There are so many things that can stop Windows booting: malicious software, out-of-date drivers, new hardware, botched updates. When this happens, there are a number of tools to use, but Windows Safe Mode is one of the easier, more familiar-looking ways to narrow down a problem before carrying out computer repair.
In this post, we’re going to look at what Safe Mode is, how to use it, and what it can do for you.
Remember, use these tools with caution, and if you’re not entirely confident in what you’re doing, get in touch with Ship Shape PC Repair and let us do the hard work for you!
What is Safe Mode?
Safe Mode is a way of running your computer with some functionality reduced, which helps narrow down problems your computer might be having. If your PC or laptop keeps crashing, particularly every time it boots, safe mode usually allows the computer to run, giving you the opportunity to remove whatever’s causing the problem (such as a new piece of software or hardware, or a virus or setting).
Safe Mode can do this because it only runs those parts of your computer essential to running Windows. While this means that you might not be able to run every program you have installed, it’s a useful way of temporarily getting your PC up and running so that you can fix problems, or run something like System Restore, edit the registry, or run an anti-virus program.
How do I get into Safe Mode?
When your PC is first turned on, you probably see an initial screen with the manufacturer’s logo on, and some white text, such as “Press F2 to Enter Setup, F10 for boot options”. While this is still showing on your screen, start to tap F8 repeatedly – this repeated pressing is just a little trick to make sure you hit it at the right moment. If you’ve done this successfully, the computer will bring up a menu (again, white text on a black background).
There are several options which we’ll go into, and your own computer may have a few more added by the manufacturer, but to get into ‘plain’ Safe Mode, just make sure that option is highlighted, and press Enter. A timer is constantly ticking away while this is happening, and when it reaches 0 it automatically boots into whatever is highlighted.
Once you get to the desktop, the words ‘Safe Mode’ will be written in the corners of the screen.
Safe Mode Options
Here are a couple of the most common, and most useful, Safe Mode options:
Safe Mode: This is the option you should try first, and loads the fewest extra resources.
Safe Mode with Networking: if you need to use the Internet or other online resource (such as Windows Update), or your computer’s problem lies with your networking system, then choose this.
I wouldn’t recommend using this just because you need to refer to an online guide. Either use another computer or print out any guides you need before you boot into Safe Mode.
Safe Mode with Command Prompt: If your repair involves using a command line (another tool we’ll come back to in a future post) then this option gives you this tool.
Note: in this mode you won’t have access to the desktop – just the command line.
Last Known Good Configuration: Windows keeps a record of all the settings as they were when you booted the computer successfully. This means that, if you select this option, any problems being caused by a Registry setting having been changed by a new addition to the computer will be rolled back, and your PC will work once more. This is one to use when you’re pretty certain a Registry problem is stopping your computer booting.
What can I do in Safe Mode?
Malware removal: many malicious software programs are made difficult to remove once they are running. When Windows starts in Safe Mode it is highly likely that malicious software on your machine will not run (though there are exceptions to this rule). This gives your anti-virus software a better chance to removing persistent offenders. Try a scan in Safe Mode, even if it didn’t seem to work before.
Legitimate software removal: Despite the best intentions, even software you chose to install yourself, from trustworthy sources, may fall foul of a Windows update or improper shutdown, or even other bits of software. If it needs to be re-installed, but is wreaking havoc on your system, then boot into Safe Mode and use the normal ‘Add or Remove Programs’ or ‘Uninstall a Program’ options in the Control Panel.
System Restore: We’ll come back to the details of System Restore in a future blog post, but for now it’s worth knowing that, if you’ve decided that System Restore is the best option to get your computer working again, then Safe Mode might be the only way into it if you’ve got a non-booter.
Leaving Safe Mode
To leave Safe Mode, and see if your computer has been fixed, simply hit the Start menu, hover over the arrow to the right of Shut Down, and select Restart. Your PC will now reboot into normal Windows mode.
What about you? Have you found this to be a useful tool? Found any tricks for saving a broken PC using Safe Mode ? Let us know in the comments below, but if you still need a computer repair despite trying Safe Mode, give me a call, and I’ll sort the problem for you.
Icon: Exit, by YellowIcon.