Seven ways to access Safe Mode in Windows 10

Windows 10 has brought several changes, including different methods of accessing Safe Mode. Here's a look at the various ways you can boot a PC in Safe Mode to help troubleshoot issues.

How to create a Windows 10 Recovery Drive on a USB flash drive Creating a Recovery Drive allows you to boot your system and access recovery and troubleshooting tools if something goes wrong with a Windows 10 installation. Here's how to do that.

For decades, Safe Mode has served to load the operating system, albeit with reduced functionality, for the purpose of troubleshooting PC-related issues and performing diagnostics by loading only the OS's core components. Eschewing the processing of certain system files and the loading of device drivers, along with stopping specific services, provides a minimized surface that makes it easier to roll back files that may have introduced system instability or otherwise prevented the computer from booting properly.

The F8 method of invoking Safe Mode, which has been the commonly accepted approach dating back to Windows 95, was modified with the release of Windows 8 and the introduction of UEFI BIOS and SSDs. But fear not: As with most Windows shortcuts, there are multiple ways to enter Safe Mode. Here are seven of them.

1. Settings

  1. From the desktop, click on the Start button, then click on Settings.
  2. Select Update & Security > Recovery.
  3. Under Advanced Startup, select Restart Now.
  4. After the device restarts, you'll be prompted with a list of options. Select option 4 to boot to Safe Mode. If internet access is required, select option 5 to boot to Safe Mode With Networking.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (TechRepublic PDF)

2. Logon screen

  1. At the logon screen, hold the Shift key down and click on the onscreen power button > Restart.
  2. Upon the device restarting, you will be prompted to choose an option. Click on Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  3. The device will restart a second time, this time displaying a list of options. Select option 4 or 5 to boot to Safe Mode or Safe Mode With Networking, respectively.

3. System Configuration

  1. From the desktop, click on the Start button. Then, click on the search icon, enter msconfig, and press Enter to launch the System Configuration app.
  2. Click on the Boot tab, and under Boot options, select the Safe Boot check box and select the Minimal option.
  3. Click OK and you'll be prompted to Restart or Exit Without Restart. To enter Safe Mode, click Restart and Windows will reboot and enter Safe Mode automatically.

4. Boot from Windows Recovery Drive

  1. Create a recovery drive on USB by using the Recovery Drive app.
  2. Reboot the computer and boot to the recovery drive.
  3. Upon booting, you'll be asked to select your keyboard layout based on your preferred language.
  4. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  5. Once the device reboots, you'll be prompted to choose from several boot options. Select option 4 to boot into Safe Mode; option 5 to boot into Safe Mode With Networking; or option 6 to boot into Safe Mode With Command Prompt.

SEE: Windows 10 power tips: Secret shortcuts to your favorite settings (Tech Pro Research)

5. Windows 10 installation media (DVD or USB)

  1. Boot the computer to the installation of your choice. At the Windows Setup screen, click Next.
  2. On the following screen, click on Repair Your Computer to access the options screen.
  3. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Command Prompt.
  4. When the command line appears, enter the following command and press Enter to execute it:
bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal

5. Once the operation successfully completes, close the command prompt and select Continue to exit and boot into Safe Mode.

6. Automatic Repair mode

  1. If three failed consecutive boot attempts are made, Windows 10 will boot to Automatic Repair mode on the fourth attempt.
  2. After Windows quickly diagnoses your PC, you will be prompted with the Automatic Repair screen. Click on Advanced Options > Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings > Restart.
  3. Once the device reboots, you'll be prompted to choose from several boot options. Select option 4 to boot into Safe Mode or option 5 to boot into Safe Mode With Networking.

SEE: Windows 10 tip: Change UEFI firmware settings or start in Safe Mode (ZDNet)

7. F8 or Shift-F8 during boot (BIOS and HDDs only)

If (and only IF) your Windows computer uses a legacy BIOS and a spinning-platter-based hard drive, you may be able to invoke Safe Mode in Windows 10 using the familiar F8 or Shift-F8 keyboard shortcut during the computer's boot process.

Due to the way in which the UEFI BIOS was designed, coupled with the inherent speedy nature of solid-state drives, Windows 10 (and to be fair, Windows 8 as well) will not respond to the interrupt boot brought about by pressing F8 or Shift-F8.

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By Jesus Vigo

Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...