Windows, Safe Mode

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The following document details when, why and how to use Windows Safe Mode.

When to Use Safe Mode

In Windows, Safe Mode accesses only specific programs and files needed to run the operating system. 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 possible change in screen resolution and color. Because only Windows essential programs and files are loaded, Safe Mode enables the removal of spyware, adware and viruses that utilize the registry and cannot be removed otherwise. Safe Mode should always be used when attempting to remove a known or suspected virus. It is also highly recommended that, in cases of severe or persistent ad-aware infestation, any attempted repair be performed in Safe Mode.

Please note: Windows Installer does not function in Safe Mode so installation of some software packages, including Virus scanners and Ad-aware, may not be possible.

Running Safe Mode

Windows 98/Me

  • Restart the computer. 
  • Start pressing the F8 key until you see the Startup menu. 
  • On the Startup Menu, choose Safe Mode.

System Configuration Utility Method

  • While in Normal Mode, close all programs.
  • Go to the Start > Run. Type "msconfig" in the box and click OK.
  • In the System Configuration Utility, select the General Tab and click Advanced.
  • In the Advanced Troubleshooting Settings dialog box, check "Enable Startup Menu".
  • Click OK. You will be prompted to restart the computer. Select "Yes", and the computer will restart in Safe Mode.

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 will appear. 
  • 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 the Enter key. 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 XP

  • 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 will appear

(some computers display a "keyboard error" message when hitting F8; restart the computer and try again).

  • Ensure that the Safe Mode option is selected.
  • Press the Enter key. The computer will start in Safe Mode. 
  • When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

System Configuration Utility Method

  • Close all open programs. 
  • Go to the Start menu, select Run and type msconfig in the box and click OK. 
  • The System Configuration Utility will appear, select the BOOT.INI tab.
  • Check the "Safeboot" option, and then click OK and restart your computer when prompted.
  • The computer will restart in Safe Mode. Perform the troubleshooting steps for which you are using Safe Mode.

Windows Vista

  • If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power.
  • Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on and start tapping the F8 key.
  • The Windows Advanced Options Menu will appear. Ensure that the Safe Mode option is selected.
  • Press the Enter key. The computer will start in Safe Mode. 
  • When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

System Configuration Utility Method

  • Close all open programs. 
  • Go to the Start menu, and type "msconfig". When prompted, click continue. 
  • The System Configuration Utility will appear, On the Boot tab, Check the "Safe Boot" option.
  • Then click OK and restart your computer when prompted.
  • The computer will restart in Safe Mode. Perform the troubleshooting steps for which you are using Safe Mode.