How to Start Windows 7 in Safe Mode

Easy, 5-minute-or-less process!

Starting Windows 7 in Safe Mode is an excellent next step when starting Windows normally is not possible. Safe Mode only starts the most important Windows 7 processes, so depending on the problem you're having, you might be able to troubleshoot or even fix the problem from here.

Not using Windows 7? See How Do I Start Windows in Safe Mode? for specific instructions for your version of Windows.

How to Start Windows 7 in Safe Mode

Person starting Windows 7 in safe mode
Miguel Co / Lifewire

As of January 2020, Microsoft is no longer supporting Windows 7. We recommend upgrading to Windows 10 to continue receiving security updates and technical support.

  1. To begin entering Windows 7 Safe Mode, turn on or restart your PC.

  2. Just before the Windows 7 splash screen appears, press the F8 key to enter Advanced Boot Options.

    Screenshot of the Windows 7 splash screen
  3. You should now see the Advanced Boot Options screen. If not, you may have missed the short window of opportunity to press F8 in the previous step and Windows 7 is probably now continuing to boot normally, assuming it's able to. If this is the case, just restart your computer and try pressing F8 again.

  4. Once you're in the Advanced Boot Options, you are presented with three variations of Windows 7 Safe Mode you can enter. Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight either Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, or Safe Mode with Command Prompt and press Enter.

    • Safe Mode: This is the default option and is usually the best choice. This mode will load only the absolute minimum processes necessary to start Windows 7.
    • Safe Mode with Networking: This option loads the same processes as Safe Mode but also includes those that allow the networking functions in Windows 7 to work. You should choose this option if you think you might need to access the internet or your local network while troubleshooting in Safe Mode.
    • Safe Mode with Command Prompt: This version of Safe Mode also loads a minimum set of processes but starts the Command Prompt instead of Windows Explorer, the usual user interface. This is a valuable option if the Safe Mode option didn't work.
    Screenshot of the Advanced Boot Options Menu in Windows 7
  5. Wait for the Windows 7 files to load. The minimum system files necessary to run Windows 7 will now load. Each file being loaded will be displayed on the screen.

    If Safe Mode freezes here, document the last Windows 7 file being loaded, then search the internet for troubleshooting advice.

    Screenshot of Windows 7 loading Safe Mode files

    You don't need to do anything here, but this screen could provide a good place to start troubleshooting if your computer is experiencing very serious problems and Safe Mode won't completely load.

  6. To start Windows 7 in Safe Mode, you must log on with an account that has administrator permissions. If you're not sure if any of your personal accounts have administrator privileges, log in using your own account and see if that works.

    Screenshot of the Windows 7 logon screen

    If you're not sure what the password is to an account with administrator access, see How to Find the Administrator Password in Windows for more information.

  7. Entry into Windows 7 Safe Mode should now be complete. Make any changes you need to make and then restart the computer. Assuming there are no remaining problems preventing it, the computer should boot to Windows 7 normally after a restart.

    Screenshot of Safe Mode in Windows 7

    As you can see in the screenshot above, it's very easy to identify if a Windows 7 computer is in Safe Mode. The text "Safe Mode" will always appear in each corner of the screen when in this special diagnostic mode of Windows 7.

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