How to Turn Safe Mode On and Off in Android

Use this feature to troubleshoot a slow device

Normally, when your Android device is powered on, it automatically loads a series of apps such as a clock or calendar widget on the home screen. But if your smartphone or tablet crashes frequently or runs slowly, you can make it run without these apps as part of your troubleshooting process. This mode of operation is called safe mode.

Running your device in safe mode won't solve whatever problem is plaguing it but is a way get information about what the problem might be. The instructions below describe how to start your device in safe mode, what to do once you're there, and how to exit back out again.

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

Why Use Android in Safe Mode?

Illustration of a person rebooting a smartphone into safe mode in a panic room
Lifewire / Julie Bang

When you activate safe mode, you narrow down the reason why your device crashes or runs slowly. If the device runs fine in safe mode, then you know the hardware isn't causing the problem and the culprit is likely one of your apps. If that's the case, the good news is the device doesn't need to be repaired or replaced. The bad news is you'll need to figure out which app is causing the problem.

Turn it Off and Turn it Back on Again

Before putting the smartphone or tablet into safe mode, try rebooting it. This procedure solves many problems, but it must be done properly. When you press the Power or Suspend button on the side of the device, the device goes into suspend mode, which doesn't power down the device. Follow these steps to really 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 screen.  

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

Reboot Into Safe Mode

If a straight reboot doesn't solve your problem, then try rebooting into safe mode to help you determine if an app is behind the issue.

  1. On the device, press and hold the Suspend or Power button.

  2. On the screen, tap and hold 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 will boot into safe mode the same way. Some manufacturers, like Samsung, have a slightly different version of Android and older devices may operate differently because they have an older version of Android. If your initial attempt to boot into safe mode is unsuccessful, try these alternative methods:

  • If holding the Power off button in the Power menu doesn't prompt you to enter safe mode, tap and hold the Restart button. Older versions of Android use this method to enter safe mode.
  • On Samsung devices, such as the 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.

What to Do in Safe Mode

If your device runs faster or stops crashing while it's in safe mode, an app may be causing the problem. To fix it, determine which app is to blame, then uninstall it.

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. These apps include 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, the culprit is likely either an app you recently acquired or one that was recently updated.
  • Non-essential apps. If you've deleted apps that load at startup and apps recently acquired or updated, next try uninstalling apps you don't use regularly.

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

Still Having Problems in Safe Mode?

If you boot into safe mode and still experience problems, don't run out and buy a new phone or tablet just yet. Using safe mode narrows the cause of the problem down to 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.

Restoring your device to its factory default settings uninstalls all apps and erases all data. Make sure you have backed up your data before performing this action.

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

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 device boots in safe mode, rebooting should restore it to normal mode.

If you reboot and you're still in safe mode, it means Android has detected a problem with an app that launches automatically at bootup or one of the base Android operating system files. To remedy this problem, delete apps that launch at startup such as custom home screens and widgets. Then, reboot the device again.