Windows Startup Settings Menu

How to navigate the Startup Settings menu in Windows 11, 10, and 8

Startup Settings is a menu of the various ways by which you can start Windows, including the well-known diagnostic startup option called Safe Mode.

Startup Settings Availability

The Startup Settings menu is available in Windows 11, Windows 10, and Windows 8. In previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, Vista, and XP, the equivalent startup options menu is called Advanced Boot Options.

What Is the Startup Settings Menu Used For?

The available options allow you to start Windows in some restricted fashion when it won't start normally. If Windows does start in the special mode, it's likely that whatever was restricted is involved in the cause of the problem, giving you some information to troubleshoot from.

The most commonly accessed option available from the Startup Settings menu is Safe Mode.

How to Access Startup Settings

Startup Settings is accessible from the Advanced Startup Options menu, which itself is accessible through several methods. See How to Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 11/10/8 for instructions.

When you're on the ASO menu, go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings.

Windows 11 startup settings menu options
Startup Settings (Windows 11).

Startup Settings doesn't itself do anything—it's just a menu. Choosing one of the options will start that mode of Windows, or change that setting. In other words, using Startup Settings means using one of the available startup modes or features available on the menu.

You must have a keyboard attached to your computer or device to be able to select an option from the menu. Windows 11, 10, and 8 were designed to work with touch-enabled devices, so it's disappointing that the on-screen keyboard wasn't included in the Startup Settings menu. 

Startup Settings

Here are the various startup methods you'll find on this Startup Settings menu:

Start Windows in Normal Mode at any time by pressing Enter.

Enable Debugging

Enable debugging turns on kernel debugging. This is an advanced troubleshooting method where startup information can be transmitted to another computer or device that's running a debugger. By default, that information is sent over COM1 at a baud rate of 15,200.

This is the same as Debugging Mode that was available in previous versions of Windows.

Windows 11 Startup Settings menu

Enable Boot Logging

Enable boot logging starts Windows 11, 10, or 8 normally, but also creates a file of the drivers being loaded during the next boot process. The "boot log" is stored as ntbtlog.txt in whatever folder Windows is installed on, almost always C:\Windows.

If Windows starts properly, take a look at the file and see if anything helps with the troubleshooting of whatever issue you're having.

If Windows doesn't start properly, choose one of the Safe Mode options and then look at the file once Windows starts in Safe Mode.

If even Safe Mode doesn't work, you can restart into Advanced Startup Options, open Command Prompt, and view the log file from there using the type command:

type d:\windows\ntbtlog.txt

Enable Low-Resolution Video

Enable low-resolution video starts Windows normally, but sets the screen resolution to 800x600 pixels. In some cases, like with older CRT style monitors, the refresh rate is also lowered.

Windows won't start properly if the screen resolution is set out of the range supported by your screen. Since almost all screens support an 800x600 resolution, Enable low-resolution video gives you a chance to correct any configuration problems.

Only display settings are changed with Enable low-resolution video. Your current display driver isn't uninstalled or changed in any way.

Enable Safe Mode

Enable Safe Mode starts Windows in Safe Mode, a diagnostic mode that loads the minimum set of services and drivers possible to make Windows run.

See How to Start Windows in Safe Mode for a full walkthrough.

If Windows starts in Safe Mode, you may be able to run additional diagnostics and testing to figure out what disabled service or driver is preventing Windows from starting normally.

Enable Safe Mode with Networking

Enable Safe Mode with Networking is identical to the Enable Safe Mode option, except that drivers and services required for networking are enabled. This is a great option to choose if you think you might need access to the internet while in Safe Mode.

Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt is identical to Enable Safe Mode, but Command Prompt is loaded as the default user interface, not Explorer, which loads the Start screen and Desktop.

Choose this option if Enable Safe Mode doesn't work and you also have commands in mind that might be helpful in figuring out what's keeping Windows from starting.

Disable Driver Signature Enforcement

Disable driver signature enforcement allows non-signed drivers to be installed in Windows.

This startup option can be helpful during some advanced driver troubleshooting tasks.

Disable Early Launch Anti-Malware Protection

Disable early launch anti-malware protection does just that: it disables the Early Launch Anti-malware driver, one of the first drivers loaded by Windows during the boot process.

This option could be useful if you suspect a Windows startup problem might be due to a recent antimalware program installation, uninstallation, or settings change.

Disable Automatic Restart After Failure

Disable automatic restart after failure disables Automatic restart in Windows 11, Windows 10, or Windows 8.

When this feature is enabled, Windows forces your device to restart after a major system failure like a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).

Because Automatic restart is enabled by default in Windows 11, 10, and 8, your first BSOD will force a restart, possibly before you're able to jot down the error message or code for troubleshooting. With this option, you can disable the feature from Startup Settings, without needing to enter Windows.

See How to Disable Automatic Restart on System Failure in Windows for instructions on doing this from within Windows, a proactive step that we recommended you do.

Launch Recovery Environment

Choose Launch recovery environment to return to the Advanced Startup Options menu. You'll see a short Please wait screen while ASO loads.

This option is available on the second page of options in Startup Settings, which you can access by pressing F10.

Some other "startup settings" you might be interested in tinkering with refer to the programs that start when you first log in to your Windows user account. This is completely different from the startup options discussed above. You can change which programs start with Windows to give your PC a speed boost. Alternatively, you can add startup programs to Windows to auto-start your favorite apps when you first log in.

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