How to scan a document into a computer

Updated: 06/30/2020 by Computer Hope
Flatbed scanner

There are many reasons people need to scan documents or photos into their computer. A couple common reasons include sending paperwork to someone across the country immediately, and the use of mail or other shipping methods are not fast enough. A person might be going paperless, but still want to keep important documents handy. They also may have printed photos that they want to transfer digitally to their phone or other devices.

While the methods vary slightly for different models of scanners, the following steps walk you through how to scan a document or photo into your computer.

How to scan a document

  1. Turn on the scanner.
  2. Locate the software for the scanner on your computer. If you don't have the software that came with the scanner, most versions of Windows have a Windows Fax and Scan program installed, which works with most scanners.
  3. Count the number of pages you want to scan. If you are working with only one side of the page, we recommend using the flatbed, shown in the first picture below. If you are using either multiple pages or one page needing both sides scanned, you need a scanner with a feeder port, shown in the second picture below.

Example of a flatbed on a scanner

scanner flatbed

Example of a feeder on a scanner

scanner feeder

  1. When using the Windows Fax and Scan software, you need to verify at the bottom left of the computer screen that Scanner is selected, not Fax.
  2. Put the page(s) that needs to be scanned on the flatbed or in the feeder. Most scanners have directions on how to insert the paper, either face up or face down. Especially when using the feeder, make sure the paper is seated correctly so it is grabbed correctly.
  3. In the scanner software, click the New Scan or similar option.

scanner new scan

  1. In the New Scan window, you'll need to change any settings that might apply from the available options. For example, options may include Profile, Source, Paper size (if not letter size), Color format, File type, Resolution (DPI), Brightness, and Contrast. Change each of these depending on the type of document you are scanning.

New scan window

  1. Once those options are changed, click Scan.

Saving the document

  1. After all the pages are scanned, a screen pops up showing the scanned pages. Make sure all pages are showing on the screen. If not, you need to re-scan the document.
  2. If using the Windows Fax and Scan program, at the top middle of the screen, click on Save as, or you can click File, then click Save as.
  3. In the pop-up window, choose the Save in location, then type in the desired file name. Then, change the Save as type to .jpg, .bmp, .gif, .tiff, or .png, depending on your preference. We recommend saving any photos as .jpg, and any documents as .tiff. Saving documents as a .tiff reduces their size, making it easier to send by e-mail and similar programs.
  4. Once you've made the selections, click Save.

Once you've saved your file as one of the file extensions above, you can use a third-party PDF program to save your file as a .pdf. For further help see: How do I save a scanned document as a PDF?

Additional information