What Is the Print Screen Key?

The print screen key captures everything on your computer screen. You can then paste, share, or edit the image.

Published Categorized as Apps & How-to's

The print screen key is a very common key on most Windows computers. What it does is take a screenshot of your entire desktop capturing everything visible to the user.

Using the print screen function is the best way to get a clear image of something on your screen that you want to share or keep for later.

It is far better than taking a photo of your monitor with your phone! Forget awkward blurry pictures—the print screen key is the way forward for clear and precise images.

How Does Print Screen Work?

Print screens work in the same way that taking screenshots works on your phone. It takes an image that covers the entire visible content—including the taskbar at the bottom.

To use the print screen function, you just need to press the print screen key and it creates the image for you.

Note that when you press print screen, you will not be notified that it has been taken. There will be no flash or notification, so you won’t know the results until you paste it.

Where Is the Print Screen Key?

How the print screen key is written on your keyboard will vary depending on how the brand decided to shorten the word. Most computers will have it written ‘PrtSc’ or ‘Prtscr’ or some other variation. 

On my laptop—a HP—print screen is written ‘prt sc.’

If you’re having trouble finding your print screen key, it is most likely on the top line of your keyboard on the right side (though probably a few keys away from the top right corner).

You can usually find it around the ‘Insert,’ ‘Scr Lk’ (screen lock), and ‘Delete’ keys, and navigation keys ‘Home,’ ‘end,’ ‘Page Up,’ and ‘Page Down.’

It’s also worth noting, particularly for more modern devices, that you may need to press ‘Fn’—the function key—in conjunction with the print screen key.

Particularly on laptops where keyboards are getting more compact, and many keys have multiple uses. You may already have to do this to get the keys F1-F12 to work.

How to Find a Print Screen?

After you press the print screen key, a copy of your screen will be added to your clipboard.

You can then paste it somewhere, like a Word document, Google Doc, an email, or in a chat by right-clicking and pressing ‘Paste’ or pressing Ctrl+V.

On top of that, you can also find your print screen by pressing the Windows key+. then click on the clipboard on the top right (depending on the version of Windows you’re using).

You will also find all over things you’ve copied.

Clipboard with print screens.

If you take a print screen using multiple screens, the image will be of both screens.

It doesn’t matter if one screen is larger than the other. For example, I use two screens and my laptop screen is a fair bit smaller than the second screen.

Despite this, when I paste a print screen, both appear the same size, though some details may look a little thinner on the second screen, but not by much. (Check the taskbar.)

Print screen of two monitors.

Also worth noting:

  • In the latest version of Windows, you can have multiple desktops—print screens only capture the desktop you are actively looking at.
  • Some online content may be protected from screenshots. It will be detected and will black out the content.

What Can You Do With Print Screens?

When you make print screens, you may want to crop them depending on what other information may be on your screen. Make sure you check for personal information before sharing.

You can also omit some information with image editing tools or even just with Paint if you’re not confident with them.

If you paste a print screen into Paint, you can then save it as an image file. You can then keep hold of this file, send it, or edit depending on what you need to do.

To do this, all you need to do is open a new file in Paint and paste the print screen by using either Ctrl+V or right-clicking and selecting Paste.

The space available will extend to the size of the print screen and you can do what you like with it.  You may want to do this if you need to save certain information that you won’t be able to keep.

For example, after you have made an online order, you may want the reference number and costs written somewhere.

How to Change the Print Screen Key?

If you are using a desktop device or laptop with an external keyboard, you can install the Microsoft Mouse and Keyboard Center and change it through the application.

I did try this on my HP laptop, and it failed so it may be the case that the keyboard must be manufactured by Microsoft.

You can change the print screen key to activate the snipping tool instead in the settings if you’d prefer.

Use the print screen key for the snipping tool.

Other Tools for Screenshots

Most Windows devices also come with the snipping tool which allows you to take a shot of a specific area.

In more recent versions, you can also take screenshots of entire windows, the full screen, or even go freehand. Plus, you can set a delay of 3-10 seconds.

What’s more, you can then crop or edit the image using highlighters and pens. There are even protractor and ruler tools to help you draw neater objects.

When you’re done, you can copy, save, or share the image. This makes it far easier than taking a screenshot with the print screen button and then pasting it into Paint.

Another highly useful tool for screenshots is Screenpresso.

If you install this tool, it replaces the print screen function, so when you press the print screen key, the Screenpresso opens instead of taking a print screen.

Screenpresso is particularly good for adding annotating images to create instructions by adding text, arrows, or boxes. (I’ve used it a couple of times in this article.)

Gyazo is a similar tool and there are also extensions available to take screenshots of browsers, sometimes entire web pages on the Chrome Web Store.

By Craig Britton

Jack of all trades on writing-related topics with extensive experience in copywriting.

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