Safe Mode is a diagnostic start mode for pretty much any version of Windows. It is extremely useful when you are having problems, especially issues related to hardware or viruses. Sometimes, your computer may be in such a condition that it will only boot up in Safe Mode. Safe Mode works by restricting what starts up when you turn your computer on.
When you start up your computer normally it will run, every driver, service and program that it’s set up to run. Many of these services are required by the computer, others not so much. Your computer may also have many programs installed on it. Sometimes these programs will automatically load when the computer is turned on.
In most cases, you won’t ever know the difference. But sometimes a new program, service, or driver will not get along with something that’s already there. This is where Safe Mode comes in, and stops everything that the computer doesn’t require.
There are two simple ways to get into Safe Mode:
Use the F8 Key
This method is super easy and is required if you can’t get your computer to start up normally.
When you reboot your computer, either by Windows shut down (if you can) or by manually pressing the power button (not recommended unless necessary), press F8 as it starts back up. You can either learn the timing of when to press it, or just keep pressing it until you get to the startup menu.
From the startup menu, choose “Start Windows in Safe Mode” or “Start Windows in Safe Mode with Networking”. Press “Enter”.
Your computer will start up into Safe Mode.
If you are able to get into Windows normally, you can use MSCONFIG if you want to boot into Safe Mode when you restart your computer again.
- Click the “Start” button in Windows XP and all older versions or flag orb in Vista/Windows 7.
- Click “Run” in XP. (Go to Step 3 if you have Vista or 7.)
- In the search box, type: MSCONFIG
- Press “Enter”.
- This will open a window titled “System Configuration”.
- Click on the “Boot” tab.
- Click “Safe Boot”.
- If you want to add networking (i.e. be able to get on the internet while in Safe Mode), click “network”. Otherwise, leave it as “Minimal”.
- Click “Apply” then “OK”.
- You are given the choice to restart immediately or exit without restart. Choose based on what you intend to do in Safe Mode.
- If you use this method, go back into MSCONFIG while in Safe Mode and undo the check box whenever you’re ready to restart. This will allow you to start back up in Normal Mode. Otherwise, it will continually bring you back to Safe Mode.
While you’re in Safe Mode, you are limited on what you are able to do. There are some things that aren’t automatically started but you can choose to start them (such as most programs). Some services though cannot be run. For example, in Windows 7, you change the display settings (desktop, screen saver, etc) using “Personalization”. You cannot access “Personalization” in Safe Mode.
If you have some sort of malware (virus, spyware, adware, trojan, worm, etc) infection, you can typically clean it while you’re in Safe Mode. This is due to the fact that it is usually prohibited from running while in Safe Mode, as with most everything else.
Once everything is fixed up and good to go, you can restart into normal mode. If you are still having problems, restart back into Safe Mode using one of the above two methods and try something new.