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.

Note: On Windows 10, there are a few different types of Safe Mode you can choose from, so it’s important to know 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.

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 OptionStep 1: From the log-in 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 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.

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 OptionsStep 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

Windows Boot Mode

Once you have fixed your Windows problem, it’s time to restore original settings. Exiting Safe Mode from Windows 10 is a little more complicated. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Click the Start button and, 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 right corner you should see, under Boot options, a number of choices for Safe boot, which should be selected (yes, this is a third option for activating Safe Mode if you prefer to do so from this window). 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.

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