Many times in order to remove a piece of spyware or for troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes, you'll have to start Windows in Safe Mode. While in Safe Mode, only specific programs and files needed to run the operating system are loaded. Some functions, such as connecting to the Internet, will not be active in Safe Mode and a standard video driver will be loaded causing a washed out look and a possible change in resolution. There are currently 3 ways to start Safe Mode: Normal Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking (normally the Internet will work in this mode), and Safe Mode with Command Prompt.

However, since only the essential programs and files are loaded in Safe Mode, this allows us to remove some spyware, adware, viruses and such that cannot be removed in Normal Mode. Follow the instructions below to Start Safe Mode for your specific version of Windows. If you are trying to delete a file that is not allowing you to delete it (even in Safe Mode), you may want to read my article on How to Delete an Undeletable File.


Windows 8

The standard way of pressing F8 to start Safe Mode was removed to make Windows 8 boot faster. So, pressing F8, Shift+F8, and other variations of this technique do not work in a normal Windows 8 environment.However, many times this is the only way to remove a virus, fix a boot issue, etc. So, here are the work arounds for starting Windows 8 in Safe Mode.

Using MSCONFIG
  • Boot into Windows 8
  • Press the Windows Key + R  and type MSCONFIG in the Run box and press Enter. Note: The Windows key is generally between the CTRL and ALT keys on the keyboard and has the Windows logo on it.
  • In MSCONFIG, click on the Boot Tab which should look similar to below:

    MSCONFIG Boot Screen for Safe Mode
  • Click the Safe Mode box under Boot options to trigger Safe Mode the next time the computer is restarted.
  • Also place a dot in either Minimal (normal safe mode), Alternate shell (Safe mode with command prompt), or Network (Safe mode with Networking)
  • Click Ok, then click Restart
  • When the computer restarts, it should boot directly into Safe Mode. Warning: This option will stay in place until you go back into MSCONFIG and uncheck Safe mode. 
Starting in Recovery Mode When Booting
  • If Windows 8 does not boot properly, you will often find yourself booting to a Recovery screen, click on the Advanced Repair Options button
  • Click on Troubleshoot
  • Click on Advanced Options
  • Click on Windows Startup Settings
  • Click Restart and you should be able to boot into a startup screen with Safe mode as an option
Editing the Boot Menu Policy
  • To add the F8 functionality back into Windows 8, open an elevated command prompt by pressing the Windows Key + X and choosing Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu
  • Type the following command exactly as shown and press Enter

    bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

  • Type exit and press Enter
  • Restart Windows and you should have F8 functionality, however the computer might boot a little slower.
  • To change the bootmenu back to the original Windows 8 version, follow the steps above, but type the following command instead

    bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard
  • Then type exit and press Enter and restart Windows

Windows 7

  • Turn the computer on or Restart the computer
  • Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Boot Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again.
  • Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected, not Repair Your Computer
  • Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would

Windows Vista


Windows Vista is similar to Windows XP for starting in Safe Mode.
  • Turn the computer on or Restart the computer
  • Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Boot Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again.
  • Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected (the top option)
  • Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

Windows XP

If Windows XP is the only operating system installed on your computer, booting into Safe Mode with these instructions.
  • If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power
  • Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on.
  • Start tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Options Menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again.
  • Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected.
  • Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

To use the System Configuration Utility method

  • Close all open programs
  • Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK
  • The System Configuration Utility appears, On the BOOT.INI tab, Check the "/SAFEBOOT" option, and then click OK and Restart your computer when prompted.
  • The computer restarts in Safe mode.
  • Perform the troubleshooting steps for which you are using Safe Mode.
  • >
  • When you are finished with troubleshooting in Safe mode, open MSCONFIG again, on the BOOT.INI tab,  uncheck "/SAFEBOOT" and click OK to restart your computer

Windows as part of a multiboot system

Use this method ONLY if you have multiple operating systems installed on your computer.
  • If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power
  • Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on.
  • When the Boot loader menu (list of the available operating systems) appears, use the arrow keys on the keyboard to select the version Windows what you want
  • Press Enter, and then immediately begin tapping the F8 key. The Windows Advanced Options menu appears.
  • Scroll to and select the Safe mode menu item, and then press Enter.

Windows 2000

  • If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power
  • Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on.
  • When you see the black-and-white Starting Windows bar at the bottom of the screen, start tapping the F8 key. The Windows 2000 Advanced Options Menu appears.
  • Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected. In most cases, it is the first item in the list and is selected by default.
  • Press Enter. The computer then begins to start in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

Windows 98/Me

  • Restart the computer.
  • Just after the POST diagnostics and memory count, start pressing the F8 key
  • On the Startup Menu, choose Safe Mode or you may use the System Configuration Utility Method.
  • While in Normal mode, Close all programs.
  • Click Start, Run and type MSCONFIG in the box and click OK
  • In the System Configuration Utility, on the General Tab,   click the Advanced Button
  • In the Advanced Troubleshooting Settings dialog box, check Enable Startup Menu. Click OK. Click OK again when the System Configuration Utility reappears.
  • You will be prompted to restart the computer. Click Yes. The computer will restart in Safe mode.
  • When you are finished with troubleshooting in Safe mode, open MSCONFIG again and uncheck "Enable Start-up Menu." under the Advanced Menu, then click OK and restart your computer

Windows 95

  • Restart the computer.
  • Just after the POST diagnostics and memory count, start pressing the F8 key
  • On the Startup Menu, choose Safe Mode
Written by Mark Hasting





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