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If you’ve ever attempted to troubleshoot your own computer, you’ve likely encountered Safe Mode. Safe Mode is an inbuilt troubleshooting feature which disables unnecessary drivers and programs during the startup process. This allows us to isolate any setting or system errors and fix them at the root, without non-essential applications interfering.

Here we’ll take a quick look at booting into Safe Mode with Windows 10, and what to do if you cannot boot into Safe Mode. Let’s go!

Method One: System Configuration

You can reach the System Configuration screen using Cortana search. Typing either msconfig or system configuration and pressing Enter will open the System Configuration panel. Head to Boot, and note the Boot Options. Selecting Safe Boot from the options will force your system to boot into Safe Mode followings its next restart.

Windows 10 msconfig

You can choose from additional options. Here’s what they do:

  • Minimal: Starts Safe Mode with the absolute minimal amount of drivers and services, but with the standard Windows GUI (Graphical User Interface).
  • Alternate Shell: Starts Safe Mode with a Command Prompt, without the Windows GUI. Requires knowledge of advanced text commands, as well as navigating the operating system without a mouse.
  • Active Directory Repair: Starts Safe Mode with access to machine-specific information, such as hardware models. If we unsuccessfully install new hardware, corrupting the Active Directory, Safe Mode can be used to restore system stability by repairing corrupted data, or adding new data to the directory.
  • Network: Starts Safe Mode with the necessary services and drivers for networking, with the standard Windows GUI.

Select Minimal, followed by Apply, and OK. System Configuration will now ask if you want to restart your system. Selecting Restart will immediately initiate the restart process, so be sure to save any active documents or projects.

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Method Two: Tapping

The most common method of reaching Safe Mode is by tapping F8. This brings up the Safe Mode selections during startup, allowing us to choose the operating mode. However, in order to speed the boot process, Windows 10 has F8 Safe Mode disabled. You can sacrifice a couple of seconds during startup by enabling the F8 menu using the Command Prompt 15 CMD Commands Every Windows User Should Know 15 CMD Commands Every Windows User Should Know The command prompt is an antiquated tool from an era of text-based input. But some commands remain useful and Windows 8 even added new features. Find out which ones. Read More .

Begin by opening an elevated Command Prompt 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More . Right-click the Start menu and select Command Prompt (Admin). Select Yes in the User Account Control dialogue, if it appears. Command Prompt should now be open.

Windows 10 Start Option

Type (or copy/paste) the following command:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

And press Enter. Job done!

Windows 10 Command Prompt BCDEdit

To undo this legacy command at any time, reopen the elevated Command Prompt as per the above instructions and type:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

This returns startup to its original state, so to reach Safe Mode you’ll have to use one of the alternate options in this article.

Method Three: Advanced Startup

For our next trick: Advanced Startup. Chill, my friend. It isn’t that advanced, but it’s really useful to know.

Windows 10 Advanced Startup

Open the Settings menu and head to Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced Startup. Clicking Restart Now will restart your system in recovery mode, where you’ll encounter three options: Continue, Troubleshoot, or Turn off your PC. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options. You’ll now have a range of new options, like so:

Windows 10 Advanced Boot

Click Startup Settings, followed by Restart. Your system will now restart. On reboot, you’ll meet the Startup Settings screen. From here you can choose your required function.

Shortcut

You can skip the somewhat lengthy clicking process by holding down Shift and clicking Restart under Power, found in the Windows 10 Start Menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu A Guide to the Windows 10 Start Menu Windows 10 fixes the Start Menu dilemma! Getting to grips with the new Start Menu will supercharge your Windows 10 experience. With this handy guide, you'll be an expert in no time. Read More . This reboot takes you straight to the Recovery options, where you can select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings.

Windows 10 Restart

What If Nothing Works?

Even if none of the above works, you’ve still two aces up your sleeve.

If you’ve installed Windows 10 via a disc or USB, you can boot straight into recovery mode by inserting said disc/USB before turning your system on. Choose your keyboard layout, followed by Repair Your Computer, in the bottom-left of the screen. From here you can head to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options where you’ll find System Restore, System Image Recovery, Startup Repair, Command Prompt, and Go Back to the Previous Build.

Windows 10 Repair Your Computer

For System Image Recovery to work you’ll have to have made an image prior to your system error, something we would absolutely advise you to do. You can create a System Image by typing Recovery into the search bar and selecting Recovery: Control Panel. You’ll now be in Advanced Recovery Tools. Select Create a Recovery Drive, and follow the steps.

System Repair Disc

Another helpful tool at your disposal is the System Repair Disc. Unlike the System Image, these aren’t machine specific, so you can acquire one via a friend if all goes completely pear-shaped.

Windows 10 System Repair

If you want to be prepared for that inevitable moment, right-click the Start Menu icon and select Control Panel from the list. Head to System Security > Back-up and Restore (Windows 7). Don’t let the Windows 7 tag put you off: you’re in the right place. Select Create a System Repair Disc from the left-hand column, and follow the instructions.

