How to Force Windows to Restart in Safe Mode

How to stop a "Safe Mode Loop"

What to Know

  • To force Windows to restart in Safe Mode, you'll need to access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 11/10/8.
  • Then, to get to Safe Mode from a command prompt, you'll use a bcdedit command.
  • There are several iterations of the Safe Mode command prompt you can use, depending on why you need to restart in Safe Mode.

There are a number of situations that could make it incredibly difficult to start Windows in Safe Mode. This is especially frustrating because whatever reason you have for needing to access Safe Mode is itself probably very frustrating!

How Do You Access Safe Mode?

In Windows 11, Windows 10, and Windows 8, Safe Mode is accessed from Startup Settings, which itself is accessed from the Advanced Startup Options menu. Unfortunately, Startup Settings only appears as an option in Advanced Startup Options if you access it from within Windows. In other words, Windows 11/10/8 needs to be working properly before you can boot into Safe Mode, which you only really need to use if Windows isn't working properly.

True, Advanced Startup Options (and thus Startup Settings and Safe Mode) do automatically appear during Windows startup problems, but the lack of easy from-outside-of-Windows access is a little troubling.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista have some less commonly occurring situations that make getting to Safe Mode nearly impossible, but they do happen.

Fortunately, there is a way to force Windows to start in Safe Mode if you can't get to Startup Settings in Windows 11, 10, and 8, or the F8 menu (Advanced Boot Options) in Windows 7 and Vista, or even if you can't access Windows at all.

A kind of "reverse" of this trick also works to stop Windows from starting in Safe Mode. If Windows continually boots directly to Safe Mode and you can't make it stop, take a look at the tutorial below and then follow the advice in How to Stop a Safe Mode Loop at the bottom of the page.

Time Required: Forcing Windows to restart in Safe Mode (or making it stop starting in Safe Mode) is moderately difficult and will probably take several minutes, at most.

How to Force Windows to Restart in Safe Mode

  1. Open Advanced Startup Options in Windows 11/10/8, assuming you're using one of those operating systems. Since you can't start Windows properly, use method 4, 5, or 6 outlined in that tutorial.

    Advanced Startup Options for Windows 10

    With Windows 7 or Windows Vista, start System Recovery Options using your installation media or a system repair disc. Unfortunately, this process doesn't work with Windows XP.

    If you want to force or stop Safe Mode from starting, and you actually can access Windows properly, you don't need to follow the procedure below. See the much easier How to Start Windows in Safe Mode Using System Configuration process.

  2. Open Command Prompt.

    Command Prompt app launch icon in Windows 10

    Advanced Startup Options (Windows 11/10/8): Select Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, and finally Command Prompt.

    System Recovery Options (Windows 7/Vista): Click the Command Prompt shortcut.

  3. With Command Prompt open, execute the correct bcdedit command as shown below based on which Safe Mode option you'd like to start:

    "bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network" command in Command Prompt

    Safe Mode:

    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal 

    Safe Mode with Networking:

    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network 

    Safe Mode with Command Prompt:

    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal bcdedit /set {default} safebootalternateshell yes

    Be sure to type whatever command you choose exactly as shown and then execute it using the Enter key. Spaces are very important! The { and } brackets are the ones above the [ and ] keys on your keyboard. Two separate commands are required to start Safe Mode with Command Prompt, so be sure to execute them both.

  4. A properly executed bcdedit command should return this message:

    The operation completed successfully

    If you see one of these messages or something similar, check Step 3 again and make sure you executed the Safe Mode command properly:

    • The parameter is incorrect
    • The set command specified is not valid
    • not recognized as an internal or external command...
  5. Close the Command Prompt window.

  6. In Windows 11, 10, and 8, select Continue.

    In Windows 7 and Vista, select Restart.

    ASO menu Windows
  7. Wait while your computer or device restarts.

  8. Once Windows starts, log in as you normally do and use Safe Mode however you were planning.

Windows will continue to start in Safe Mode every time you reboot unless you undo what you did in Step 3. The easiest way to do that is not by executing more commands, but via system configuration and following steps 11-14 in the tutorial.

How to Stop a Safe Mode Loop

If Windows is stuck in a sort of "Safe Mode Loop," preventing you from starting in normal mode again, and you've tried the instructions we gave in the Important call-out from Step 8 above but haven't been successful, try this:

  1. Start Command Prompt from outside of Windows, the process outlined in Steps 1 and 2 above.

  2. Execute this command once Command Prompt is open:

    bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot
    "bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot" command in Command Prompt on Windows
  3. Assuming it was successfully executed (see Step 4 above), restart your computer and Windows should then start normally.

If this isn't working and you're starting to think it might be worth it to just get a new computer, you might be right. Even the best computers can only last so long!

  • How do I exit Safe Mode in Windows 10?

    Exiting Windows 10 Safe Mode is typically just a matter of restarting your PC. Another method is to press the Windows key + R, then type in "msconfig" and select OK > Boot and turn off Safe boot under Boot Options.

  • How do I enter Safe Mode in Windows XP if F8 isn't working?

    Normally restarting Windows XP in Safe Mode is just a matter of pressing F8 during startup. If the F8 key isn't working, check your keyboard for an F-Lock key that could have turned off your F keys. Otherwise, open your PC's BIOS menu and make sure Keyboard Support USB is turned on.

Was this page helpful?