Home > Documentation, Mac OS X > Taking screenshots of the login window on OS X El Capitan

Taking screenshots of the login window on OS X El Capitan

@clburlison has discovered that you can take screenshots of the OS X login window on OS X El Capitan using OS X’s keyboard shortcuts for making screenshots.

This appears to be a new feature of El Capitan, as I was unable to reproduce this behavior on OS X Yosemite.

LWScreenShot 2015 10 15 at 9 22 33 AM

In my testing, I’ve verified that using the following commands work:

  • Take a screenshot of the entire login window: Command+Shift+3
  • Take a screenshot of a user-selected area of the login window: Command+Shift+4

The screenshot file(s) will then appear on the desktop of the next user to log in.

Screen Shot 2015 10 15 at 8 24 49 AM

To distinguish these login window screenshots from screenshots taken while logged in, the login window screenshots’ filenames begin with LW.

Screen Shot 2015 10 15 at 9 35 39 AM

Categories: Documentation, Mac OS X
  1. October 15, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    For earlier OSes, you can connect via SSH (or maybe ARD) and use the screencapture command to get a screenshot of the loginwindow.

  2. October 15, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Nice! One thing I’d add is that this doesn’t work if you have FileVault enabled, which is to say it doesn’t work at the EFI boot-time login screen. However, you can still take a login screenshot with a FileVault-enabled Mac – just click Apple > Log Out, and do it there.

  3. Graham
    October 15, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    How weird. I wonder where the files are stored prior to someone logging in?

  4. October 15, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    The pre-boot authentication screen that you get when booting a machine with FV2 enabled is _not_ the loginwindow (nor is it OS X!), so no, you won’t get OS X screenshots working there.

  5. October 16, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    The screen captures also work for the setup assistant screens. I tested this using El Capitan and all the first boot setup assistant screens were on the desktop of first user that gets created during setup.

    No longer need to use a VM to capture the setup assistant screens. Very useful when writing how to guides.

  6. cashxx
    October 16, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    Wow…nice find! I have used ARD in the past if I needed to take a screen shot that way. Wondering the same as Graham, I wonder where the files are stored, /tmp or something I would guess. Interesting to see if this is a bug or feature and if/what other things work?

  7. Christian Buerli
    October 21, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    It also works during upgrade installations: http://www.macfix.de/entries/view/802814

  8. N Charles
    January 18, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    For what it’s worth, I was trying to take screen shots of the Migration Assistant for documentation and while I could ‘hear’ the screenshots being taken, I couldn’t find them in any user’s desktop (their normal location). In the end I asked in the MacAdmins slack channel and was able to find them in /private/car/log/SetupUserScreenshots/. (I found them by running: sudo find / -iname “*screenshot 2016*”`, thanks to foigus for the tip!)

    • N Charles
      January 19, 2016 at 1:48 pm

      Sorry, the path should be /private/var/log/SetupUserScreenshots/

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