Safe Mode is one of the most important places on your Windows computer. When things go wrong on your PC that you can’t solve through the operating system, then Safe Mode may be the place to go.
But how do you boot to safe mode? It’s certainly a bit different in Windows now than the way it used to be, with the classic “press F8 while your PC is booting” method not working anymore on newer PCs due to how fast they boot.
But there are still several ways to boot to Safe Mode in Windows, and we’ll show you the big ones here. Note that these methods work for both Windows 10 and Windows 11.
Boot from Recovery or Installation Media
If you can’t boot into Windows at all (if you get stuck in an automatic repair loop or just get a blank screen when Windows tries to open, for example), then the best way to boot to safe mode is to use a recovery disk or your original Windows installation disk.
If you don’t have either of these, then don’t panic because they’re both relatively easy to create. (You’ll need to find a working Windows PC to do it, though.) For more info, read our guide on how to create a Windows recovery drive. If you want to create a bootable Windows USB drive, download the Windows installation tool here and follow the instructions.
Once you’ve created your installation or recovery drive, insert it into your USB drive and reboot your PC.
If you’re using the installation drive, your PC will boot to the Windows Setup screen where you need to click “Next” followed by “Repair your computer.”
The USB drive should boot you to the blue screen of the Windows startup menu. Here, click “Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> See more recovery options -> Start-up Settings -> Restart.”
Your PC should reboot to a new blue screen called Startup Settings. Here, press the 4, 5 or 6 key, depending on which iteration of Safe Mode you want to enter into.
The Shift + Restart Method
If Windows is booting (even just to the sign-in screen), then the quickest way to jump into Safe Mode is probably to use this method.
Click the Power button in Windows (which you can access not only from the Start menu but from the Windows sign-in screen – handy if you can’t log in to Windows for whatever reason). Then, hold the Shift key while clicking the “Restart” option.
This should boot you to the blue-screen Startup menu we talked about in the first tip. From this point you can follow those instructions to get into Windows Safe Mode.
Through Windows Settings
Another method of booting to safe mode you can use from within Windows is to go to Settings (cog icon in the Start menu or type
settings into the Windows Search bar).
Click “Update & security,” then click “Restart now” under the “Advanced start-up” heading.
This will take you to the blue-screen Startup menu from the first tip. Click “Troubleshoot -> Advanced options -> See more recovery options -> Start-up Settings -> Restart.” After your PC boots to Startup Settings, select the 4, 5 or 6 key, depending on which version of Safe Mode you want to use.
Getting Out of Safe Mode
Generally, if you reboot your PC from Safe Mode, then it will boot up again into your regular Windows build. But it’s not uncommon for your PC to sometimes get “stuck” in Safe Mode even after rebooting, in which case here’s how to stop your PC booting into Safe Mode.
In safe mode, press Win + R, then type
msconfig into the Run box.
In the System Configuration window, click the Boot tab, then under “Boot options” uncheck the “Safe boot” box.
The old methods of booting to Windows Safe Mode are out, and the new ones are in. If you’re still having trouble with your Windows PC then you should get up to speed on the latest Windows update problems (and how to fix them), and it’s always good to know how to fix screen resolution problems too.
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox