How to Boot Into Windows 10 Safe Mode

The Windows 10 Safe Mode is a powerful troubleshooting tool built directly into your computer. It allows you to boot into your computer’s desktop or into the command prompt function with only the minimum required drivers and services enabled. By limiting the functionality of the computer, you can run diagnostics, perform maintenance, or remove malicious drivers, software, and applications. If you are wondering what Safe Mode is used for or how to boot into Safe Mode, keep on reading.

When Should You Use Safe Mode on Windows 10?

Since Safe Mode is an alternative way to boot into your computer with minimal processes and services enabled, it is not a mode that you are going to want to use all the time. However, there are some key circumstances that warrant its use and include:

  • If you encounter a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) error message that you want to troubleshoot.
  • If you think that certain services or applications with drivers are causing your computer to either crash on startup or freeze, you can use Safe Mode to run a diagnostic analysis. This also applies to abnormally long start up times, where the computer takes several minutes just to get to the sign in screen. This is used when you have access to your computer.
  • If your Windows 10 computer will not boot up to the sign in and loops around to the repair screen, you can use Safe Mode to check to see if the computer will boot up properly.
  • If your computer has become completely non-functional and won’t turn on normally, you can use Safe Mode to do a full system restore to a point in time when it was functioning.
  • You would boot into Safe Mode if your desktop, start screen, or taskbar doesn’t load up properly and isn’t fixed with a simple restart.

6 Ways to Enter Safe Mode in Different Situations

To make it easier for you to find out which method is needed on how to boot into Safe Mode, we’ve broken this section down into two categories: a) you can access Windows or b) you can’t access Windows at all.

You Have Access to Your Desktop or Sign-in Screen.

If you have access to your Windows 10 computer’s desktop and settings or the sign-in screen, there are a few ways you can access Safe Mode.

1. How to Boot into Safe Mode via Windows 10 Settings.

If you have access to your Windows Desktop, you can boot in to Safe Mode by doing the following:

  1. In your computer’s search bar (Start Menu) type in settings.
  2. Choose settings from the menu.
  3. Go to Update & Security in the options.
What the Update & Security Option Looks like on Windows 10 Settings
  1. Choose Recovery from the left-hand side bar.
  2. Find Advanced Startup.
  3. Hit Restart Now.
How to Restart Computer via Recovery

This will open up the Windows Recovery Environment Screen which will give you a few options to choose from.

  1. You want to click on Troubleshoot from the menu.
  2. Then click Advanced options.
  3. Choose Startup Settings and hit Restart.
How to Access Safe Mode in the WINRE Environment

Once your computer restarts, you will be given the option to launch into one of the Safe Mode options.

Windows Safe Mode options

2. Use the Shift + Restart Combination.

If you can get to your sign in screen but can’t login to the desktop, there is an easy solution for booting into Safe Mode.

  1. Click on the power button in the lower right-hand corner.
  2. Hold down your shift key.
  3. Click on restart.

This will open up the Windows Recovery Environment, where you can follow the instructions in method 1 above to access Safe Mode.

3. Use Command Prompt to Access Safe Mode.

If you cannot access anything on your desktop except the Start Menu, you can use Command Prompt to boot into Safe Mode.

  1. In your computer’s search box (Start Menu) search for “Run”.
  2. Open up the Run Dialogue box.
  3. Type in the command: CMD and hit [Enter].
Run Dialogue Box With Command Prompt Instruction
  1. With command prompt open, type in: shutdown.exe /r /o
  2. Hit [Enter].

This will open up the Windows Recovery Environment, where you can follow the instructions in method 1 above to access Safe Mode.

4. Use the System Configuration Tool.

If you are troubleshooting a rather nasty problem that may require you to boot your computer into Safe Mode multiple times, use the System Configuration Tool. This will force your computer to boot into Safe Mode every time you restart until you turn it off.

  1. In your computer’s search box (Start Menu) search for “Run”.
  2. Open up the Run Dialogue box.
  3. Type in the command: msconfig and hit [Enter].
Run Dialogue Box for MSCONFIG Command
  1. Head to the “Boot” tab and check mark the Safe Boot option.
  2. Hit [Okay] to confirm.
How to Access Safe Mode via MSCONFIG.

