Did you ever find yourself in a situation where you wanted to show something on your Windows PC to your friends, but it was unreadable when you took a photo of it using your phone?

Well, don’t worry - this is exactly what screenshots are for! Windows operating systems come with various ways to capture and save a screenshot of the entire screen, a single window, or just a part of the screen of your choosing. 

Using the Snipping Tool to capture Screenshots

One of the easiest and most convenient ways to take a screenshot on Windows 11, Windows 10, and even Windows 7, is by using the Snipping Tool. The Snipping Tool is a handy application that comes with Windows 10 and 11 and allows users to quickly capture and save screenshots of their entire screen, a single window, or a highlighted area. 

Many believe that the Snipping Tool is the best way to make a screenshot on PC, and we agree - it gives you plenty of additional options to customize it, makes annotations, and immediately share your screen captures with others. The Snipping Tool has been a staple Windows app since Windows Vista.

By default, screenshots taken with the Snipping Tool are not automatically saved - at least not in Windows 10. You’ll have to manually right-click on the saved capture and click Save, name your file, and provide the location. 

There are two ways to start the Snipping Tool. Open the Start menu and type in “Snipping Tool” - this should find you the actual app. Click on it to open it up. In Windows 10, this opens a different version of the Snipping Tool than the one opened using a screenshot, but on Windows 11 it should give you the same thing no matter how you open it. 

Click the “New” button to capture the screen - by default, the Snipping Tool is set in the Rectangular Snip mode, but you can change it to other types if you want.

Types of snips

There are four types of Snip Modes available on Windows 10 and Windows 11 in the Snipping Tool:

    • Free-form Snip - allows you to draw a free-form shape to highlight an area for screen capture
  • Rectangular Snip - allows you to drag the cursor around an area in a shape of a rectangle
  • Window Snip - select a window that you want to make the screenshot of, and then capture only that window
  • Full-screen Snip - screenshots of the entire screen

You can also set a delay using the Snipping Tool - between No Delay and 5 Seconds delay. This allows you to designate an area for the screenshot and still gives you time to prepare whatever you wanted to screenshot (like unpausing the game or playing a YouTube video, so there is no pause button in the middle of the screen).

What else can you do with the Snipping Tool?

You can customize the Snipping Tool further by clicking the Options button. There, you’ll find the following settings:

  • Hide instruction text
  • Always copy snips to the Clipboard
  • Include URL below snips (HTML only)
  • Prompt to save snips before exiting
  • Show screen overlay when Snipping Tool is active

You can also adjust the selection ink colour - the default one is red.

You can also annotate a snip. After you capture your screen, use the Pen or Highlighter tools to draw on the screenshot. To remove the lines, select the Eraser tool. To save your snip when you’re satisfied, select the Save Snip button, type a file name, and choose a location.

If you want to quickly share your snip with others, select the Send Snip button and choose one of the options from the list.

Here’s a list of handy shortcuts for the Snipping Tool that you can use:

  • Windows key + Shift + S - Open Snipping Tool
  • Alt + M - Change snipping mode
  • Alt + N - Create a new snip in the same mode as the last one
  • Shift + arrow keys - Move the cursor to select different types of snips
  • Alt + D - Change capture delay
  • Ctrl + C - Copy the snip to Clipboard
  • Ctrl + S - Save the snip

Windows 10 vs. Windows 11 Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool remains mostly the same in Windows 11 as it was in Windows 10, but there were still some changes implemented that are worth noting. Snipping modes remain the same, as does the general functionality of the Snipping Tool. The interface, however, received an overhaul and now fits in more with the Windows 11 Aero design. Moreover, you can now select between 3, 5, and 10 seconds of delay when performing a snip.

Snips can now be set up to automatically save to the desired location. You can also share it not only by email, but also with nearby devices and other apps.

Using the Print Screen button

If for any reason, you don’t want to use the Snipping Tool, there is always the good old Print Screen button. In old Windows versions, this was the most popular way of taking a screenshot - and still is for many users who are simply used to this method. It takes a little longer and the results are mostly the same or more limited than by using the Snipping Tool, but you’ve got more options for editing the capture.

