I have a dual monitor setup running Windows XP, and when I hit "Print Screen" and try to paste into Paint, it fails with the error "error getting the clipboard data". Holding down alt-print screen works fine, to just capture a single window.

Is there a permanent solution to this? I'd rather not mess with third-party tools.

  • You might consider adding the tag "multiple-monitors" to your question. I'd do it myself, but I don't have enough reputation yet. – Travis Northcutt Sep 1 '09 at 1:19
  • Wow I'm having the same problem but I can get it to paste into Photoshop (CS3), like it's not even grabbing the screenshot. However, Alt-Prnt-Scrn works! And I know I don't have memory issues because I've used the print-screen screenshot (pasted into PS) for years on this same machine--- it used to work not more than a week ago. Probably I just need to reboot? Windows being random again. Or is some clever program disabling this out of spite? Grrr. – Jared Updike Oct 5 '09 at 17:48
  • Not much help I know, but can you reproduce the error in Safe Mode?That might help rule out graphics driver buffering issues (if you can reproduce the problem, if you can't then that's a possibility...) – Redandwhite Dec 2 '09 at 0:07

I had same problem. Reduce harware accel & reduce to 16 bit color. I have an ATI Fire GL V5200 with dual outputs.

  • Wow! That fixed it exactly! One notch down on the acceleration, and down to 16-bit color - and it all works perfectly. Thanks!!! – Jeffrey Aug 13 '10 at 14:31
  • For anyone else's reference: My card is an ATI Radeon Xpress 1150, with dual outputs. – Jeffrey Aug 13 '10 at 14:33

I'm having the same problem, too. I'm currently running 4 monitors, both on nvidia hardware, with two on an older FX 5500, and the other two on my newer 9400 GT. It took some doing to make the different generations of drivers play nicely together.

I think that Windows is having a problem combining the images from framebuffers in different physical RAM locations (half on one card, half on the other).

That's my guess anyway.

The symptoms are the same: alt-printscreen works like a champ, but the whole-desktop printscreen seems like it doesn't even capture a picture. Photoshop usually is aware of the size of the image in the clipboard, and ctrl-n will create a new document with those dimensions. The size of my desktop is 5120x1024, but the new document is created at 900x1585 (probably just the size of whatever I last pasted in there).

I should have plenty of RAM. I tried reducing the hardware acceleration on all four monitors to the minimum level, and still nothing happens. I turned off write combining, and that might do something (just a stab in the dark though), but I won't know till after I reboot.

For now, Gadwin Printscreen (free download) did the trick, but it only captured my primary screen.


I know you don't want to bother with 3rd party tools, but you really should look into Purrint. It can copy the screenshots to the clipboard, save them to a file (any format) or do both, automatically, every time you press Print Screen. Also has multi-monitor support, which might help your case here. Plus it's a tiny application (136k installer, uses 344k RAM).

  • I just installed it, but every time I hit print-screen, the preview comes up blank. Saving it as a file created a corrupt image file, and pasting into Paint produces the same error I originally had. – Jeffrey Jul 20 '09 at 20:15
  • This sounds like a problem the Windows core. Does it work correctly with alt+Print Screen? – TJ L Jul 20 '09 at 20:25
  • So long as the window isn't maximized. If it is, then it fails as before. – Jeffrey Jul 20 '09 at 20:29
  • Are there any other weird problems with your windows installation? – TJ L Jul 20 '09 at 20:42
  • sounds like a buffer issue. What video-card/drivers are you using? – salmonmoose Sep 1 '09 at 1:37

I think this might be a problem with the size of image that MS Paint can handle. Can you paste it into another application, possibly WordPad?

  • 1
    I get a really weird black image that looks like it might be something resembling part of my screen. Word does the same thing. – Jeffrey Jul 20 '09 at 20:19
  • Strange... I would make sure your video drivers are all up to date, but other than that, I'm not sure. Maybe check with the video card manufacturer. – heavyd Jul 21 '09 at 4:20

Here's some ideas:

  • Try lowering your hardware acceleration. (Right click desktop > properties > settings > advanced > troubleshoot)
  • Try disabling your display driver.
  • Try it in safe mode.

It certainly sounds like that you haven't got enough memory available to hold the full image on the clipboard. The fact that it fails for a maximised window as well as the full screen supports this.

A couple of questions:

  • What screen resolution are you running at?
  • How much memory have you got installed? Though this shouldn't be an issue with virtual memory.
  • What's the size of your paging file? Both it's current size and maximum size (if not set to "System managed size").

If you lower your screen resolution can you get it to work?

I'm running with 2GB of RAM and two monitors at 1600 x 1200 x 32bpp and I can print the whole desktop.


Easy....Just change the image attributes in paint to match your total screen size. If one monitor is 1680x1050 and you have a background on there that stretches along both screens, the background would have to be 3360x1050....so if you print screen, you need to go to paint, change the attributes to 3360x1050 and then hit paste. ....next question. ;)

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    This wasn't the cause at all. "Paint" will resize the canvas if that is the only problem. Other graphics applications also had issues pasting the Print Screen. Patrick's solution was a valid workaround for me, though. – Jeffrey Feb 23 '11 at 20:55

I tried everything. Everything. Everything, short of rebooting.

Reboot fixed it. Sad, but just relaying the truth.

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