How to Boot in Safe Mode on Windows 10
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Ever attempted to troubleshoot your own computer? Then you’ve encountered Safe Mode. Safe Mode is an inbuilt troubleshooting feature which disables unnecessary drivers and programs during the startup process. It allows us to isolate any setting or system errors and fix them at the root, without non-essential applications interfering.

For example, you can use Safe Mode to run System Restore when troubleshooting your computer or to delete a file in use by another program. 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.

Method 1: System Configuration

To open the System Configuration screen, type msconfig in your Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match. Open the Boot tab and note the Boot Options. Selecting the Safe Boot option will force your system to boot into Safe Mode following its next restart.

windows 10 system config

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 > Apply > 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.

Method 2: Advanced Startup

Your next option is Windows 10 Advanced Startup. It isn’t that advanced, but it is really useful to know.

Windows 10 Advanced Startup

Type advanced start up in your Start Menu search bar and select the Best Match. Now, under Advanced start-up, select Restart Now.

Clicking Restart Now will restart your system in recovery mode where you will encounter three options: Continue, Troubleshoot, or Turn Off Your PC.

Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options. You now have a new range of options to choose from.

Select Start-up Settings > Restart. Your system will restart. The Startup Settings screen will load after you reboot. From here, choose the requisite option for Safe Mode.

windows 10 advanced startup settings

Advanced Startup 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. This reboot takes you straight to the Recovery options, where you can select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings.

Windows 10 Restart

Method 3: Tapping

Until the introduction of Windows 8, the most common method for entering Safe Mode was tapping F8 on your keyboard during startup. Tapping F8 brings up the Safe Mode options screen, listing the options found under Method One (above) and several alternatives.

Windows 10 (and Windows 8/8.1) has F8 Safe Mode disabled by default. However, you can sacrifice a couple of seconds during startup by enabling the F8 menu using the Command Prompt.

Begin by opening an elevated Command Prompt. 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

Input (or copy/paste) the following command:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

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.

What If Nothing Works?

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

If you installed Windows 10 via a disc or USB flash drive, you can boot straight into recovery mode by inserting the said installation media 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 a backup image before your system error, something we would absolutely advise you to do. You can create a System Image by typing recovery into the Start Menu search bar and selecting the Best Match. The Advanced Recovery Tools will open. Select Create a Recovery Drive How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk The days of reinstalling Windows when it acts up are long since gone. All you need to fix Windows 8 is a recovery disk, either on CD/DVD, a USB or an external hard disk drive. Read More 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

Head to Control Panel > System and 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.

How Do I Get Out of Safe Mode?

Once you fix your Windows 10 issue, you can leave Safe Mode. But how do you get out of Safe Mode once you’re in there?

There are two options, depending on how you booted into Safe Mode.

If you entered Safe Mode using Method 1 (via System Configuration), you must turn the Safe Mode option off in the configuration window. Otherwise, Windows 10 will boot back into Safe Mode after each restart.

If you entered Safe Mode using Method 2 (via Advanced Startup) or Method 3 (via Tapping Your Keyboard), shut down or restart your system to leave Safe Mode.

Accessing Safe Mode on Windows 10 Is Simple

You now know the three easiest methods to access Windows 10 Safe Mode. Make sure to take note of the final section on System Image Recovery and System Repair Discs. Do always remember the former only works if you’ve set the recovery location before your world began collapsing in a BSOD-induced nightmare.

If you’re truly in a terrible state of affairs, with no Image Recovery and no repair disc, you could always try tech-support savior Hirens BootCD The 5 Best Rescue and Recovery Disks for a Windows System Restore The 5 Best Rescue and Recovery Disks for a Windows System Restore Here are the best Windows rescue disks to help you access your computer for making repairs and backups, even when it won't boot. Read More . It has saved many people, many times, and it’ll save you too!

Explore more about: Boot Errors, Boot Screen, Computer Diagnostics, Computer Maintenance, Safe Mode, Troubleshooting, Windows 10, Windows Tips.

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  1. Lynn
    January 26, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    After a update a few weeks ago. My pc is stuck at 75% updating. The only way to get out is to turn computer off but when you turn it back on it goes back to update screen and counts back up to 75% and stops.

  2. Michele
    January 12, 2017 at 2:38 am

    Thank you! Took a few tries to get F7 to reboot it and go into restore after this 1-11-2017 joke of and update but finally got in the lock screen.

  3. Mikkel Nielsen
    December 27, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    And what if i get a blue screen and can't even sign in? I got my laptop with Windows 10 preinstalled, and there wasn't any disc or usb drive with it.

    I can't even get to the sign in screen and boot in safe mode.

    • Gavin Phillips
      December 27, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Is it brand new? Do you have another device you could create installation media on? If so you could try and use that to boot the system. However, if you cannot move past the blue screen you may have to RMA your product.

      Is there an error message? We can work with an error message.

  4. 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

    • Gavin Phillips
      December 27, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Nice one, Curt. Glad we could help out! Thanks for reading!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. Anonymous
    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

  9. Anonymous
    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)

  10. Anonymous
    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:

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

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

  11. Anonymous
    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?

  12. Anonymous
    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.