How to Start Windows Vista in Safe Mode

Safe Mode helps troubleshoot problems related to Windows start-up processes

What to Know

  • Turn on or restart your PC. Press F8 before splash screen appears.
  • Highlight any of the three Windows Vista Safe Mode variations > Enter. Wait for files to load.
  • Log on with an account that has administrator permissions and make necessary changes.

This article explains how to start your computer in Windows Vista Safe Mode, which can help you diagnose and solve many serious problems, especially when starting Windows normally isn't possible.

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Press F8 Before the Windows Splash Screen

Screenshot of Windows Vista starting up

To begin, turn on or restart your PC.

Just before the splash screen appears, press F8 to enter Advanced Boot Options.

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Choose a Windows Vista Safe Mode Option

Screenshot of the Windows Vista Advanced Boot Options

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 Vista is probably now continuing to boot normally assuming it's able to. If this is the case, just restart your computer and try again.

You're presented with three variations of Windows Vista Safe Mode:

  • 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.
  • Safe Mode with Networking: This option loads the same processes as Safe Mode but also includes those that allow the networking functions in Vista to work. You should choose this option if you think you may need to access the internet or your local network while troubleshooting in Safe Mode.
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt: This version loads a minimum set of processes but will allow immediate access to Command Prompt. This is a valuable option if more advanced troubleshooting is necessary.

Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight either the Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, or Safe Mode with Command Prompt option and press Enter.

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Wait for Windows Files to Load

Screenshot of Windows Vista loading Safe Mode files

The minimum system files necessary to run Windows Vista load. Each file being loaded will be displayed on screen.

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

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Log in With an Administrator Account

Screenshot of the login screen for Windows Vista Safe Mode

To enter Windows Vista Safe Mode, log on with an account that has administrator permissions.

If you're not sure if any of your personal accounts have admin rights, log in using your own account and see if it works.

Not sure what the password is to an administrator account on your computer? Learn how to find the Windows administrator password for more information.

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Make Necessary Changes in Safe Mode

Screenshot of Windows Vista in Safe Mode

Entry into 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 normally after a restart.

It's easy to identify if a PC is in Safe Mode. The text "Safe Mode" will always appear in each corner of the screen when in this special diagnostic mode.

Upgrade Windows

Windows Vista reached its end-of-life support period in April 2017. Although Vista continues to work, Microsoft no longer supports this version of Windows, so some types of problems may prove more difficult to resolve. If you can, upgrade your computer to Windows 10.

If you're not using Vista, there are other specific instructions for how to start Safe Mode in your version of Windows.

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