Whether you have messed up Windows configuration or a virus prevents you from using the system, Windows safe mode is your best bet to solve all such problems.
In safe mode, Windows starts with minimum required drivers and services, and no third-party programs are loaded. This ensures no problematic program loads so that you may solve the problem without any interference.
However, accessing safe mode is a real problem when an error arises. Although it’s easier to access safe mode right from the Windows 10 settings, what if you can’t access the settings?
Or worse, you can’t even start Windows?
There are many ways to boot into safe mode in Windows 10, and each method is useful depending on the problem you are dealing with. In this article, I will show you 6 ways to access Windows 10 safe mode, so you may always have access to safe mode no matter the odds.
#1. Access safe mode from Windows 10 Settings
This is the most common method to access safe mode when you can operate the system and access the settings. Here’s how to do it:
Go to Windows Settings from the Start menu and click on Update & Security.
Now click on the Recovery option in the left panel and then click on Restart now button under the Advanced startup section.
Windows will restart and open up the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE). Here go to Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
Your PC will restart and open up a page with a bunch of commands to choose from. Here press the 4 key or f4 key to launch Safe mode.
#2. Use a Command prompt command
If you can only access the Command prompt, you can run a command that will restart the PC into Windows Recovery Environment, where you can access the safe mode.
To access the Command prompt in Windows 10, press Windows+R keys to open the Run dialog and type
cmd here to open the Command prompt.
Here enter the command
shutdown.exe /r /o and press the Enter key.
After a short delay, Windows will restart into Windows Recovery Environment, where you can follow the instruction in the above method to access safe mode.
#3. Access safe mode from the sign-in screen
You can also boot into safe mode from the sign-in screen if you cannot sign-in for some reason. All you have to do is click on the Power button at the bottom-right corner and then hold the shift key while clicking on the Restart button.
This will restart the PC, and you will enter the Windows Recovery Environment. You can follow the instructions in the first method to access safe mode from here.
Note: You can also use this method while inside Windows; hold the Shift key while restarting your PC from the Start menu.
#4. Enable Safe mode in System Configuration
This is a rather permanent option for accessing the safe mode, but it can help restart the PC often and make sure you always enter the safe mode. From System configuration, you can force the PC to always launch in safe mode whenever you restart. And when you are done fixing the problem, you can disable this option to get back to normal Windows. Here’s how to do it:
Press Windows+R keys to open the Run dialog and type
msconfig here to launch the System Configuration window.
Here move to the Boot tab, check the checkbox next to Safe boot, and then click on OK.
You will be prompted to restart the PC, accept the prompt, and your PC will boot into safe mode on every restart now.
To undo the changes, follow the same steps as above while in safe mode and uncheck the checkbox next to Safe boot.
#5. Force Windows to enter WinRE
You can also force Windows to enter the Windows Recovery Environment from where you can access safe mode. This method should only be used in critical circumstances when Windows is unable to boot at all. Otherwise, this method can damage your Windows.
If Windows crashes three consecutive times, then it will automatically boot into WinRE. So if you are having trouble starting Windows, you can also fake crash the Windows to open up WinRE to solve it.
Just start the PC, and when Windows starts loading, hold the power button for up to 10 seconds to force it to shutdown. Repeat this process up to two times more, and the next time Windows will automatically boot into Windows Recovery Environment. From there, you can follow the guidelines in the first method to access safe mode.
#6. Use a Windows 10 bootable USB or disk
If you have your Windows 10 CD with you or a bootable Windows 10 flash drive, you can use it to boot into safe mode. You will only need to use this method when Windows is corrupted to the point it is unable to load at all, even the force shutdown method isn’t working.
If you don’t already have a bootable drive with you, you can easily create one for free using Windows 10 media creation tool. All you need is another PC and a USB drive with at least 8GB of free space. You can follow the instruction on the aforementioned Microsoft support page to download and create Windows 10 bootable USB.
Once you have the bootable drive, please insert it into the PC and start the PC. First, you will have to select the keyboard layout and preferred language. Once done, you can click on the Repair your computer button at the bottom-left corner of the window to open the Windows Recovery Environment.
The changes you make here in Windows Recovery Environment will apply to your original Windows. So all you need to do is access the safe mode from here (see method #1), and your corrupted Windows will launch in safe mode.
This method will probably not work on the latest PCs that run UEFI and have SSDs for storage. However, if you have an old PC with legacy BIOS with HDD storage, it should work for you; and it’s arguably the easiest method to access safe mode.
On Windows 7, you could access safe mode by repeatedly hitting the F8 or Shift+F8 keys before the Windows started. However, this method doesn’t work on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 because the hardware they come with is new, and their boot time is swift. So there isn’t enough time for Windows to register the keystrokes and launch the safe mode.
Although if you have an old PC running on legacy BIOS and HDD, it will be slow enough even on Windows 10 to register the keystrokes and launch safe mode. If your PC qualifies, all you have to do is press the F8 key repeatedly when your PC starts booting to boot into safe mode. If that doesn’t work, try holding the Shift key and repeatedly pressing the F8 key.
This method is much faster to access safe mode as you don’t have to access Windows and don’t need to go through any menus.
I am sure these methods to access safe mode in Windows 10 are enough no matter which problem you are stuck in. Whether you have access to Windows or not, one of these methods will work. Although if you are looking for the quickest way to open safe mode, I believe the 3rd method is the fastest. You don’t even have to sign-in to open safe mode, and it works even when you are signed-in.
If you still need help with the PC boot then check out Tenorshare Windows Boot Genius software.
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