How to Start Windows 8 or 8.1 in Safe Mode

Steps for starting Windows 8 in Safe Mode

What to Know

  • Open Advanced Startup Options and select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings. Select Restart.
  • In Startup Settings, choose a "Safe Mode" option, like Enable Safe Mode with Networking.
  • Log in as admin to make any necessary changes or to conduct troubleshooting measures.

This article explains how to start Windows 8 or 8.1 in Safe Mode so you can try to fix whatever startup problem you're having.

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Open Advanced Startup Options

Advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8

Safe Mode in Windows 8 is accessible from the Startup Settings menu, itself found on the Advanced Startup Options menu. So the first thing to do, then, is to open the Advanced Startup Options menu.

See How to Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 8 for instructions on the six different methods to open this very helpful menu of repair and troubleshooting tools.

The Windows 8 Safe Mode Catch-22

Of the six methods outlined in the linked instructions above, only methods 1, 2, or 3 allow access to Startup Settings, the menu that Safe Mode is found on.

Those three methods only work if you have access to Windows 8 in normal mode (method 2 & 3) or, at very least, if you can get to the Windows 8 sign on screen (method 1). The irony here is that few people who need to start in Safe Mode can get all the way to the sign on screen, let alone start Windows 8 normally!

The solution is to open Command Prompt from the Advanced Startup Options menu, which you can do using any of the six methods, including Methods 4, 5 & 6, and then execute some special commands to force a Safe Mode startup on the next reboot.

See How to Force Windows to Restart in Safe Mode for complete instructions. You won't need to follow this tutorial if you start Windows 8 in Safe Mode that way.

What About F8 and SHIFT+F8?

If you're familiar with previous versions of Windows, you may remember that you could force the loading of what was then called the Advanced Boot Options menu by pressing F8. This bypass is no longer possible in Windows 8.

In fact, even the widely publicized SHIFT+F8 option, which supposedly works to force Advanced Startup Options to appear (and ultimately Startup Settings and Safe Mode), only works on very slow computers. The amount of time that Windows 8 looks for SHIFT+F8 is so small on most Windows 8 devices and PCs that it borders on impossible to get it to work.

Not Using Windows 8? See How Do I Start Windows in Safe Mode? for specific instructions for your version of Windows.

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Choose Troubleshoot

advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8

Now that the Advanced Startup Options menu is open, choose Troubleshoot.

Advanced Startup Options may offer different items to choose from than the ones shown above. For example, if you don't have an UEFI system, you won't see the Use a device option. If you are dual-booting between Windows 8 and another operating system, you may see a Use another operating system option.

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Choose Advanced Options

Troubleshoot menu in the Advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8

On the Troubleshoot menu, select Advanced options.

Advanced Startup Options contains several nested menus. If you need to back up to a previous menu, use the small arrow next to the menu's title.

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Choose Startup Settings

Advanced options menu in the Advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8

On the Advanced options menu, select Startup Settings.

If Startup Settings isn't available, it's likely due to the way in which you accessed Advanced Startup Options.

See How to Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 8 and choose method 1, 2, or 3.

If that's not possible (i.e., your only options are 4, 5, or 6) then see How to Force Windows to Restart in Safe Mode for help. You might want to take another look at The Windows 8 Safe Mode Catch-22 section from Step 1 in this tutorial.

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Select Restart

Startup Settings menu in the Advanced Startup Options menu in Windows 8

On the Startup Settings menu, choose Restart.

This is not the actual Startup Settings menu. This is simply the menu, by the same name, from which you choose to exit Advanced Startup Options and restart into Startup Settings, which is where you'll be able to boot Windows 8 into Safe Mode.

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Wait While Your Computer Restarts

Wait while your computer restarts. You don't need to do anything here or press any keys.

Startup Settings will come up next, automatically. Windows 8 will not start.

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Choose a Windows 8 Safe Mode Option

Startup Settings menu in Windows 8

Now that your computer has restarted, you should see the Startup Settings menu. You'll see several advanced ways to start Windows, all aimed at assisting you in solving a startup problem.

For this tutorial, however, we're focusing on your three Windows 8 Safe Mode choices, Nos. 4, 5, and 6 on the menu:

  • Enable Safe Mode is your "standard" Safe Mode option and should probably be your first try.
  • Enable Safe Mode with Networking is identical to Enable Safe Mode, but the few extra processes necessary to access your network and the internet are also loaded.
  • Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt is also identical to Enable Safe Mode but instead of the standard Explorer interface, Command Prompt is loaded instead.

Choose the Safe Mode option you want by pressing either 4, 5, or 6 (or F4, F5, or F6). You will need a keyboard attached to your computer if you want to make a choice from Startup Settings.

You can read more about the differences between these Safe Mode options, including some advice on when to choose one over another, on our Safe Mode: What It Is & How to Use It page.

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Wait While Windows 8 Starts

Windows 8 Splash Screen

Next, you'll see the Windows 8 splash screen.

There's nothing to do here but wait for Safe Mode to load. Next up will be the login screen you normally see when your computer starts.

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Log In to Windows 8

Windows 8 Logon Screen

To start Windows 8 in Safe Mode, you'll need to log in with an account that has administrator privileges. That's probably you in most cases, so just enter your password as you normally do.

If you know you don't have administrator-level access, log in with another account on the computer that does.

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Wait While Windows 8 Logs In

Windows 8 Logging On

Wait while Windows logs you in.

Next up is Windows 8 Safe Mode—temporary access to your computer again!

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Make Necessary Changes in Safe Mode

Windows 8 in Safe Mode

Assuming everything went as expected, Windows 8 should have started in whatever Safe Mode option you chose on Step 7.

The Windows 8 Start screen doesn't start automatically. Instead, you're taken immediately to the Desktop and a Windows Help and Support window appears with some basic Safe Mode help. You might also notice the words Safe Mode at all four corners of the screen.

Now that you can access Windows 8 again, even if it is restricted in some ways thanks to being in Safe Mode, you can back up important files, troubleshoot whatever startup problem you were having, run some kind of diagnostics—whatever it is you need to do.

Getting Out of Safe Mode

If you've entered into this special mode of Windows using the method we've outlined in this tutorial, assuming you've fixed any startup problem you were having, Windows will start normally (i.e., not in Safe Mode) the next time you restart your computer.

However, if you used some other method, you'll need to reverse those changes or you'll find yourself in a "Safe Mode Loop" where, even if you're not having a startup problem, Windows 8 will start in Safe Mode every time you turn on or restart your computer.

We explain how to reverse those actions in our How to Start Windows in Safe Mode Using System Configuration and How to Force Windows to Restart in Safe Mode tutorials which use the System Configuration tool, and the bcdedit command, respectively, to force Windows 8 into Safe Mode on every restart.

If Windows is working fine for you right now but you still want to start in Safe Mode, another way, which is much easier and quicker, is to make boot option changes from the System Configuration utility. See How to Start Windows in Safe Mode Using System Configuration.

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