Safe mode in Windows: what it is and how to use it

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta December 8, 2021
Updated 2021/12/08 at 7:37 PM

Does safe mode sound familiar to you in Windows? Maybe not, but surely sometime in your life you have experienced a fatal error that prevents the use of a computer or you have had to perform a forced restart because the image was frozen. Either from a conflicting hardware driver or a powerful virus. But the saddest of the cases, errors rigged to the system that prevent him from the correct start to his workstation.

If it has happened to you, it is something stressful but likely, since most of the time we unconsciously promote these errors. Either when installing software not compatible with Windows, performing failed system updates, installing drivers without verifying that they are the ones we really need, or installing inefficient antivirus in the search for malware that can cause the loss of necessary files within the installed system. There are many cases that can cause these failures in our equipment and we must be able to solve them to avoid further damage.

What is Windows Safe Mode?

A clear example is the famous blue screen that bothers us so much. Although it constitutes a warning that Windows offers us so that we can take action on the matter, since the system is not working correctly. How can these problems be solved? Well, in most cases the answer is very simple and it is with the use of Windows safe mode.

This tool is one of the main ally to solve problems that prevent you from enjoying your machine correctly. Its first use was in Windows 95 and the idea remains the same, starting in an interface the essential services and drivers that allow Windows to work with the necessary elements. In this way, we prevent the programs installed by users and configured to start with the system from running, as well as other additional drivers.

How to enter Windows Safe Mode?

Safe mode with F8

Pressing the F8 key at the Windows logo when turning on or restarting the PC

It is one of the easiest ways to enter safe mode from Windows 95 to Windows 7. Although it was obsolete in versions of Windows 8 onwards due to the implementation of the new UEFI firmwares and the rapidity that the system started causing that this pathway will not work on many modern equipment.

System startup using msconfig
System Configuration Tool

System configuration tool

Another simple way that works on any version of Windows. There are several ways to get to the system configuration tool (msconfig) very quickly.

  1. Go to Start and in the search assistant put Run or by means of the Windows + R key combination. Type msconfig and give Enter.
  2. When opening the menu go to the Boot tab and activate the option Safe boot leaving the radio button that comes by default. Then when you click OK, it will ask you to restart the system to go directly to the safe mode options (We will talk about what each option means later).
Steps 1 and 2
Example of starting in Safe Mode in Windows 10

Shift + Reset:

Very used especially in Windows 10 to go to safe mode quickly by following these steps:

  1. Press the button in the start menu To turn off
  2. In the shutdown options, with the key CAPITAL LETTER Press Restart.
Step 3
Example of starting in Safe Mode
  1. This key combination will take you to advanced Windows startup where you will enter the option Solve problems.
Step 4
Example of starting in Safe Mode
  1. Several options will appear, but we will focus on the one that says Advanced Options.
Step 5
Example of starting in Safe Mode
  1. In the new menu, click Startup Settings. Depending on the version of Windows you have, there may be more advanced options in this step. If you don’t visualize Startup settings must select See more recovery options and from there Advanced Options.
Step 6
Example of starting in Safe Mode
  1. After completing step 5, a menu will be displayed where you can choose the type of startup in safe mode you want to use.
Enter Safe Mode from an installation device
Example of starting in Safe Mode


If none of the above options work for you, you can do it using a bootable USB memory or use a CD / DVD disc with the Windows installation.

  1. Select the device with the system ISO image as the PC boot.
  2. On the screen to start the installation, click on the option Repair equipment and follow steps 4,5 and 6 of the previous example.

What options do we have for startup settings and their use in Windows Safe Mode?

  1. Enable debugging: Option intended only for system administrators or professionals, since everything is solved in advanced mode.
  2. Option to Enable boot record: Registers in a file located in C: / Windows and called ntbtlog.txt all the drivers installed on the device during system startup, in which it can be verified if any do not comply with the standards for the correct operation of the equipment.
  3. Enable low resolution video: Initial with the current video driver, but with a low resolution (640 × 480) although you can reset the screen settings whenever you want. This option is used to verify that a higher resolution of the screen does not create a conflict on our computer.
  4. Enable safe mode: In this option Windows starts with the minimum set of drivers and services that it needs for its basic operation. It is very useful to solve boot errors or failed system startup. In addition, it provides us with the main information that the error is not found in the basic configurations or services of the equipment.
  5. Enable safe mode with networking: Very similar to the previous option, although it includes the necessary network drivers and services in case you need to download information from the Internet or connect to other computers if it belongs to a network.
  6. Enable safe mode with command prompt: Starts Windows in safe mode with command window instead of the usual Windows interface. This option is intended for IT professionals and administrators.
  7. Disable the mandatory use of signed drivers: Allows non-signature hardware drivers to be installed.
  8. Disable early start antimalware protection: Allows the installation of drivers of dubious origin by disabling malware protection.
  9. Automatic restart on error: Prevents Windows from staying in a reboot loop every time it encounters the same error.

What can we do in Windows Safe Mode?

Once in safe mode, it is time to diagnose and resolve problems that are preventing Windows from starting. Among the main options to investigate we have:

  • Check that the error is not hardware: This error is easy to detect while in safe mode. If the hardware devices are working correctly it means, to a large extent, that the error is software and this option is discarded.
  • Check installed programs: This check is used if you feel or remember that the bugs started after the installation of some specific software. In safe mode you can uninstall it completely to verify that the problem has been resolved.
  • Check for viruses: There are viruses that are difficult to eliminate in the conventional way. These are executed in the partition of the Operating System modifying or eliminating elements necessary for the correct startup of your computer. Perform a complete scan with the antivirus of your choice in safe mode and you will be able to eliminate it for sure.
  • Update hardware drivers: If you discover that the problem is caused by the installation of a driver that is not compatible with any hardware on your computer, in safe mode you can install it from the original installation CD or with the network function you can download the correct device update from the Internet.
  • Restoring the system to a previous point: If you have tried the above options and the problem is still not resolved, you may need to restore your system. This gives you the possibility to return the time and all installed programs, updates, drivers or possible errors that have occurred in that period of time disappear.


There are times when we must go to a technician to solve problems that prevent the correct use of our computer. In most cases we should hope that he can serve us and let some money slip out of our pockets for his services. After reading this article, I hope that before reaching that extreme, you will try this tool provided by various Operating Systems, including Windows. It never hurts to learn something new and if it is to save us some time and money, even better. So in the list of possible ways to detect and eradicate problems with your computer, you can add the use of safe mode.

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