How to take a screenshot using a Microsoft Surface

Mark Coppock
·6 min read

Whether you want to capture friends and relatives making funny faces on Skype or need accessible photos of online resources or programs, screenshots benefit users in many ways. With a simple press of a keyboard’s print screen key, you essentially have the ability to capture anything and everything occurring on your desktop at any time.

But what if you want to take a screenshot on a tablet? Most feature methods for capturing an image via a button combination or tool. For Microsoft Surface users, there are a number of separate methods for capturing screenshots of your tablet’s display.

Whether you’re utilizing a Touch or Type Cover, use the tablet by itself, or rely on a Surface Pen, our comprehensive walk-through will have you taking screenshots on your Surface in no time.

Method 1: Use buttons and keys

Surface 3 Win Button
Kevin Parrish/Digital Trends

Surface to Surface 3

With these older models, Microsoft decided not to include a Print Screen key on either its official Touch or Type Cover accessories. That makes taking screenshots less straightforward than on a computer. Instead of using a designated key, owners need to perform a button combination to execute the command.

Surface 3 Buttons
Kevin Parrish/Digital Trends

To take a screenshot, perform the following:

Step 1: Press and hold the Windows icon button located on the tablet’s screen.

Step 2: With the Windows button pressed, simultaneously push the Lower Volume rocker (minus) located on the side, as shown above.

At this point, the screen should dim, then brighten again, as if taking a snapshot with a camera. Once the screenshot is captured, use these steps to find it:

Step 1: Click the Folder icon located on the taskbar to open File Explorer.

Step 2: Click Pictures listed on the left, or click OneDrive if it’s configured to store screenshots in the cloud.

Step 3: Double-click the Screenshots folder to access the images.

Note that a compatible third-party keyboard cover may include the Print Screen key. This allows users to capture a screenshot with just one press. Otherwise, use the two-button instructions provided above.

Surface Pro 4 and newer

Because these units don’t have a Windows button, the process is a little different. Here’s how:

Step 1: Hold down the Power button.

Step 2: Press the Volume Up button.

Again, the screen will flicker, and the screenshot saves to the same location.

Surface Duo

Microsoft provides two ways to take a screenshot on its Surface-branded phone.

Step 1: Press and hold the Power button.

Step 2: Tap Screenshot.

Alternatively, press and hold the Power and Volume Down buttons simultaneously. The capture goes to the Albums > Screenshots folder in the Photos app.

Method 2: Use a Type or Touch Cover

Surface to Surface 3

Surface Pro 3 Type Cover

Although the Type and Touch Covers prior to the Surface Pro 4 don’t feature a Print Screen key, they do have the ability to capture screenshots using a keyboard shortcut. With any keyboard cover attached, type the following:

Fn + Windows + Spacebar

The screen will dim, then brighten again, signifying a successful screenshot.

Surface Pro 4 and newer

Surface Pro 7 Type Cover

There’s no Windows button, but the Type Covers do include a Print Screen feature. It’s located on the F8 key, meaning the Function key needs to be disabled first. Press it, and the tiny LED turns off, signifying that the Function keys are disabled.

  • PrtScrn: Saves to the clipboard only, unless OneDrive stashes screenshots in the cloud.

  • Windows + PrtScrn: Saves to the local Screenshots folder.

Method 3: Use built-in tools

For greater control over captured screens, there are two Windows-based tools worth considering: The Snipping Tool and the Snip & Sketch app. They’re somewhat similar in function, although the Snipping Tool is primarily offered in Windows 8.1, while Windows 10 will eventually replace it with the Snip & Sketch App in a feature update.

Snipping Tool

Step 1: Type “snip” in the taskbar’s search field and either left-click on the Icon to open the application or right-click the Icon to pin it to the Start Menu or taskbar.

how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface
how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface

The Snipping Tool provides a few options once it’s open: New, Mode, Delay, Cancel, or Options.

how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface
how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface

Step 2: Select one of four modes:

  • Freeform: Use your mouse, finger, or pen to capture a custom area.

  • Rectangular: Capture a precise, manually-selected rectangular area.

  • Window: Capture a specific window, like a browser.

  • Fullscreen: Capture the entire screen.

Step 3: Click New, and respond accordingly.

For example, with Rectangular, the cursor turns into a set of crosshairs that can then be used to create a capture field encompassing a specific portion of the display. Simply drag the resulting cursor over the target area before releasing it to capture the screenshot.

Step 4: Save the screenshot in any location as a JPEG, PNG, or GIF file. Annotate the clip using a Surface Pen, if available.

Snip & Sketch

Snip & Sketch Windows 10
Snip & Sketch Windows 10

While the Snipping Tool is still available to use, Microsoft warns that it’s retiring the tool in a future update. In its place is the current Snip & Sketch app, which is located on the Start Menu. However, it’s easier to access using a keyboard command.

Step 1: Press the Windows + Shift + S keys simultaneously.

Step 2: The screen dims, other than a small toolbar that appears at the top of the screen. Select one of four modes:

  • Freeform: Use your mouse, finger, or pen to capture a custom area.

  • Rectangular: Capture a precise, manually-selected rectangular area.

  • Window: Capture a specific window, like a browser.

  • Fullscreen: Capture the entire screen.

The captured image automatically goes to the clipboard.

For a screen capture delay of up to 10 seconds, use the Snip & Sketch app:

Snip in 10 Seconds
Kevin Parrish/Digital Trends

Step 1: Click Start and select Snip & Sketch on the Start Menu.

Step 2: With the app open, click the Down Arrow next to New in the top-left corner.

Step 3: Select one of three options on the drop-down menu:

  • Snip Now

  • Snip in 3 Seconds

  • Snip in 10 Seconds

The screen will dim, and the toolbar appears with the same four options. This time, however, the screenshot appears within the app.

Method 4: Use a Surface Pen

Windows Surface Pen Settings
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The Surface Pen uses an active digitizer in the display to provide precise and accurate pen input. It includes customizable buttons used to perform various functions such as erasing, writing, and opening apps. One of the more useful Surface Pen functions is its ability to take screen captures and save them to OneNote (app and desktop).

To configure a Surface Pen button, perform the following:

Step 1: Open the Action Center and click the All Settings tile.

Step 2: Select Devices listed in the Settings app.

Step 3: Select Pen & Windows Ink listed on the left.

Step 4: Scroll down to Pen Shortcuts to customize the Click Once, Double-click, and Press and Hold assignments. The options depend on the Surface Pen model.

On the Surface Pen that shipped alongside the 2017 Surface Pro, for example, the eraser button can be configured to take a screen capture and send it to OneNote when the button is double-clicked. If a full-screen capture isn’t needed, use the pen to select a specific region to capture instead. The resulting screenshot will show up in the default OneNote notebook and section.