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How can I take a screenshot of the PC before it has started up?

For example:

  • If I wanted to take a screenshot of my BIOS and send it to the Network Admin for review
  • Windows installation screenshots such as those seen on this site - Windows is not yet installed!

Any ideas?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 14 down vote accepted

There have been good answers already:

  • Use a VM like VirtualBox or VMWare to install Windows so you can take pictures of the setup process from the host environment.
  • Use digital camera to make pictures (with noticeably lower quality of course)

However there is usually no direct way to take screenshots from the BIOS setup assuming you want to get pictures of your host machine BIOS. The PrintScreen button might work in the BIOS but it will usually send the text-based output to the printer. Newer EFI/UEFI based ROMs might have built-in screenshot functionality but I've personally not come across such a feature in recent implementations. Moreover you would need storage like a USB stick with a file system writable by the setup tool (usually this would not be any Windows/NTFS drive).

Another solution might be a remote console device (also called IP KVM) as provided by companies like Raritan. These devices are connected to the video output (as well as keyboard and mouse) and provide a web interface which shows the screen output remotely. For VGA output the screen output is converted into digital pictures again; so strictly speaking it's not providing you the exact picture. You might also be able to use a DVI/HDMI frame grabber device like this which is simply connected to the DVI/HDMI output (such devices also exist for VGA but again, some quality loss might apply) and provides you with digital images again.

Also some management interfaces like Intel vPro or proprietary solutions might provide remote screen. However this is technically identical to the IP KVM solution in the end.

All these solutions require additional hardware or special hardware which has this capability already.

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Thanks for revision; I should improve my English :) –  SkyBeam May 31 '11 at 17:13
1  
VM software won’t work because they use their own BIOS, not that of the host. –  Synetech Oct 24 '12 at 22:02

This is most likely done by running the operating system in a virtual machine, such as VMware and then they can record the desktop or take screen shots as it progresses.

To do such a thing without a host operating system requires a digital camera, which clearly doesn't get the same quality.

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You could just use a digital camera (not that this answers how the other site did it).

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The site does say at the top that VMWare was used –  TheLQ Jun 2 '11 at 3:13

I have been trying a lot on capturing the BIOS. Until now I didn't get to a resonable solution. I have tried capturing the BIOS by using 2 PCs, one of them with a S-Vídeo output and the other with a S-Vídeo input.

Since S-Vídeo is an old tecnology it only alows for resolutions up to 720x480 which is ok to capture the BIOS because the resolution isn't so high anyway since it is not using the video drivers of the video card jet, just a standard drivers.

If you only want to capture BIOS s-video is fine but I wanted also to capture other things like booting up from linux and live CDs \ flash like G-parted, norton ghost and Windows Repair disc etc. So I bought a HD capture card (Hauppauge colossus) and used a thid party software (nextpvr) to capture the screen. This did only work partially for me because there was always a delay between what was going on with computer to be captured and what was showing on the screen.

I used an HDMI splitter to put 1 output of the PC to the monitor and another to the capture card.

What I didn't try for now: I know that vmware workstation has the ability to virtualize a real machine (I don't know how this works yet) maybe it also vitualizes the BIOs somehow.

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If you have a printer connected, you might be able to use the "Print Screen" key on your keyboard (assuming your BIOS supports this function; it should, but there are many that don't).

You can then scan that printout later and either post it as-is in graphical form, or use OCR to obtain the text directly (for native text-mode output OCR tends to be more accurate).

HELPFUL TIP: You'll probably need to send a "Form Feed" (ASCII control character 12, or just print an empty document that has a few spaces or blank lines in it) to your printer because the "Print Screen" key's function won't add the final Form Feed character for you (and the printer will just keep the information in memory until either a Form Feed character is received, or approximately 66 lines of text are collected).

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I think the example you gave used a virtual machine.

If you use software like VirtualBox you can take screenshots of the installation process during booting with the host machine.

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Heres a thought, why not just take a camera and take a photo? I've taken pretty good photos of the screen with my iphone and a reasonable digital camrea could do a lot better!

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Some EFI Bios's allow screenshots. I believe ASUS uses F12 to take the screenshot in their current EFI bioses.

Hope this helps anyone else out there who stumbles by this.

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