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When and how to use Safe Mode on Windows 8 or 10 PC

Safe mode is an alternate software environment that allows a Windows user to diagnose problems more easily compared to when the machine is booted to normal mode. Safe mode, also known as diagnostic mode, only allows basic programs and drivers to run.

When to use safe mode?


If you encounter problems with Windows, one of the first things that you should try to do is to boot to safe mode. It’s a good way to isolate troublesome programs or even malware. Safe mode is designed to help users and technicians to troubleshoot Windows if it suffers from system critical problems, like when it fails to boot normally. Once you’ve corrected the problem, you can then boot the phone back to normal mode.

Before we proceed to the main topic, we would like to remind you that we accept requests for assistance regarding their Windows computers. If you have a problem that you can’t seem to find a solution to, send us your issue by following the link at the bottom of this page. Just remember, windows problems can sometimes be difficult to diagnose so kindly make sure that you give us very detailed description of the problem. You want to mention relevant history that may have led to the issue. The more information that you can provide, the higher the chance of us diagnosing the issue more efficiently. We also expect that you mention whatever troubleshooting step/s that you may have done before contacting us in order to prevent repeating them in our article. Again, the more details you can give us, the faster it is for us to pinpoint the cause and its corresponding solution.

How to enter Safe Mode on your Windows 8 or 10 PC


  1. Search for and open PC Settings. Wait for the PC Settings menu to open.
  2. Click Update & recovery.
  3. Click Recovery, and then under Advanced startup, click Restart now.
  4. The Choose an option screen opens. From the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot.
  5. Click Advanced options.
  6. Click Startup Settings.
  7. Click Restart.
  8. Once your computer has restarted, another Startup Settings screen should oen to show you a list of different startup options.
  9. Choose the safe mode option you want from the Startup Settings menu:
    • Press the F4 key for Enable Safe Mode. Safe Mode starts Windows with a minimal set of drivers and services. When in this mode, you’ll notice that the desktop becomes black and the fonts and icons will look big and ungainly. This is due to the fact that only the basic configuration is allowed to run by Windows. You will still have  access to the basic peripherals like mouse and keyboard so you can do basic troubleshooting.
    • Press the F5 key for Enable Safe Mode with Networking. Safe Mode with Networking starts Windows in Safe Mode with additional network and services for accessing the Internet and other computers on your network. We recommend that you don’t browse the web while in safe mode as your computer’s defenses are not running.
    • Press the F6 key for Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Safe Mode with Command Prompt starts Windows in Safe Mode with a Command Prompt window instead of the Windows interface. This option is generally used only by IT professionals.
  10. Sign back in to your computer by entering your account name and password. Like in normal mode, you need to enter your username and password if you want to access Safe mode. If you are on a laptop that usually asks for a fingerprint or PIN, you also need to type in your username and password in this case.
  11. Once you’re done troubleshooting, simply exit safe mode by clicking or Start, Power, then Restart.
  12. Your computer should boot back up normally afterwards.

What to do if you can’t enter Safe Mode via Windows


If Windows is acting erratically and won’t allow you to restart in Safe Mode or if your computer is infected with malware that blocks a user from accessing safe mode, don’t panic. There’s a number of ways to enter safe mode outside of Windows.

Access Safe Mode via Recovery mode

The first one is to use recovery mode. Simply boot your PC to recovery mode so you reach the Choose an option screen. Booting to recovery mode is one of the tricks that computer technicians do when faced with a boot up issue. Here are the exact steps that you must do:

  1. Open the Power menu.
  2. Click the “Power” icon.
  3. Hold the “Shift” key and click “Restart” to reboot the computer to the Startup Options screen.