Now you will boot into Safe Mode every time you restart your computer. Once you have the problem fixed, refer to our section below on reversing this functionality.

You Don’t Have Access to Your Windows 10 Computer At All.

If your computer isn’t booting normally and you cannot access the desktop or sign-in screen, then use the following 2 ways to boot into Safe Mode.

5. Interrupt the Boot Process to Enter WinRE.

If you are unable to get your computer to properly boot at all, you can interrupt the boot process to force your computer to automatically boot into the Windows Recovery Environment. This is a fail safe built into Windows for when a computer crashes 3 times in a row.

  1. Use the power button to boot your computer up.
  2. Wait for the Windows loading circle to pop up.
  3. When it does, hold your power button down for 10 seconds.
  4. This forces the computer to shut down.
  5. Repeat 2 more times.
  6. On the 4th startup, your computer will boot into WinRE.

Use the WinRE environment to boot into the Safe Mode you need. To do this, see method 1 in this list.

6. Boot From a Windows 10 Installation Drive or USB Drive.

If you have a Windows 10 CD or a USB Recovery Flash Drive, you can boot into Safe Mode from it. This works really well in situations where you are unable to load Windows at all and power cycling doesn’t work.

  1. Insert your CD into the bootable drive or plug your USB stick into a USB port.
  2. Boot your computer up and look for the function key that gets you into the BIOS.
  3. Hit this key and change your boot order to boot from either the CD or the USB.
  4. Save the changes and restart.
  5. The Windows Setup will pop up, click on the repair computer in the bottom left-hand corner.
Repair your computer using Windows installation media

This will open up the Windows Recovery Environment. Click on the troubleshoot options, then advanced options, startup settings, and restart. When the computer restarts, choose to enter Safe Mode.

When To Use Safe Mode With Networking & How to Boot In?

When you boot into Safe Mode using any of the above methods, your computer will not load the necessary networking drivers needed to connect to the internet. This means that if you need the internet to download a driver or install an update that would resolve your issue, you won’t be able to. For those who can’t access their computer at all and do not have access to a second computer, this creates another problem. If this applies to you, choose to enter Safe Mode with Networking when accessing Safe Mode Options from the Windows Recovery Environment.

Safe Mode with Networking

Desktop Issues in Safe Mode: What to Do?

So, you’ve just loaded into Safe Mode and are prepared to begin running tests to see what is causing your computer to slow down, freeze, or fail to boot, only to find that the desktop, start screen, and taskbar are unavailable. Don’t panic and use the section below to exit Safe Mode. Then reboot into Safe Mode using the method that applies to your situation, but choose Safe Mode With Command Prompt instead of regular Safe Mode. What this does is replaces the traditional Safe Mode desktop with the Command Prompt environment.

This Safe Mode is a stripped down version that does not load any drivers, the desktop, or any networking components. You can then use common Command Prompt lines to perform fixes and run diagnostics. This mode should only be used if you have a malicious virus that prevents your desktop from loading at all, or you have problems with the regular Safe Mode.

How Do You Turn Off Safe Mode When Finished?

Once you have isolated the problem and fixed it in Safe Mode, you’re going to want to exit Safe Mode so that you can get back to using your Windows 10 computer as you normally would.

There are two ways that you can use to turn off Safe Mode:

  1. The first way is the easiest way to exit Safe Mode, which just involves you restarting your computer from the start menu. When it reboots up, look for a prompt that asks you if you want to start Windows normally. If this prompt appears, choose yes and your computer will turn off Safe Mode and reboot as it normally does.
  2. If you do not get the prompt to reboot Windows 10 normally when you restart the computer, then allow the computer to boot into Safe Mode and do the following:
    1. In your computer’s search box (Start Menu) search for “Run”.
    2. Open up the Run Dialogue box.
    3. Type in the command: msconfig and hit [Enter].
    4. Head to the “Boot” tab and uncheck the Safe Mode option.
    5. Hit “apply” to confirm.

Your computer will reboot with Safe Mode disabled and you should be able to log back into your computer with your sign in credentials.

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