If you use a Windows PC there will surely come a time when you need to start up Windows in Safe Mode.
For example, I have learned over time that stubborn viruses and spyware can often be removed in Safe Mode even when my anti-virus software fails to remove them while running under Normal mode.
What is Safe Mode?
When you boot up Windows into Safe Mode only the bare essentials of the operating system are loaded. Only the system’s basic hardware drivers are loaded, and no programs listed in the Startup folder are allowed to load and run.
In a nutshell, Safe Mode makes it much easier to troubleshoot and fix software problems such as bad drivers, corrupted Windows files or nasty viruses.
How to boot Windows into Safe Mode
Windows 7 and earlier: If your computer is already powered up and running Windows, shut it down. With the system turned off, press the power button and immediately begin pressing the F8 key over and over.
Within a few seconds a boot menu should appear offering you several options. The two options we are concerned with at the moment are “Safe Mode” and “Safe Mode with Networking”.
If you won’t be needing to access a Local Area Network (LAN) or the Internet, always choose “Safe Mode”. Otherwise, choose “Safe Mode with Networking”. I often boot into “Safe Mode with Networking” in order to update the virus definition file for my anti-virus program before running it in Safe Mode. You might also need access to the Internet in order to download and install an updated hardware driver.
Windows 8/8.1: If you’re running Windows 8/8.1, the process is a little different. While there are other ways to get your Windows 8 PC into Safe Mode, the most reliable method is initiated from within Windows itself. Just follow these steps:
1 – Press the Windows+R key combination to open a “Run” box.
2 – Type msconfig into the box and press the Enter key.
3 – Select the Boot tab, then check the box beside Safe boot.
4 – If you don’t need Internet access for whatever you intend to do in Safe Mode, select the Minimal radio button. This is the equivalent of the normal “Safe Mode” that we’re used to using in previous versions of Windows.
If you do need Internet access while in Safe Mode, select the Network radio button. This is basically the same as the familiar “Safe Mode with Networking” option found in Windows 7 and earlier.
5 – Click the OK button, then click Restart. The computer will shutdown and reboot Windows into Safe Mode.
6 – After you have completed all the tasks you need to complete while in Safe Mode, repeat steps 1 – 3, but this time uncheck the box beside Safe boot.
7 – Click OK and Restart just like you did in step in step 5. Note: If you skip this step, the computer will simply keep booting into Safe Mode every time you restart the PC.
Windows 10: Read this post for instructions on booting into Safe Mode with Windows 10.
How will I know that Windows booted into Safe Mode?
You’ll be able to tell right away whether your PC has successfully booted up into Safe Mode or not. Since the video circuitry is using the basic default driver your screen will look a little weird.
The colors will be different than normal, and most likely the icons and text will be huge and ugly. But the tell-tale sign that you are working in Safe Mode will be the words “Safe Mode” displayed in all four corners of the screen.
Bonus tip #1: This post discusses six powerful free tools for keeping your PC free of malware.
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