If the above steps won’t work and the Choose an option screen won’t show, do the following:

  1. Turn off the computer.
  2. Turn the computer back on and press the ESC key repeatedly until the Startup Menu appears.
  3. Start a System Recovery by pressing F11.
  4. If prompted, select your keyboard layout, then from the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot.
  5. Click Advanced options.
  6. Click Startup Settings. If the Startup Settings option does not display, follow the steps for starting Safe Mode in the Entering Safe Mode without access to Startup Settings section.
  7. Click Restart. The computer restarts and another Startup Settings screen opens showing a list of different startup options.
  8. Choose the safe mode option you want from the Startup Settings menu:
    • Press the F4 key for Enable Safe Mode. Safe Mode starts Windows with a minimal set of drivers and services. When in this mode, you’ll notice that the desktop becomes black and the fonts and icons will look big and ungainly. This is due to the fact that only the basic configuration is allowed to run by Windows. You will still have  access to the basic peripherals like mouse and keyboard so you can do basic troubleshooting.
    • Press the F5 key for Enable Safe Mode with Networking. Safe Mode with Networking starts Windows in Safe Mode with additional network and services for accessing the Internet and other computers on your network. We recommend that you don’t browse the web while in safe mode as your computer’s defenses are not running.
    • Press the F6 key for Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Safe Mode with Command Prompt starts Windows in Safe Mode with a Command Prompt window instead of the Windows interface. This option is generally used only by IT professionals.
  9. If prompted, select your keyboard language type and sign in with an account name that has administrator rights.
  10. Sign back in to your computer by entering your account name and password. Like in normal mode, you need to enter your username and password if you want to access Safe mode. If you are on a laptop that usually asks for a fingerprint or PIN, you also need to type in your username and password in this case.
  11. Once you’re done troubleshooting, simply exit safe mode by clicking or Start, Power, then Restart.
  12. Your computer should boot back up normally afterwards.

Access Safe Mode using the Command Prompt

Another good way to enter Safe Mode is with the help of Windows command prompt . To do that, follow the steps below:

  1. Power on the computer and press the ESC key repeatedly until the Startup Menu appears.
  2. Begin a System Recovery by pressing F11. If prompted, select your keyboard layout.
  3. The Choose an option screen displays. Click Troubleshoot.
  4. Click Advanced options.
  5. Select Command Prompt to open the Command Prompt window. You might need to select your account and enter your password to continue.
  6. After the command system prompt, enter the command for the safe mode option you want. Enter the information exactly.
    • Enable Safe Mode – Type:
    • bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal and press Enter.
    • Enable Safe Mode with Networking – Type:
    • bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network and press Enter.
    • Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt – Type:
    • bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal and press Enter:
    • bcdedit /set {default} safebootalternateshell yes and press Enter.
  7. The computer responds with The operation completed successfully when you have entered the command correctly.
  8. You can now close the Command Prompt. Just click on the X at the upper right hand corner.
  9. Once the Choose an option screen shows, select Continue so you can type in your username and password. Sign back in to your computer by entering your account name and password. Like in normal mode, you need to enter your username and password if you want to access Safe mode. If you are on a laptop that usually asks for a fingerprint or PIN, you also need to type in your username and password in this case.
  10. Wait until the PC boots to safe mode.

How to return to normal mode


In most cases, restarting your computer after you’re finished troubleshooting in safe mode should be the easiest way to exit of this mode. However, if your phone gets stuck in safe mode and restarting it won’t return it to normal mode, you can do these steps:

  1. Turn off the computer.
  2. Turn on the computer and press ESC key repeatedly until the Startup Menu appears.
  3. Begin a System Recovery by pressing F11. If prompted, select your keyboard layout.
  4. The Choose an option screen displays. Click Troubleshoot.
  5. Click Advanced options.
  6. Click Command Prompt to open the Command Prompt window. You might need to select your account and enter your password to continue.
  7. Type the following command to exit Safe Mode: bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot and press Enter.
  8. Close the Command Prompt window by clicking the X in the upper right corner of the Command Prompt window.
  9. The Choose an option screen displays. Select Continue.
  10. Wait for the computer to restart normally.

 


We are here to help

If you are having a problem with your Windows computer, don’t hesitate to let us know about it. We understand how frustrating computer problems can be so, more so if you can’t find the right solutions at all. Our blog exists to help PC users and Windows community deal with their problems effectively. To engage with us, just fill out the questionnaire in this link and wait for our articles to be published. In order to help as many people as possible, we only provide our solutions via posts so please don’t expect that we will respond to your emails or private messages. By making all posts public, we can share our solutions to other users in a more efficient manner. We cannot guarantee a quick response so if your issue is time sensitive, please find another way to resolve your problem.

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