up correctly so that the relevant people have access to view your images.
Side note: Loom has a built-in screenshots folder to make image management fast and easy.
Take Windows screen captures quickly with Loom
While it's possible to take screenshots using the native tools provided by Windows, it's not the most user-friendly or customizable approach.
Dedicated third-party tools like Loom add editing and annotation features, video and screen recording capabilities, and sharing functionality.
Loom helps you communicate effectively from afar, and it's not just one-way communication—viewers can reply to video messages and screen captures with their own pics or react with emojis.
And with all of your screenshots automatically organized in Loom’s cloud-based library, it’s easy to find and share them when you need to.