In the last few weeks, screen capture stopped working on my MBP. Well, partially.

I can still capture to the clipboard with command + control + shift + 4, but if I try to do a standard capture to a file, my Mac plays the screen capture sound but nothing gets saved on my Desktop.

I'm running OS X 10.9.2. The issue has survived a reboot.

Any suggestions?

  • what is standard capture to a file ?
    – Ruskes
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 22:14
  • 1
    If it makes a noise it took a pic, but the question is where did it save, do a search for "screen"? in finder all my files
    – Ruskes
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 22:21
  • 1
    For me it was solved by relaunching the Finder (option + right click on finder icon in dock and than Relaunch) Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 9:16
  • I've tried all of the below solutions and none of them are working :(
    – rofls
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 23:25
  • Yep, (option + right click on finder icon in dock and than Relaunch) works perfectly. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 18:26

12 Answers 12


Are you running Dropbox? It has a "feature" that grabs screenshots, copies them to a folder called "Screenshots" in your Dropbox folder and then puts a public URL for the file on your clipboard.

Look for "Screenshots" in your Dropbox folder.


None of the answers above helped me, but I discovered the my case:

Shift + Command + Control + 4 saves the screenshot to the clipboard.

Shift + Command + 4 saves the screenshot to a file on Desktop.

So if you're using the first short-cuts, you have to manually open a photo editing app and paste the image, but this can be done automatically with the second short-cut.


I've never heard of this kind of issue, but I did some searching and it seems that this should work:

  1. Open terminal
  2. Copy, paste, and enter this line:

    defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop/
  3. Copy, paste, and enter this line:

    killall SystemUIServer

(See OS X Daily source and Lifehacker source.)


It sounds like the file is may be getting saved elsewhere. It can be set with defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop/ and you'll need to killall SystemUIServer or log out/in again for it to take effect. As an aside using type and name instead of location can set those as well. defaults read will tell you how things are set.

  • 1
    The domain/default pair of (com.apple.screencapture, location) does not exist
    – Michael
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 23:08

Your Screenshot is getting saved to the clipboard instead of to a file. Are you using a third party mouse like a logitech mouse? If so then go into the mouse settings and if you are using a shortcut, change the save setting to file instead of clipboard.


Under system preferences, go to Keyboard>Shortcuts>Screenshots. Check your key configurations and restore default if you need to. You can also try changing it and changing it back.

  • Thanks, but they're all still set to the default. My Mac actually makes the screenshot sound, but it doesn't save the file. Updating my question to clarify that...
    – Josh Earl
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 20:59
  • Do command-shift-3 to save to a file then do a spotlight search for all files named spotlight. The file save location could have been changed some how. You can use something like Onyx to change it back.
    – traisjames
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 21:46

Shift, Control, Command, 3 or 4. Copied a screen shot to your clip board. You now need to paste this screen shot somewhere to see it.

If you use: Shift, Command, 3 or 4. This will save a screen shot to your desktop.

This will answer your question. All the best.


In the last few weeks, screen capture stopped working on my MBP

This happened to me. Go to Dropbox, Settings, Preferences, Import and uncheck "Share screenshots using Drop Box.

Mine now save to my desktop.


The answer for this is here, but spread out over several answers so here's everything in one handy place.

Works for these options:

  • Shift+Command+3 - creates a separate file for each active screen. Basically a file for every monitor attached to your system.
  • Shift+Command+4 - Allows the selection of an area to capture to a file.
  • Shift+Command+4 then press space - Allows the capture of an open application window.

Does not work for Control+Shift+Command+4(3) as these key combos put the screen shots into the clipboard.

Open terminal (or your favorite terminal emulation program) and follow the steps below:

mkdir ~/Desktop/Screenshots
defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop/Screenshots
killall SystemUIServer

You can replace the location with something other than ~/Desktop/Screenshots if you prefer. The directory has to exist or you will get an error saying that you do not have permission to save files in the location where screen shots are stored.

I would like to add that Shift+Command+5 shows an on-screen menu that allows more fine grained control of what is captured and where. For example if you wanted to include the Command+Tab screen you could set a countdown timer to accomplish the capture.


This began happening to me on my MacBook Pro two days ago. Initially I wondered whether the screenshots were lost, but I then found that the save location has been altered. Previously the screenshots were automatically saved to Desktop. Now they are being saved to Documents.

The change occurred after I had modified my System Preferences | Privacy & Security settings to allow Zoom to save recordings to the Documents folder.

Clearly there must be a way to switch the Save location back to Documents, and when I find the answer I will post it here. In the meanwhile, it's good to know that the screenshots are not lost, so I am posting this answer, in case it assists someone else.

  • Have you tried the commands in my answer? You could substitute ~/Desktop for ~/Desktop/Screenshots if you don't want a special folder. I just tried this on my M1 MacBook Pro this morning and it worked as expected so I would be curious to see how it works for you.
    – joehep
    Commented May 31, 2022 at 13:19

Non of the above fixed it for me. What helped was using the "Screenshot.app" once. Afterwards the shortcut worked again as expected.


The Screenshot utility apparently does not save the file if you have very low disk space on your Mac.

It appears to work, and plays the camera sound, but does not save the file. It does not display an error or alert.

A run-away process brought my system's free disk space down to 128mb. I could not take any screenshots until I noticed that this happened. Screenshots saving again after emptying the Trash.

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