How to Start Windows in Safe Mode

In using your computer there will be times when things will go wrong. Things will be working fine and then suddenly you install a program or hardware and everything seems to be goofed up. At times like these you may look for help and in doing so you'll be told to start Windows in Safe Mode. What exactly is Safe Mode?
Published: Sep 12, 2005
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question was submitted by Norman Adams, Gregory Tibbits, Hing Ng, Janice Bowman, Jon Sanderson and numerous others.

In using your computer there will be times when things will go wrong. Things will be working fine and then suddenly you install a program and everything seems to be goofed up. Your computer may seem really sluggish, the mouse may move slowly, odd dialog boxes may pop up on your screen -- there are any number of scenarios. You may even encounter problems after installing a new piece of hardware. Sometimes it just takes one tiny thing to throw your computer totally off. Ultimately, the end result of all these examples may be that you have difficulty each time you start your computer. This will raise the question, "What can I do?" Good question, and I'll try to provide an answer.

At times like these you may look for help and in doing so you'll be told to start Windows in Safe Mode. Okay, but what exactly is Safe Mode? Another good question, which I'll answer first.

Now, the fine people at Microsoft realized all too well that users could encounter problems, like I mentioned above, with Windows. Installing new software, installing new hardware, installing drivers; and oops, you have a conflict! The computer acts strangely or in some cases it might lock up and not want to start. So, they wisely created a way to start Windows during times like these, and they called it "Safe" mode.

When your computer starts in Safe Mode, Windows does not load most device drivers. Why? Because device drivers interact with the devices attached to your computer, like printers, modems and the like, and these might be a source of the problem. There are some other differences when you start in Safe Mode, but it gets a bit technical so I will address it another time. Suffice it to say that Safe Mode starts Windows so there is the least possibility of conflicts.

The ability to boot Windows into Safe Mode lets you try to figure out what the problem is. What conflict has arisen or what program is causing an issue. When you boot in Safe Mode you'll notice that your Windows desktop looks a bit odd. You'll see "Safe Mode" in each corner, a window will come up telling you that you're in Safe Mode, and your basic screen resolution will be smaller than normal. So, how do you boot into Safe Mode? Read on!

To start your computer in Safe Mode you need to reboot. Now, when you reboot you'll have noticed that your system checks memory, it may display a screen full of information, and then it will go off to start Windows. Before that time, right when the computer is starting, you want to press the function key F8.You'll find this on most keyboards up above the number keys. Tap the key and suddenly you'll get an on-screen menu. The are a number of options on this menu, but the one you're looking for will say:

Start in Safe Mode

Windows will then continue to load and you'll get the slightly odd-looking screen I described. This is your opportunity to try to fix whatever has caused a conflict. For example, if the problem arose when you installed a new device, you may need to remove the device drive. Or, if problems arose after installing a piece of software, this is your chance to uninstall it. Once you think you've fixed the conflict, just restart Windows and it should restart normally. One possible exception is if your Windows registry has become corrupted. I've had this happen on a couple of computers and the fix for this is to reinstall Windows. For most things, however, Safe Mode is a wonderful way to go in and fix a conflict that is stopping your computer from running correctly.

I'd like to thank Norman Adams, Gregory Tibbits, Hing Ng, Janice Bown, Jon Sanderson and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via e-mail by clicking HERE. You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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