What to do with MacBook screenshot not working

It would be no surprise that most Mac users send dozens of screenshots every day. Screenshots are easy to create on Mac and can give so much context with so little effort. 

So, when (admittedly very rarely) you see the screenshot not working, Mac provides you with a few ways to fix the issue. Additionally, some third-party apps might make all the resetting work even more seamless. Let’s go through the process step by step.

How to take screenshots on Mac properly

Before diving into all the ways to correct screenshots on Mac not working, it would be beneficial to recap how screenshots are supposed to work to establish a foundation to start from.

There are a few options for taking a screenshot on your Mac:

  • Using keyboard shortcuts. ⌘ + Shift + 3 will automatically take a screenshot of your whole screen. ⌘ + Shift + 4 will let you select an area (switch to the app-window screenshot by hitting Space). ⌘ + Shift + 5 will take an app-window screenshot.
  • Launching the Screenshot app located in the Applications > Utilities folder will bring up the screenshot menu without using your keyboard.
  • Opening Preview and selecting File > Take Screenshot, and then choosing one out of three options there.

Below, we’ll discuss how to resolve any errors that could come up from using either of these options.

Configure all the keyboard shortcuts

If you’re trying to hit ⌘ + Shift + 3 (4 or 5) and nothing is happening, it could mean that your keyboard settings somehow got reset.

To check whether it’s keyboard shortcuts to blame for screen capture not working, Mac computers have a special menu:

  1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.
  2. Navigate to the Shortcuts tab > Screenshots.
  3. Make sure that all the boxes are checked and that shortcuts are set properly.
  4. If you need to change any shortcuts, just double-click on the existing one and type in your new key combo.
  5. Uncheck and then recheck the boxes.

Restart and update your macOS

In some cases, misappropriated keyboard shortcuts are not the reason for the screenshot on Mac not working. The next step here is to simply restart your Mac by clicking on the Apple icon in the menu bar and selecting Restart since it could be a system glitch.

If the restart didn’t help either, see whether there’s an update to your current macOS available. Quite often, Apple releases fixes for known bugs, and your situation might fall in that camp:

  1. Open System Preferences > Software Update.
  2. Click Update Now if there’s a new macOS version available.
  3. Follow all the prompts to install (usually takes around 30 minutes).

Try resetting your Mac’s NVRAM

The options described above methodically rule out the problem with misplaced shortcuts and your macOS. The next level is to go down even deeper into the internal settings of what’s literally inside your Mac. 

Non-volatile random-access memory (or NVRAM) is responsible for low-level processes within your Mac. Very rarely, an issue may arise with some settings deep in the operating system, which might then manifest themselves as screenshots on Mac not working, for example. 

Anyway, resetting NVRAM is easy, non-destructive, and might actually fix the situation. 

For an Intel-based Mac:

  1. Turn off your Mac (Apple icon > Shut Down).
  2. Turn it back on and press ⌘ + Option + P + R for about 10–20 seconds or after you hear the second startup sound. In Macs 2018 and later with the T2 security chip, you can release the keys after the Apple logo disappears for the second time. Ready!

If you have a Mac with Apple silicon, NVRAM resets automatically should any issue emerge. 

Get rid of all system junk in seconds to fix shortcuts

The combination of reconfiguring the keyboard shortcuts, restarting your Mac, and resetting NVRAM should work for 90% of screenshot not working Mac issues. The other 10%? 

The truth is there are so many settings in your Mac that can misfire: user logs, cache files, language preferences, disk images, login items, improperly installed updates — it would take you hours and lots of frustration to check and correct everything. Gladly, there’s an app that can do it all for you in seconds. 

CleanMyMac X is an optimization utility that keeps your Mac essentially brand new by thoroughly scanning all user- and system-generated files with a click of a button. And, by the way, it’s notarized by Apple. 

Here’s how to instantly clean your system junk with CleanMyMac X:

  1. Open the CleanMyMac X app (or download it for free first).
  2. Navigate to the System Junk tab in the sidebar.
  3. Click Scan.
  4. Review Details and uncheck anything you don’t want to touch (Note that CleanMyMac X doesn’t delete any essential system files or ones you’ve created).
  5. Hit Clean.
CleanMyMac X - User cache files in System Junk module

Notice how many errors and clutter your Mac used to carry?

That’s it! A few clicks and now your MacBook screenshot not working issue should be resolved once and for all. In addition, feel free to use CleanMyMac X to check for viruses with the Malware Removal feature, completely delete unneeded apps with Uninstaller, and so much more that you can find by simply exploring the sidebar. After all, having a top-notch Mac shouldn’t be hard.

Laptop with CleanMyMac
CleanMyMac X

Your Mac. As good as new.