How Do I Get Into Windows Safe Mode?


Since the earliest releases of Windows, it was possible to access your computer’s Safe Mode by hitting the F8 (sometimes Shift + F8) key during bootup. In versions of Windows from 8.1 onwards...

Author: Trey Williams
Category: Hardware
Author: Trey Williams
Category: Hardware



Since the earliest releases of Windows, it was possible to access your computer’s Safe Mode by hitting the F8 key during bootup. This command would effectively interrupt the normal boot-up procedure and tell the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) to start up in Safe Mode, instead. 

However, since the introduction of Windows 8.1, the F8 (sometimes Shift + F8) method hasn’t worked. Microsoft commented in a press release that this was because Windows 8 was able to boot up and load everything much faster than previous versions. Too fast, in fact, to be interrupted by a keystroke. 

Safe Mode still exists and is still easily accessible in versions of Windows from 8.1 onwards. You can access Safe Mode whether you are able to successfully log in to Windows or not. We’ve outlined all the possible methods below. The route you choose will depend on what is working and what you are able to access at the time.

What is Safe Mode and When Should You Use It?

Safe Mode is a way of getting your computer to boot up only the essential, most basic parts of its system. It provides a stripped-down environment that allows you to run diagnostics and use troubleshooting tools that will help you work out what is wrong and, hopefully, fix the issue. If you’re experiencing system crashes or you’ve been infected with malware, Safe Mode gives you a way of accessing your system in order to make the changes you need. Sometimes the only way to remove buggy drivers and uninstall problematic software is to do so without loading the associated applications. In some situations, such as the notorious BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), Safe Mode might be the only way you can get your system to boot up at all.

Entering Safe Mode if You Can Login to Windows

If your system is frequently crashing or showing signs of instability but you are still in a position to login successfully, manually entering Safe Mode is a good way to investigate and try to fix the problem.

In Windows 7 and any prior versions, you can enter Safe Mode by hitting the F8 key when your computer is booting up. You want to do this after the first BIOS screen (usually a black screen with white text starting in the top left corner) but before the Windows loading screen (usually the giant Windows logo). This will take you to a menu with Start Up Options from which you can choose Safe Mode. 

This method won’t work with systems running Windows 8 and later versions, or if your hard disk is a Solid State Drive (SSD) because the booting up process is just too quick. Your options for getting there are as follows:

  1. From either the Start Menu or the Lock / Login Screen: hold Shift and click Restart. This will load the Troubleshooting Menu, from which you can navigate to Advanced and then Start Up Settings. Select which Safe Mode Option you want by hitting the correct F key.

  2. You can also get to the same Troubleshooting Menu via your Windows Settings application. Either select the cog from your Start Menu, type settings in the Windows Search bar or hit the Windows key + I on your keyboard.

    From Settings, choose Update & Security. In the pane that opens on the left, select Recovery and then navigate to the Advanced Start Up section in the main window. Hit the restart button to load the Troubleshooting Menu then, as above, choose Advanced and Start Up Settings.

  3. Finally, you can access Safe Mode using the System Configuration tool or, as it is more commonly known, msconfig.exe. Type system config in the Windows Search bar and open the application.

From here you want to select the Boot tab at the top of the window, then Safe Boot and hit OK. You’ll get a message that you need to restart for the changes to take effect. You can then either restart immediately or choose to restart later, depending on what you need.

Entering Safe Mode if You Cannot Login to Windows

If you can’t get into Windows to access your settings or the System Configuration tool, don’t worry. There are still a number of straightforward ways to enter Safe Mode.

  1. If you can get your computer to load as far as the initial Login screen but no further, you can still hold Shift and select Restart from the Power Menu in the bottom right corner. As above, this will take you to the Troubleshooting Menu where you can reach the Start Up Settings by clicking Advanced.

  2. If your system is failing to load completely, or crashing immediately after booting up, Windows will load in Automatic Repair Mode. You can initiate this yourself by interrupting the bootup process on 3 consecutive occasions. The easiest way to do this is to hold the power button down (we recommend a minimum of 4 - 5 seconds) while your computer is loading. Automatic Repair Mode will run diagnostics by itself and then take you to the Troubleshooting Menu so you can navigate to the Start Up Settings screen

  3. It might be a last resort for most people, but it is also possible to boot from a recovery drive and enter Safe Mode that way. Windows will let you create a recovery drive at any point, and it’s useful to have as an emergency backup option. If you don’t have one to hand, you can make one from any working computer running your version of Windows. All you need to do is install the recovery drive and follow the on-screen instructions (such as choosing the right keyboard layout) and then select Troubleshoot from the Options Menu.

  4. You might not have a recovery drive to hand, but you may well still have your original Windows installation disc. Follow the on-screen wizard, selecting your language and keyboard configuration, then on the next screen which has an option to Install Now, select Repair Your Computer in the bottom left.

    This takes you to the main Options Menu from which you can select Troubleshoot then Advanced Options. Select Command Prompt and, in the window that opens, type (or copy and paste) bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal and hit enter. Close the Command Prompt window and hit continue which will restart your computer, and have it boot up in Safe Mode so you can do what you need to do.

One thing to note with this particular method is that the command to open in Safe Mode will stay in place until you enter a command that says otherwise. To disable booting in Safe Mode, load the Command Prompt again and type (or copy and paste) the following: bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot. Hit enter, close the command prompt and restart your computer.

Summary

The old way of hitting F8 while your computer boots up may not work anymore, thanks to much faster loading times in all versions of Windows since 8.1, but that doesn’t mean Safe Mode is out of reach. In fact, Windows 10 includes different options within Safe Mode, which makes it even more useful than it used to be.

You can activate the Safe Mode option you need regardless of whether you can or cannot login to Windows. These options can be found in the Advanced Start Up Settings, which is a section of the Troubleshooting Menu, and it’s the different ways you can get to that point that we’ve covered in this article.