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How to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode

Windows 10 is one the most used and prominent operating systems (OS) on the planet, despite Windows 11 has been out for some time now, which means there is a good chance you are also running Windows 10 on some of your machines.

Windows Safe Mode is a remarkably useful feature that allows users to boot your Windows laptop or desktop computer but with limited functionality, which is more helpful than it sounds. It helps users load their computers and debug whatever issues adversely affect their everyday operation.

What is Windows Safe Mode?

Safe Mode is a setting within Windows that allows users to boot their machine to the desktop using only the most basic functions needed to start the operating system.

The causes for a malfunctioning computer can be myriad and sometimes not obvious, which is why loading up a stripped-back version of the computer can sometimes be beneficial, doing away with unnecessary components so you can see what is causing the issue.

In cases where a computer is infected with malware, for example, Safe Mode can effectively identify where the malware may have been executed on your computer; Safe Mode prevents applications from running and can limit network access.

Only Windows’ important files and drivers needed to launch Windows 10 (or earlier) will be activated when booting up the computer in Safe Mode, so no third-party apps, cosmetic features, or other tools will be active when you log in while in Safe Mode.

This stripping-down process determines which application might be causing the issues you’re experiencing or whether the operating system is at the heart of the problem.

Standard Safe Mode restricts access to the internet, while Safe Mode with networking enables you to access the web via Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable. However, Safe Mode with networking should be avoided if you believe your issue is dealing with malware or viruses, as data may be transmitted to the attackers, or the malware may be able to spread across a network.

Why should I launch in Safe Mode?

If Windows will not normally start – for example, if you see a blue screen when trying to start up, or the progress bar never actually gets to the end of the loading cycle, starting your computer with only the basics is a great place to start.

It’s a good idea to start your computer in safe mode if you think it’s been infected with malware or the hardware drivers on your machine are preventing Windows from starting correctly.

Suppose one application conflicts with another; starting up in Safe Mode will also assist in solving this issue. After you’ve determined the blue screen or problems with startup aren’t related to the core files, you can start testing other applications to see which is causing the problem and then uninstall just that one.

Although starting up your computer in Safe Mode won’t always cure the issue, it’s the best place to start if you’re unsure what’s wrong with it.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

There are two ways to start Safe Mode on your computer: via the settings menu, if you can access it, or when you reach the sign-in screen. Microsoft has kept the process relatively similar across the modern versions of Windows, and so the steps for booting Windows 10 in Safe Mode are pretty much identical to those for booting Windows 11 in Safe Mode.


BOOT USING THE SETTINGS MENU

  1. Navigate to the Start menu from the Windows Desktop.
  2. Search for Settings or Click the gear icon above ‘Power‘ on the Start Menu.
  3. On the settings screen, click Update & Security.
  4. From here, click Recovery.
  5. On Advanced Settings, select Restart Now.

Your computer will restart, revealing the ‘Choose an option‘ screen. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart from this screen.

Your PC will reboot again; you can start in Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking.


BOOT USING THE SIGN-IN SCREEN

If you’ve just started your PC to find it’s not working correctly, you can reboot using Safe Mode when you arrive at the sign-in screen. To do this:

  1. Click the Start Menu from the desktop.
  2. Hold Shift on the keyboard. Select the Power symbol in the lower right corner, and then select Restart.
  3. When your computer restarts, it will open up the Recovery Menu.
  4. Click: 
    > Troubleshoot
    > Advanced Options
    > Startup Settings
    > Restart

On the next screen, you can choose option four (F4) on your keyboard to boot up in Safe Mode or option five (F5) if you need to be connected to the network or internet.


WHEN TO CALL FOR HELP

You’ve run your computer in Safe Mode, begin investigating the source of the problems, and are trying to fix them.

But if you’re not confident in trying to fix the problem yourself, it’s best to call a professional to help, either from your IT department or a third-party company (Like OpenTech), to make sure you don’t do irreparable harm to your PC.

If your computer is displaying the (black screen of death) and you cannot control the computer at all, press the CTRL+ALT+DEL combination to enter the logout screen. Select Restart while holding the Shift key; select Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking on the Choose an Option screen.

How to use msconfig to start Safe Mode

If you’re familiar with the command line and prefer this method of summoning Safe Mode, you can launch it from here. Here’s how:

  1. Navigate to the Start Menu.
  2. Type msconfig in the search bar.
  3. Select the System Configuration Option.
  4. Select the Boot Tab from the System Configuration screen.
  5. Check the Safe Boot box; it is set to Minimal by default. Choose the option that best suits your needs.
  6. Select OK or Apply.
  7. Reboot.

Windows 7 Advanced Options screen: How to

If you’re accustomed to using older versions of Windows, you may want to use the older Advanced Boot Options that are no longer available in Windows 10.

To do this, you’ll need to create a bootable USB flash drive or DVD, which you’ll need to do on another computer if your computer isn’t working. It’s a good idea to have one already made up, in case you experience problems in the future.

To access the legacy Advanced Options from this bootable drive, insert the USB drive or DVD into your machine and boot it (you may have to adjust the BIOS boot settings), select your language, and when the Repair your computer page is displayed, choose TroubleshootAdvanced Options > Command Prompt.

Now, type in the disk destination and press enter. Now, type in bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy followed by enter, then type exit to quit the Command Prompt. Remove the device and reboot your computer; it will use the older boot version. Tap F8 to get to the Advanced Options, where you can boot up in Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, Safe Mode with Command Prompt, or any other available option.

Exiting Windows 10 Safe Mode

Hopefully, by this time, you have solved any issues with your system and are ready to exit Safe Mode.

You can do this using MSConfig. Navigate to the Start Menu > Type ‘MSConfig‘ > Choose ‘System Configuration‘ > Select the ‘Boot‘ > Uncheck the ‘Safe Boot‘ option > Restart your system.

You can also restart the computer normally to return to the normal mode.

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