Capturing and Saving On-Screen Error Messages in Windows

The next time that a Windows or program error message box appears on your screen that you want to save, don’t go rushing for a pen and paper. While writing down an error message is a reasonable way to ensure that you have some information at hand when searching for a solution to the problem, it’s far from efficient. A far better way to deal with the problem is to take a picture of your screen, and save that picture into a file for later reference.

Now don’t go running for your digital camera either – you don’t need it. All you need is Windows’ built-in ability to capture the contents of your screen, via the PrtScn button on your keyboard. To capture an error message and save it, follow these steps.

  1. When the error message appears, click the PrtScn button. This will copy a snapshot of your screen to the Windows clipboard.
  2. Open a program like Microsoft Word, WordPad, or even Paint and select Edit > Paste. A copy of your screen should now be visible on the screen. Save the file as you normally would and use it for future reference.

If you only want to capture the error message window itself (rather than the entire desktop), hold down the Alt key and then press PrtScn and then paste the window into your preferred program.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.