How do I take a picture of what is on my screen?

“A picture is worth a thousand words” so the saying goes.

Often it is very helpful for those of us who are trying to help answer your question in an online forum if we could actually “see” what you are seeing on your computer screen. This could be an error message, or something else the computer is asking you to do that you don’t understand.

What you want to do is to “capture” what is on your screen and upload it in a post.

Note: This quick tutorial uses freeware to accomplish this task, but there are other similar tools freely available, or for retail sale, on the Internet. My personal favourite is SnagIt!

Let’s say you’re having a problem with a message that XP’s Security Center is telling you. The person helping you might ask you to open the Security Center window and take a screen capture and post it or email it (it saves you a lot of typing, too!).

Open Security Center by going to Start>Control Panel and double-click on Security Center (this is a feature of XP with Service Pack 2).

Next, find the “Printscreen” key on your keyboard. It is often labelled “PrtScn” as well.

Press it once (you will not notice anything happening when you do).
This action has taken a screen capture of the Security Center window and sent it to the Windows Clipboard, where it is temporarily in the computer’s memory until you tell it what to do with it.

Now, we’re going to open a Windows program called “Paint” which can be found by looking under Start>Programs>Accessories.

Once it’s open, go to the word Edit on Paint’s toolbar up near the top left of it’s window. Click on Edit, then Paste and the image of Security Center will appear in Paint!

Now click File>Save and choose where to save the image and give it a name. By default, Paint will want to save the file with a .BMP name (as in security.bmp), but this will result in a file too large to upload to the forum. Instead, choose .JPG from the drop-down list under the name box.

That’s it! Now you can send it as an attachment in an email or upload it to post in a web forum.

I highly recommend IrfanView for editing screen captures. It is totally free and has far more features than Paint. Download Irfanview here.