How Do I Start Windows in Safe Mode?

Start in Safe Mode in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, or Windows 7

When you start your Windows PC in Safe Mode, you can solve all kinds of problems, especially those involving device drivers and DLL files. You may also be able to troubleshoot some Blue Screen of Death errors and other similar problems that interrupt or prevent Windows from starting normally.

Unfortunately, Windows doesn't make it super clear and out in the open as to how this is done. Follow the directions below for specific steps you need to take in your version of Windows.

These directions apply to Windows 11, 10, 8, and 7; see which version of Windows you have if you're not sure which set of directions to follow.

How to Start Windows 11, 10 & 8 in Safe Mode

Follow these steps to Windows' Settings if you're using Windows 8 or newer.

  1. Open Settings window by pressing Win+i. The other way to do this in Windows 11/10 is by right-clicking the Start button and choosing Settings.

  2. In Windows 11, select System and then Recovery.

    In Windows 10, select Update & Security and then Recovery.

    In Windows 8, go to Change PC settings > Update & recovery > Recovery.

  3. Select Restart now from the Advanced startup section.

    Windows 10 Recovery settings
  4. After your computer restarts, follow this path to get to the Safe Mode options: Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.

    Windows 10 Choose an option screen

    The next time you need to get to this screen quicker, hold the Shift key while you select Restart from the login window. When you restart, you'll be directed to this screen.

  5. After another restart, you'll see several startup options. Choose 4 or F4 to enter Safe Mode, or 5 or F5 to enter Safe Mode with Networking if you need the networking drivers activated as well.

    Enable Safe Mode menu in Windows
  6. Wait while Windows starts up in Safe Mode.

How to Start Windows 7 in Safe Mode

The easiest way to start Windows 7 in Safe Mode is from the System Configuration utility:

  1. From the Start menu, search for and select msconfig.

  2. Select the Boot tab.

  3. Enable Safe boot at the bottom, under the Boot options section.

  4. Select Minimal to enable Safe Mode, or choose Network if you'll need network connectivity while in Safe Mode.

  5. Select OK, and then choose Restart. If you don't see the restart prompt, restart normally from the Start menu.

  6. Your computer will restart to the Safe Mode you selected in Step 4.

Limitations of Safe Mode

Starting Windows in Safe Mode doesn't solve, prevent, or cause any kind of Windows problem. Safe Mode is simply a way of starting Windows with a minimum set of drivers and services, with the idea being that the operating system will run correctly enough to let you fix the problem.

Having trouble starting Windows in Safe Mode using one of the typical methods above? Try other options to force Windows to restart in Safe Mode.

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