Pressing the Print Screen button will capture your entire screen and copy it to the Clipboard. You can find the button on the right side of the top row of keys - right between F12 and Scroll Lock on most keyboards. You won’t be able to save the file to your disk immediately, however - you’ll have to first paste it into an image editing software like Paint.

Paint is the easiest choice and doesn’t require you to download any third-party applications. Open up Paint, right-click anywhere on the page, and click “Paste” (or just click Ctrl + V). This will make your screenshot appear, and the windows should adjust to its size if it's bigger. 

After you’re done editing the screenshot, you click the Save icon on top and save it locally or to your OneDrive. 

Taking a screenshot on Microsoft Surface

Depending on the version of your Microsoft Surface device, there are two ways of taking a screenshot. The first one is for Surface 3 and earlier - simply press the Power Button + Volume Down to take a screenshot of the entire screen. 

On newer devices, you will have to press the Power Button + Volume Up instead. The pictures are saved to the Pictures > Screenshots folder.

Simple screenshots with Windows key + Print Screen

If you want to avoid having to save a screenshot to your Clipboard, open an image editing software, paste the picture in and save it, there is an easier way. If you press the Windows key + Print Screen shortcut, you’ll automatically save your screen to a new file. This will capture the entire screen. You can find the file in the Pictures > Screenshots folder. 

On Windows 11, in addition to saving the picture to the Screenshots folder, it will also be saved to the Clipboard, making it easy to share on social media or instant messaging apps.

Take a screenshot of the active window with Alt + Print Screen

If you only want to save a single window, you can use the Alt + Print Screen shortcut instead. This will only make a screenshot of the currently active window - but you’ll still need to paste it into an image editing program on Windows 10. In Windows 11, it’ll save the screenshot to the Screenshots folder and also create a copy in the Clipboard.

Taking a screenshot with the Xbox Game Bar 

The Xbox Game Bar has many functions, one of which is recording videos of the screen and capturing screenshots. You can open the Xbox Game Bar by pressing the Windows Key + G shortcut, or by searching for it in the Start menu. Opening the Game Bar will show an overlay over your screen, in the top-right corner of which there will be a “Capture” window. The first button, marked with a little camera, will allow you to make a screenshot. From this window, you can also record a video clip and control whether to include audio or not.

This option is available on both Windows 10 and Windows 11, but not on earlier versions. Everything captured through the screen will be saved to the Videos > Captures folder - don’t be surprised if you don’t find your screenshots from Xbox Game Bar in Pictures > Screenshots. Not very intuitive, honestly, but it is what it is.

Third-party apps for taking screenshots on PC

In addition to all the native methods for taking a screenshot on Windows PCs, there are tons of third-party applications designed specifically for taking and customizing screenshots. Many of them are free and offer extended functionality to the Snipping Tool, which some users might want to explore.

Lightshot is one of the most popular apps for taking screenshots - and it’s absolutely free! It allows users to quickly create screenshots of their entire screens, active window, or selected area. A powerful image editor is also included in the app, allowing you to edit screenshots in a much more expanded capacity than the Snipping Tool allows. The interface is simple and intuitive, and you can immediately share your screenshots not only by email and Bluetooth, but also by uploading it directly to the server and receiving a short link to share. Lightshot is available for Windows, Mac, and as an add-on for Chrome, Opera, Internet Explorer, and Firefox.

If you’re looking for something simple that will allow you to make instant screenshots on Windows, you can also try Screenrec. It’s one of the easiest and fastest screenshot programs available, and it’s also free. It allows users to create 1-click screen captures, annotate screenshots, instantly share a link with friends, have full encryption, screen capture analytics, and more. You can also create video messages the same way, since the device can capture the screen, microphone, audio, and your webcam.

There is also Snagit - a premium screen capturing app with plenty of features not available in any other app of its kind. The downside is, however, that the app costs over $60 to purchase. There is a 30-day free trial if you want to test out the app, but all screenshots taken during that time will have a watermark on top of them. The app includes plenty of rare features, including an integrated easy-to-use GIF maker, panoramic scrolling capture feature, built-in cloud storage, syncing with a mobile app over Wi-Fi, OCR functionality and 4K support.