How to boot into safe mode in Windows 10

Windows 10 giving you trouble? Here’s how to boot into safe mode

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Safe Mode is the famous (or perhaps infamous) method of opening up a limited version of Windows to get around bugs or avoid viruses while troubleshooting problems and finding solutions. Traditionally, you could boot into Safe Mode in Windows by starting up and pressing F8 when the operating system first loads. However, Microsoft‘s latest iteration of Windows doesn’t follow this rule, so let’s go over how to boot into Safe mode in Windows 10.

Which safe mode do you want?

On Windows 10 there are a few different types of Safe Mode you can choose from, so it’s important to know what they do and which you need.

  1. Safe Mode: This is the basic version that strips away all unnecessary programs and only autostarts a few chosen files and drivers to get the basic system running. It doesn’t allow for many advanced features, including connections with other computers or devices. That makes the computer safer from malware that may be able to move through local networks (like the WannaCry ransomware appeared capable of doing).
  2. Safe Mode with Networking: This is a mode that adds on the necessary drivers and features to access networks. It’s not quite as safe, but it’s useful if you only have one computer and need to get online to look for help or see if connections to other devices still work.
  3. Safe Mode with Command Prompt: This option may not be available on all versions of Windows 10, but if it is you can enter this mode to bring up a big command prompt screen. This is good for more badly damaged operating systems or technical work where you know the precise command lines necessary to find a problem or launch a specific service. Make sure you know how to use the Command Prompt before accessing this mode.

Method 1: From the login screen or when frozen

If you are still on the login screen, this is an effective way to quickly boot into Safe Mode — and it may also work if Windows has suddenly frozen or programs like Outlook have become unresponsive.

Windows Choose an Option

Step 1: From the login screen, hold down “Shift,” and then click the power button on the screen (not your physical power button on the PC or laptop). A small box should pop up with a few different shut down options. Choose the “Restart” option.

Step 2: Windows should revert to a window that says “Choose an option” (it may take a little time so don’t try anything until you see this). From here you will need to go through a few different menus to find the right restart option. First choose “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced options,” then “Startup Settings,” and then “Restart.”

Windows Startup Settings

Step 3: Windows should now open up to a new window that says “Startup Settings” and includes a list of different options. The first “Safe Mode” options should be “4,” with the other Safe Mode options following after. Press the number key for the Safe Mode that you want.

Method 2: When you’re already in Windows 10

There’s a slightly more roundabout way to boot into Safe Mode from inside Windows 10. This method may be more useful if you want Windows to shut down and restart safely while preserving as much data as it can — while avoiding complex command lines.

Windows Restart Now

Step 1: Head to your “Start” menu, and then choose or search for “Settings.”

Step 2: In Settings, look for “Update & Security” and select it. This will open a new window with a sidebar on the left side. In this sidebar, look for “Recovery,” and select that.

Step 3: Under the “Advanced startup option,” you should see a “Restart now” button. Choose it. This will take you to the same selection screen as the first method of entering “Safe Mode.”

Windows Advanced Options

Step 4: Move through these menus by selecting “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced options,” then “Startup Settings,” and then “Restart.”

Step 5: Give Windows time to load your selection of Startup settings. The “Safe Mode” options start at number 4. Press the number key for the Safe Mode you want.

Exiting Safe Mode

Once you have fixed your Windows problem, it’s time to restore the original settings and get back to your normal Windows 10 experience. Here’s how to do it.

Note: This is another method that you can use to boot into Safe Mode from Windows. Just reverse the second half of Step 2.

Step 1: Click the Start button. In the search box, type (without quotation marks) “msconfig” and press Enter. This should open or show you the “System Configuration” feature.

Step 2: Go to the “Boot” tab. In the lower left corner you should see, under “Boot options,” a number of choices for “Safe boot,” which should be selected. Make sure that “Safe boot” is not checked.

Step 3: With Safe boot unchecked, select “OK”, and then restart Windows 10 as you normally would. It should now open in its full mode.