Dealing With Safe Mode On Android

How to turn safe mode on or off on Android

Illustration of a person rebooting a smartphone into safe mode in a panic room

Lifewire / Julie Bang

Safe mode is a way to launch Android on a smartphone or tablet without any third-party apps that run as soon as the operating system loads. Normally, when an Android device is powered on, it may load a series of apps automatically such as a clock or calendar widget on the home screen. Safe mode prevents this from happening, which is great if your Android smartphone or tablet crashes frequently or runs slow. However, it is a troubleshooting tool rather than an actual cure for the problem.

The directions below should apply no matter who made your Android phone: Samsung, Google, Huawei, Xiaomi, etc.

Why Use Android Safe Mode?

Android safe mode narrows down the reason why the device crashes or runs slow. If the smartphone or tablet runs fine in safe mode, the hardware isn't causing the problem. The good news here is the device doesn't need to be repaired or replaced. However, you'll need to figure out which app is causing the problem.

Turn it Off and Turn it Back on Again

Before putting the device into safe mode, reboot the smartphone or tablet. This procedure solves most problems, but it must be done the proper way. When you click the Power or Suspend button on the side of the device, it only goes into suspend mode, which doesn't power down the device.

To reboot an Android device:

  1. Press and hold the Suspend or Power button until the Power menu appears on the device screen.

  2. Tap Restart. The device will power down and power back up on its own.

    Restart button, OK button on Android
  3. If the menu doesn't list a Restart option, choose Power off.  

  4. It may take several seconds for the device to shut down. Once the screen is completely dark, press the Suspend or Power button until a logo appears on the device screen.  

  5. Once the device has powered up, test it to see if it still has problems.

Reboot into Safe Mode

While rebooting solves many problems, it doesn't solve all of them. An app that automatically launches when the device boots up can become a culprit. Safe mode is the easiest way to find out if this is happening.

  1. Press and hold the Suspend or Power button.

  2. Hold your finger on Power off.

  3. In the Reboot to safe mode screen, tap OK to reboot. 

    Power off button, OK button, Safe mode screen on Android
  4. When the system starts up, the words safe mode appear on the screen to indicate that the smartphone or tablet successfully booted into safe mode.

What to Do If You Don't Get the Safe Mode Option

Not every Android device is created equally. Some manufacturers like Samsung have a slightly different version of Android than the stock version released by Google. Older devices may also operate a little different because they have an older version of Android.

Here are alternative ways to get into safe mode on Android:

  • If holding the Power off button in the Power menu doesn't prompt you to enter safe mode, hold your finger on the Restart button. Older versions of Android used this method to enter safe mode.
  • On Samsung devices such as the Samsung Galaxy series and on some older Android devices, reboot the device using the above instructions and watch for the logo to appear on the screen when the device powers back up. While the logo is on the screen, press the Volume down button on the side of the device. The words safe mode appear at the bottom of the screen once it fully boots up.

Third-party apps don't run in safe mode. This includes any widgets installed on the device and any custom home apps. Run apps such as Google Chrome or Google Maps to see if the device functions normally.

What to Do While You Are in Safe Mode

If your smartphone runs faster or your tablet stops crashing while in safe mode, an app may be causing the problem. To fix the problem, uninstall the app.

Managing Apps in Safe Mode on Android

To determine which app to uninstall, look at some likely suspects:

  • Apps that automatically start when the device boots up. This includes widgets, which are apps that show up on the home screen such as the clock or calendar, and custom home screen apps.
  • Recently downloaded apps. If you recently noticed the problem, it is likely either an app you recently acquired or one that was recently updated.
  • Non-essential apps. If you deleted apps that load at startup and the most recent apps, narrow down the problem by uninstalling apps you don't use on a regular basis.

Apps may not run in safe mode, but apps can be uninstalled. Uninstall the apps in safe mode, then reboot to test the device.

If you've uninstalled the most likely apps such as those that launch automatically and don't want to uninstall apps in batches until the problem is fixed, reset the device to its factory default. This uninstalls all apps and erases all data; make sure you have a backup before doing a reset.

How to Exit Out of Safe Mode

To exit safe mode, reboot the device using the directions above. By default, Android boots into normal mode. If the devices boots in safe mode without expecting it, you may have accidentally entered it. Rebooting should do the trick.

If you reboot and you are still in safe mode, Android has detected a problem with an app that launches automatically at bootup or one of the base Android operating system files. First, delete apps that launch at startup such as custom home screens and widgets. After uninstalling these apps, reboot the device again.

What Happens When You Still Have Problems in Safe Mode?

If you boot into safe mode and still run into problems, don't run out and buy a new phone or tablet. Safe mode narrows the problem down to likely being caused by either the operating system or the hardware. The next step is to restore the device to its factory default state, which deletes everything including all personal settings.

If you reset the device to factory default and it still has problems, either repair or replace it.