How to Boot in Safe Mode in Windows 10

It can be frustrating to start up your Windows 10 PC and immediately encounter problems. If you have corrupted registry files or executable processes that can't be terminated, they're going to keep giving you grief. One of the best ways to fix these issues and more is to boot into Windows 10 safe mode.

Safe mode gives you access to a variety of diagnostic tools, which may solve some or all of the problems your operating system keeps throwing at you. But booting into Windows 10 safe mode takes a little bit of work! Below, we'll cover three ways to do it safely, so you can get to work troubleshooting your PC issues.

NOTE: Before booting into safe mode in Windows 10 through any of these options, make sure to save and quit all open programs and documents. Make sure there's nothing other than system processes running before you choose to restart in safe mode.

Method 1: Using the system configuration tool

This first method may seem confusing or complicated for people who aren't very tech-savvy, but it's a safe and effective way to boot Windows 10 in safe mode. Follow these steps and you'll be in safe mode in just a few minutes

  • Open the "run" command by pressing the Windows key and "R" at the same time. This will bring up a prompt box in the lower left-hand corner.
  • Type "msconfig" into the text field, where it says "Open:" and press the "Okay" button. This will bring up the system configuration panel
  • In the system configuration panel, you'll see a variety of tabs across the top. Click the "Boot" tab and look for the section labeled "Boot Options." Within this section, click the checkbox for "Safe Boot." Clicking this box will open up another set of variables—make sure only "Minimal" is selected. Click "Apply" and then "Okay" to pr
  • A prompt will come up on your screen, telling you that a restart is necessary to apply these changes. Choose the "Restart" option. Your computer will automatically enter the restart process.
  • When your computer finishes restarting, you'll be in safe mode! You'll have the ability to troubleshoot any problems you may be dealing with during your normal boot.

When you're done tinkering around in safe mode and want to restart normally, open the system configuration panel again and uncheck "Safe Boot" in the "Boot" tab. Apply the changes and click "Okay" to get the restart prompt again. When your computer restarts this time, it'll boot back into the normal mode.

Method 2: Shift + restart combination

Another way to boot into safe mode in Windows 10 is the shift and restart combination. As the name implies, it involves restarting the computer while holding down the shift key.

  • Open the "Start" menu and click on "Power." Hold down the shift key and click "Restart." Hold the shift key until Windows has finished booting to a blue screen with options for moving forward on it.
  • The safe mode start screen will present you with the following options: Continue, Troubleshoot, or Turn Off Your PC. Choose "Troubleshoot," then "Advanced Options" from the troubleshooting menu. This will take you to a bigger menu with many options to choose from.
  • Find "Startup Settings" from the current menu and click on it. This will bring you to a notification screen that tells you about restarting to enable various different troubleshooting options, including safe mode. Click the "Restart" button to proceed.
  • After clicking "Restart" you'll be brought to a prompt screen that asks you to choose a number for the troubleshooting option you'd like to use. Number four is safe mode. By pressing F4 on your keyboard, you'll prompt the computer to boot in safe mode.

To get out of safe mode and reboot normally, simply restart your computer. If for some reason it restarts back into Windows 10 safe mode, follow the normal boot instructions from above in Method 1.

Method 3: Shift + F8 combination

This last method is a little tricky, and won't work for every device. If you're using a Solid State Drive (SSD), you'll have to use one of the other two options. And, even if you do have an older hard drive, this key combination may not always work. It's a legacy boot command from earlier versions of Windows. Windows 10 recognizes it, but doesn't always process it. Here's how the shift plus F8 key combo works:

  • While your computer is booting, press and hold the shift key, then tap F8 repeatedly until the recovery screen appears. This might take a couple of tries, since tapping F8 too fast or too slow may not register your attempt to boot into safe mode. To tap at the right speed, say the word "hippopotamus" in your head, tapping F8 for every syllable (5).
  • When the recovery screen appears, click on "See Advanced Repair Options" to bring up the troubleshooting menu. From there, select "Advanced Options" and then click "Windows Startup Settings."
  • On this screen, click "Restart" to begin the process of booting into safe mode.

Again, this method is the least reliable of the three. Use it as a boot option if you can't get Method 1 or 2 to work for you (unlikely).

Solve problems, don't make more

Remember, booting into safe mode is a great way to solve problems… but it can also create some issues if you're not careful. Make sure you're only booting into Windows 10 safe mode if you know how to troubleshoot your PC. If you're not confident navigating safe mode, call a tech support specialist or consult with a PC repair technician.

Finally, before you go messing around in Windows 10 safe mode, make sure you run a full backup of your system. It's always better to be safe, rather than sorry. Backing up your data protects you in the event something goes wrong and your computer needs a full operating system reinstallation for some reason.