How to Start in Safe Mode in Windows 10

If you’ve ever experienced the dreaded "blue screen of death," had problems trying to boot up your Windows PC, or had problems getting certain functions and applications to work, then there is a good chance you have had to use Safe Mode before. Safe Mode is a diagnostic mode of Windows that you can boot into that only loads essential drivers and allows a just limited number of programs and services to run. The idea is that by reducing Windows to only running essential programs, it is easier to isolate issues when troubleshooting a problem.

So how do you access Safe Mode when you need it? If you own a PC running Windows 10 (or even Windows 8), the way you used to enter Safe Mode has changed quite a bit. Prior to Windows 8, most PC’s had the ability to boot into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 function key while booting the PC, before Windows starts. You would then be presented with some advanced boot options, including Safe Mode. However, now all of that has changed.

Microsoft wanted to give users a faster boot-up experience, reducing the amount of time it takes to log into Windows once you turn on your computer. As a result of this, the F8 option for Safe Mode went away. No need to fear - Microsoft has given us a variety of different ways to boot into Safe Mode with Windows 10, which I will describe below. Also, I will even show you how to bring back that F8 option if you just want to be old school and do it the old fashioned way.

Table of Contents

Option 1: Shift-Restart Key Combination

Windows 10 includes a handy little trick built into the Restart option from the Start menu.

1. Simply click the Start button, click Power, then hold down the shift key while you press "Restart." This can also be accomplished right from the login screen where you normally enter your password, using the Power button on the screen.

2. Once Windows restarts, you’ll be presented with a new boot menu. Select the "Troubleshoot" option:

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3. Select "Advanced Options":

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4. Select "Startup Settings":

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5. The next screen tells you the different startup options you’ll have (including Safe Mode), once you restart. Click the "Restart" button:

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6. After your computer reboots, you’ll see the following screen, giving you 3 different options for Safe Mode:

  • Normal Safe Mode (without networking or command prompt interface)

  • Safe Mode with Networking (this enables your network adapter so you can get online)

  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt (this starts Safe Mode with a command prompt interface instead of the usual Windows graphical interface)

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Option 2: Advanced Startup from Settings Application

Another easy way to access Safe Mode from within Windows is to use the Settings application:

1. Click Start, then select Settings:

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2. Select "Update & Security"

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3. Click "Recovery" from the options on the left. Then click "Restart now" under the "Advanced startup" section in the middle:

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4. Once the computer restarts, you will be presented with the same menu options as you would if you had used the Shift+Restart method, as explained above. You can follow the steps beginning with step #2.

Each of the above methods are great if you can boot into Windows normally. However, what do you do if you cannot boot into Windows? Fortunately, you do still have a couple of options to get you to Safe Mode (as well as some other tools), even if your PC will not boot into Windows.

Option 2: Use Windows Startup Disk

If you run into a situation where you cannot boot into Windows normally to get to Safe Mode, you can still do it by using a Windows installation disk.

1. Just boot up with the installation disk and once you see this screen, click "Next":

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2. Click on "Repair your computer" at the bottom of the screen:

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3. On the next screen, click the "Troubleshoot" option:

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4. On the "Advanced Options" screen, click on "Command Prompt":

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5. At the command prompt, type in the following command:
bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal

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6. You will then see a confirmation message that should say the command executed successfully. If so, then close the command prompt window and click "Continue" on the next screen:

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7. Your PC will then reboot, and when it comes back up it will boot into Safe Mode.

8. When you are ready to go back to a normal boot, you will need to remove the Safe Mode boot setting. You can easily do this through the System Configuration (msconfig.exe) tool:

In the Search bar of your task bar, type "System Configuration" or "msconfig" and then click on the application or hit Enter.

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9. In the System Configuration tool, click on the "Boot" tab and uncheck the "Safe boot" box under the "Boot options" section at the bottom. Click OK.

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10. You will be prompted to either restart the computer now, which will then boot you into normal Windows, or you can also choose "Exit without restart" if you are not ready to reboot out of Safe Mode yet.

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Option 4: Legacy F8 Key

As mentioned earlier, the old method of booting into Safe Mode using the F8 key when the PC boots up no longer works on newer PC’s running Windows 10, in order to speed up boot times. However, there is a way to enable this functionality. This does assume that you can still boot into Windows so that you can get to a command prompt.

1. Open an elevated Command Prompt window by typing "cmd" in the Search box next to the Start menu. You’ll see "Command Prompt" show up in the results. Right-click on "Command Prompt" and select "Run as administrator":

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2. When the Command Prompt window opens, type the following command:
bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

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3. You should then see a confirmation message that the command completed successfully. Then go ahead and reboot your PC, and as the PC powers back on, press the F8 function key repeatedly and you should see this familiar menu:

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You can then select one of the highlighted Safe Mode options to enter Safe Mode.

There you have it - four different methods for booting into Safe Mode with Windows 10. Hopefully the next time you need to use Safe Mode to troubleshoot an issue, one of these methods will help you out and get you back up and running.

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