How to Get to Safe Mode in Windows XP/Vista/7


There are times when it is better to run Windows in what is known as “Safe Mode,” which is a diagnostic setup. Its purpose is to help troubleshoot computer problems by operating with a bare minimum of drivers and Windows components.

Open Safe Mode with the F8 key

All Windows versions can be booted into Safe Mode by this method. Note that it is somewhat tricky to time this procedure and it may take several attempts.

1. Turn on or restart your computer.
2. Hold down the F8 key before the Windows logo appears. If the computer makes a complaining noise, tap the F8 key repeatedly instead of holding it down.
3. If a Windows logo or “Windows starting” appears, wait until Windows loads. Then restart the computer and try pressing  F8 again.
4. Once you are successful, a menu will appear with a number of boot options. Use an arrow key to navigate to “Safe Mode” and press the Enter key.

Trying to get to Safe Mode by using the F8 key can be frustrating and there is another way that uses the System Configuration Utility (msconfig).

System Configuration Utility in Windows XP

1. Open the Start menu and click “Run.”
2. In the Run box, enter “msconfig” (without quotes).
3. Click “OK.”
4. Select the tab “BOOT.INI.”
5. Put a check by the entry /SAFEBOOT. Also click the radio button MINIMAL.
6. Click “Apply” and “OK.”
7. Restart the computer. The system should open in Safe Mode.

When finished using Safe Mode, open msconfig again and remove the check by /SAFEBOOT. Otherwise, you will continue to open in Safe Mode whenever you boot.

System Configuration Utility in Windows 7/Vista

1. Open the Start menu.
2. Enter “msconfig” (without quotes) in the box labeled Start search (Vista) or Search programs and files (Windows 7).
3. Click the entry “msconfig” or “msconfig.exe” shown in the programs list.
4. Select the “Boot” tab.
5. In the “Boot options” section, check “Safe boot.” Also, make sure the radio button “Minimal” is selected.
6. Click “OK’
7. Restart the computer

When you are finished with Safe Mode, go back to msconfig and remove the check by “Safe boot” that was applied in step 5 above.


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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs a Windows blog called The PC Informant and also operates a computer education website.

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