Safe Mode Mastered

You should now feel very comfortable booting Windows 10 into Safe Mode, using one of three methods outlined above. Make sure to take note of the final section on System Image Recovery and System Repair Discs, remembering the former only works if you’ve set the recovery location before your world began collapsing in a BSOD-induced nightmare How To Troubleshoot And Fix Windows Black Screen Issues How To Troubleshoot And Fix Windows Black Screen Issues The B in BSOD doesn't always stand for blue. Sometimes you'll experience a Black Screen of Death. This can be even more troublesome because it provides no error message. Let's troubleshoot together. Read More .

If you’re really, really in a terrible state of affairs, with no Image Recovery and no repair disc, you could always try tech-support savior Hirens BootCD 5 Best Rescue Disks For A Windows System Restore 5 Best Rescue Disks For A Windows System Restore Every Windows user should be aware of at least one bacon-saving, data-recovering system restore disk. It can help you access your computer to make repairs and backups, even when it won't boot. Read More . It has saved many people, many times, and it’ll save you too!

Will you be adding seconds to your startup by enabling F8? Or do you keep multiple backups of everything? Backups of backups? Let us know below!

  1. Curt B
    September 22, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    Gavin, I cannot thank you enough!
    Method 3 worked perfectly for me. I thought that my situation was hopeless.
    You are a life saver!!

    Curt

  2. John Doe
    August 23, 2016 at 8:33 am

    And what if Windows won't boot, and I don't have access to other computers just to create live USB?

    This sucks.

  3. Warren W
    July 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    The system repair disc didn't work for me. I got a "non-system disk" error. Booting from a Windows 10 disc did work.

  4. dmetrios
    February 26, 2016 at 1:26 am

    "Unfortunately unless F8 is activated before an issue it will not work."

    not exactly. if one can get into 'repair' mode using usb drive, then command promt is available as one of the options. and there it is possible to enable F8 as described above.

    i just did this all - thanks to the author if this article!

  5. Kevin Chau
    November 7, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    after I rebooted my pc into safe mode, the next time i used the pc the pc selected the administrator account but the administrator account is disabled so now I can't access the pc, what do I have to do

  6. Magdalena Mysiak-Brandenburg
    November 1, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    Hi, my problem is that I am now stuck in Active Directory Repair version of safe mode on my Lenovo Helix ThinkPad... The kicker is that in the main Safe Boot screen I can open the on-screen keyboard and go to the Advanced Options (where you can still use the pointer), but after clicking "Restart" under ANY option you either have to type your password or choose options via number or function keys. The punchline here is: my keyboard dock doesn't work, so I'm stuck with the touchscreen (system NOT set to default tablet mode before entering Safe Mode) and have no clue how to induce the on-screen keyboard after Advanced Options-> [any option]-> Restart. Help, please...! (and yes, I know I'm a m***n)

  7. David Abineri
    October 14, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Previous to win10 I have always been able to boot into safe mode.
    Win 10 will not start so I cannot use any options accessed from within win10.
    How do I BOOT UP into safe mode? Thanks.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 14, 2015 at 6:13 pm

      Hi David. Sorry to hear you're having issues. Your PC isn't booting at all? Do you have any Windows 10 removable media, a USB recovery? If you have access to another computer you could download a Windows 10 recovery drive, or if it is really bad a Linux LiveCD might do the trick. Unfortunately unless F8 is activated before an issue it will not work.

      Good luck, thanks for reading.

    • Gavin Phillips
      October 14, 2015 at 6:15 pm

      David, see this article:

      http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/5-best-rescue-disks-windows-system-restore/

      It might help if you have no Windows 10 boot material.

  8. Ali Kamyar
    August 24, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    Good help but what if u`r getting 'system thread exception not handled' and wiindows just keeps rebooting till the same blue screen comes up? Can`t get in safe mode nothing, I don`t have a recovery cd/usb and coudln`t find one anywhere. So I`m stuck, in dire need of help.

    • Gavin Phillips
      August 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      So you cannot boot into Safe Mode at all? Do you have access to the Elevated Command Prompt?

  9. Arnol
    August 7, 2015 at 2:57 am

    Tried Method 1 on my HP7 Stream Tablet without thinking the consequences through. Ended up in Safe Mode with Touch disabled. Connected a USB mouse/keyboard but Cortana didn't work and search didn't find System Configuration so the tablet would only boot in Safe Mode.

    The solution was to open Control Panel -> Administrative Tools -> System Configuration and select Normal Startup.

    • Gavin Phillips
      August 24, 2015 at 9:46 pm

      Nice Arnol, glad you got it sorted and thanks for the tip.

      • Marsha Owens2
        August 16, 2016 at 8:39 pm

        That's what I tried to do. I managed to boot into safe mde to try and manually remove a malware app that refused to uninstall the normal way. But now when I restart the tablet (Lenovo MIIX 10, Windows 10), it continues to boot into safe mode.
        I can get back to the command prompt and type "msconfig" and get to the screen to choose boot up mode. But although I can click on boot into normal start up,when I click "apply" the normal mode button unlocks itself and clicks itself to the "limited" start up mode, with the choice of GUI, etc. No matter how many times I click on boot up normally, and even if I click okay and then restart, I'm back booting into safe mode. And from there I have no internet connection because it apparently can't find my wifi networ or else isn't looking.

        I even went to "processes" via. Control Panel and manually turned back on all the stopped processes. But on restart, back into safe mode.

        How do I tell it to boot normally? Or rather, get that menu choice to apply and hold through a restart?

        Thanks to anyone who can help.

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