Starting a Computer in Safe Mode

Learn how to start your computer in safe mode using the step-by-step directions covered in this free lesson.

Starting a computer in safe mode

Safe mode is an alternate way of starting up your computer so that it's only using the essential programs needed to run. Normally, when you boot up your computer, it loads a lot of drivers, which are programs that allow your operating system (OS) to communicate with other devices and software. However, when you start up in safe mode, only the minimum number of drivers needed to run the computer are loaded (usually just the mouse, keyboard, and display drivers).

Why use safe mode?

Let's say one day you go to use your computer and find that your OS just won't start, or maybe it keeps crashing on you. This could be due to any number of reasons, including a virus, malware, corrupt files, or something else entirely. Safe mode allows you to boot up your OS in a very basic state so you can potentially identify and fix the problem.

While in safe mode, your screen resolution may look a bit off, certain applications might not work properly, or your computer may run a bit slower than usual. This is completely normal; it's just the effects of certain drivers not running.

To start in safe mode (Windows 8.1 and later):

  1. Click the Start button and select the Power icon.
  2. Hold down the Shift key and click Restart.
  3. A menu will appear. Select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings.
  4. Click the Restart button.
  5. Your computer will reboot, presenting you with the menu shown below. Press 4 to select Enable Safe Mode (or 5 to select Enable Safe Mode with Networking if you need to use the Internet).
  6. Your computer will then boot in safe mode.

To start in safe mode (Windows 7 and earlier):

  1. Turn on or restart your computer. While it's booting up, hold down the F8 key before the Windows logo appears.
  2. A menu will appear. You can then release the F8 key. Use the arrow keys to highlight Safe Mode (or Safe Mode with Networking if you need to use the Internet to solve your problem), then press Enter.
  3. Your computer will then boot in safe mode.

To start in safe mode on a Mac:

  1. Turn on or restart your computer. While it's booting up, hold down the Shift key before the Apple logo appears. Once the logo appears, you can release the Shift key.
  2. Your computer will then boot in safe mode.

What to do once you're in safe mode

Certain problems can be fixed pretty easily using safe mode, while others may prove to be more of a challenge.

If you boot up with safe mode and your computer continues to crash, this means there's probably something wrong with your hardware. If this is the case, you'll probably need to take it to a repair technician for further help.

Once you think you've solved your problem, you'll need to get out of safe mode to test and see if it worked. To do this, simply restart your computer. When it boots up again, it should start Windows in its normal operating mode.