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Take screenshots for troubleshooting in Windows

By . Last modified: 2014-08-14.

How to capture screenshots of full screen or open window in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1 for troubleshooting

A picture is worth thousand words. This is so very true when you are trying to describe your problem to an IT-specialist. Smile You should always write down exact error messages you are seeing when a program or Windows itself does not work correctly - this helps a lot in problem solving. But it is even better to e-mail screenshots to the IT-specialist trying to help you.

Full screen or open window?

You can take two different types of screenshots in Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1 - either the whole computer screen area or just open window or error message.

Use full screen area only when something is wrong (maybe screen colors or strange open windows) and there is no error message displayed. To do that, press Print Screen (could also be Prt Sc or Print Scrn) button on your keyboard once.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, you can use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Print Screen to store the screenshots automatically in Screenshots subfolder of your Pictures library. This is a much easier way of creating multiple screenshots quickly. Windows will dim your display for a moment to indicate that screenshot has been successfully created.
Windows 8, Screenshots folder in Pictures library. Use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Print Screen to automatically save screenshots.

If there is an error message, make sure it is active (click once on the message area - but not any buttons in it!) and press right Alt+Print Screen on your keyboard. Right Alt might also be Alt Gr on some keyboards.

Saving the screenshot with Paint

Whether you pressed Print Screen or right Alt+Print Screen, the screenshot now resides in a special memory area called Clipboard. Clipboard can only hold one item, so if you take another screenshot, the older one gets overwritten.
Now you should turn the screenshot into a file.
In Windows XP, open Start Menu by clicking the green Start button or by using keyboard shortcut CTRL+ESC, expand All Programs, then move to Accessories and click on Paint.
In Windows Vista and 7, open Start Menu by clicking the Start button or by using keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Esc, type "paint" into Search Box and then click Paint.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, open Start screen and type "paint" - app search starts automatically. Alternatively, use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Q to open App Search pane.
Touch screen users should swipe in from the right side and tap Search.
Windows XP Start Menu, All Programs, Accessories, Paint Windows 7 Start Menu, to open Paint, type 'paint' into Start menu Search Box and then click Paint. Windows 8, App Search pane (Windows Key+Q). To open Paint, type 'paint' into Search Box and then click Paint. Windows 8.1, Search everywhere. To open Paint, type 'paint' into Search Box and then click Paint.

In Windows XP and Vista, open Edit menu and click Paste, or use keyboard shortcut CTRL+V.
In Windows 7, 8 and 8.1, click the big Paste button on Ribbon-style toolbar, or use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+V to paste the screenshot from Clipboard to Paint.
Windows Vista Paint, pasting a screenshot - open Edit menu and click Paste. Windows 7 Paint, pasting a screenshot - click the Paste button on toolbar.

You can maximize the Paint window for better visibility and to make sure you pasted the correct screenshot.
In Windows XP and Vista, open File menu and click Save As..., or press Ctrl and S keys simultaneously.
In Windows 7 and later, click the floppy-shaped Save button on Quick Access Toolbar of Title Bar (or use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S):
Windows XP Paint, saving a screenshot - open File menu and select Save As. Windows 7 Paint, saving a screenshot - click the floppy-shaped Save button on Title Bar.

By default, Paint saves the screenshot to your My Pictures folder or Pictures library. This is generally fine, but you can also select some other folder to save the screenshot to.
Enter the name of the file to File name and select "JPEG" from Save as type. Then click Save:
Windows 7 Paint, saving a screenshot - enter file name and choose JPEG for Save as type. Then click Save.

That's it! You can now send the saved screenshot via e-mail to your IT-support guy. Smile

Using the Snipping Tool in Windows 7, 8 and 8.1

Windows 7 and newer have an advanced screenshot tool called the Snipping Tool. This allows specifying the exact portion of a screen to capture, plus emailing the screenshot right away.

To run the program in Windows 7, open Start menu and type "snipping" into Search Box.
In Windows 8 and 8.1, open Start screen and type a part of "snipping" right away - this opens search automatically. Alternatively, use keyboard shortcut Windows Key+Q.
Touch screen users should swipe in from the right side and tap Search first.
Click Snipping Tool in the results.
Windows 7 Start Menu. To open Snipping Tool, type a part of the name into Search Box and click the program name in results. Windows 8 Start screen, app search. To open Snipping Tool, type a part of the name into Search Box and click the program name in results. Windows 8.1 Start screen, Search everywhere. To open Snipping Tool, type a part of the name into Search Box and click the program name in results.

The program opens and most of computer screen turns a little pale. This is normal.
Often, there is no need to click the New button, for Snipping Tool is ready to capture rectangular areas right away. Just hold down mouse's left button, drag around the region of screen you want to capture and then release the mouse button. Note that the selected part of the screen will turn normal and be surrounded with red rectangle.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Select a part of screen with mouse. Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Hold down left button of your mouse and drag it around the portion of screen you need to capture. Then release the mouse button.

If you need to capture full windows, the whole screen or a very specific area, click the down arrowhead part of the New button first. This allows selecting between Free-form Snip, Rectangular Snip (the default), Window Snip and Full-screen Snip.
In most modes, a red rectangle appears around the area to be captured, but in Free-form Snip mode, mouse pointer turns into scissors.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. To define a type of the new snip, select the appropriate item from the New button menu. Windows 7, Snipping Tool, Free-form Snip mode. Hold down left button of your mouse and drag it around the portion of screen you need to capture. Then release the mouse button.

The screenshot is now in the Snipping Tool window. You could use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S to save it, but let's see some other useful tools in the program.

First, you can use pen to draw attention to an important part. The pen tool is active by default, so just use your mouse to draw something. You can also select a colour for the pen by clicking the down arrowhead in the right part of Pen button on Toolbar.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. To draw on a captured image, use the Pen tool. Windows 7, Snipping Tool, blue pen.

The Highlighter tool allows to draw a thick, bright yellow bar on text or any other part you want to emphasize.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Highlighter tool allows to draw a thick bright yellow bar.

As there is no Undo command available in Snipping Tool, use the Eraser tool to remove a modification. Just click its button on Toolbar and then click on the highlight or drawing you want to delete.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Eraser tool allows to remove a modification you made.

Sending the snip via e-mail

The most convinient way of emailing the captures is to click the Send Snip button. You must have an e-mail program configured to use this option.

By default, the image is included in the body of the e-mail, but you can also choose to send it as an attachment - just click the down arrowhead part of the button and click E-mail Recipient (as attachment).
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Send Snip button sends the picture via e-mail.

Saving the snip to a file

If you do not have an e-mail program available, or you use webmail, use keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S to save the snip as an image file (or click the Save Snip button on Toolbar).
Windows 7, Snipping Tool. Save Snip button allows saving the screenshot as an image file.

By default, the image type is PNG. You can also use the Save as type combo box to save the snip as GIF or JPG image, or even MHT (Single file HTML) file.
Type a name into the File name field and click Save.
Windows 7, Snipping Tool, Save As. Type a name in the File name field and click Save.

 

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