How to Boot in Safe Mode on Windows 10

Start in Windows 10 Safe Mode when things are acting up

One of the best first steps to take if Windows 10 doesn’t start properly or isn’t working as it should, is to start in Safe Mode. Doing so strips away much of what you’re used to and loads only the necessary components required for Windows to start, after which you can do some troubleshooting to identify the problem.

Unfortunately, there isn't a simple shortcut on your desktop to open Safe Mode because it's an alternative way to boot into Windows. Getting there requires you to walk through a handful of steps, but the directions below make it straightforward.

We split this guide up into two primary parts: accessing the Advanced Startup Options screen (a few ways to get there) and getting into Safe Mode.

Part 1 of 2: Get to the Advanced Startup Options (ASO) Menu

There are a few ways to boot in Safe Mode in Windows 10. Some methods are easier than others, and most of them require you to access the ASO menu first. We’ll go over everything you need to do to get there.

If Windows Starts Normally

Follow one of these first sets of directions if you can get into Windows. Otherwise, skip down a bit to see your options if Windows 10 won't boot up all the way.

Access Safe Mode With a Keyboard Shortcut

The quickest way to open Windows 10 in Safe Mode is from the sign-in screen or the desktop by holding Shift while selecting Restart.

If you’re on the sign-in screen (not yet logged in), press the power button on the bottom right to find the restart option:

Windows 10 lock screen power options.

If you’re already logged in, open the Start menu and then press the power button:

Windows 10 restart option from the start menu.

Either way, after choosing to restart with the Shift key held down, skip down to the "Part 2 of 2: Choose a Safe Mode Option" section further on down this page for help on what to do next.

Access Safe Mode Via Settings

Another way to get to the ASO menu is through Settings, but it takes a tad longer:

  1. Press WIN+I or go to the Start menu and open the settings (the gear icon).

  2. Select Update & Security.

    Screenshot of the Windows Settings screen in Windows 10.
  3. Choose Recovery from the left side.

  4. Select Restart now from the right side.

    Windows 10 recovery options in Settings.
  5. Windows will reboot. See “Part 2 of 2: Choose a Safe Mode Option” below for the final few steps.

Access Safe Mode With System Configuration

Yet another way you can restart Windows 10 in Safe Mode is with System Configuration. This route will bypass Advanced Startup Options entirely, saving you a few steps later on (but you'll have to undo these steps, too, when you're done):

  1. Use the WIN+R keyboard shortcut to open the Run dialog box

  2. Type msconfig and then press OK.

    msconfig command in the Windows 10 run dialog box.
  3. From the Boot tab, choose Safe boot.

  4. Select the radio button next to the mode you want to enter:

    • Minimal starts the normal Safe Mode.
    • Alternate shell is for Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
    • Network boots into Safe Mode with Networking.
    Windows 10 System Configuration utility with the safe boot option enabled.
  5. Select OK.

  6. Choose Restart if you see a prompt to restart, otherwise restart manually through the Start menu.

Access Safe Mode With Shutdown Command

The final method we'll mention uses the shutdown command to restart Windows 10 in Safe Mode. Just enter this into Command Prompt to boot into the ASO menu and then choose which Safe Mode type you want by following the steps in the "Part 2 of 2: Choose a Safe Mode Option" section below:

shutdown /r /o

If Windows Won’t Start

The methods above boot into Safe Mode when Windows 10 is already working, but if Windows won't start to begin with (probably why you need Safe Mode in the first place), there is another option.

Use an Installation Disc or Flash Drive

If you can't get Windows to start, use your installation disc or flash drive (or borrow one from someone else).

  1. Insert into your computer the Windows 10 drive or disc, and then boot from the drive or boot from the disc.

  2. Choose Next on the first screen.

    Screenshot of the Windows 10 setup program.
  3. Select Repair your computer.

    Windows 10 repair your computer link in the setup program.
  4. Go to Troubleshoot > Command Prompt.

  5. Enter this command:

    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal

    bcedit safeboot command in Windows 10 command prompt.
  6. Exit Command Prompt after you see "The operation completed successfully."

  7. Select Continue on the next screen and be careful to not press a key or you'll boot back into the Windows setup program.

  8. You'll now boot into the Safe Mode version of Windows 10. Do what you need to, and then skip down to the steps at the bottom of this page to learn how to undo these steps to prevent Safe Mode from starting automatically again.

Part 2 of 2: Choose a Safe Mode Option

Now that you’ve landed on the right screen, here’s where to find the Safe Mode options:

  1. Select Troubleshoot.

    Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options screen.
  2. Select Advanced options.

    Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options screen.
  3. Select Startup Settings.

    Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options screen.
  4. Select Restart.

    Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options screen.
  5. Enter the correct number for the Safe Mode type you want to start:

    • 4 enables regular Safe Mode.
    • 5 enables Safe Mode with Networking.
    • 6 enables Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
    Windows 10 Advanced Startup Options screen for Safe Mode.
  6. The Windows 10 Start Mode type that you chose will immediately start to load. It might take several seconds, and you'll be asked to log in if you have a password.

How to Exit Windows 10 Safe Mode

When you’re all done using Safe Mode, you need to restart to return to Normal mode. In fact, you might be rebooting several times to test whether the changes you're making are having positive effects on whatever has plagued your computer.

There are a few ways to undo Safe Mode depending on how you got there:

  • If you see the desktop and booted to Safe Mode from within Windows, restarting works the same way as when you're using Windows typically: Open the Start menu to select the power button and then the Restart option.

    Windows 10 start menu while in safe mode.
  • If you’re using Safe Mode temporarily with Command Prompt (i.e., you chose the Command Prompt option from the ASO menu), use Ctrl+Alt+Del to see the familiar shutdown button or enter shutdown /r into Command Prompt.

  • If you see the desktop, but you used your Windows setup media or the System Configuration tool to get in, run the msconfig command, go into the Boot menu of that tool, uncheck Safe boot, choose OK, and then restart.

    If you ran the bcdedit command earlier and editing System Configuration didn't exit Safe Mode, enter this in a Command Prompt:

    bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot

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