How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a diagnostic booting option in Windows that loads only the most essential drivers and to help the operating system to run in a basic state.

Imagine you’re driving your car when you notice an electrical malfunction. To diagnose the issue, you may turn off the air conditioning, navigation system, radio, speakers, and anything else that may be causing the problem before restarting the vehicle. In a sense, you’re now running your car in “safe mode” in order to troubleshoot.  

Today’s PC users may not be as intimately familiar with Windows Safe Mode because the operating system has generally grown more stable with every iteration as the Windows operating system has matured. Similarly, early computer viruses that were often remediated in Safe Mode are less of a risk nowadays (although new threats regularly emerge). But ask a long-time PC user about Safe Mode, and they may remember it as the way to essentially take a computer for a checkup when something was wrong.

So, what is Safe Mode in Windows? Safe Mode is a diagnostic booting option in Windows that loads only the most essential drivers and to help the operating system to run in a basic state. A computer driver is a set of files that helps your hardware communicate with your operating system.

What happens in Windows Safe Mode

When you boot your Windows PC in Safe Mode, you may notice that your sound card isn’t working, your video resolution is at its lowest, and your Internet is possibly inactive. Your Startup programs, such as your communication tools, video game services, third-party antivirus software, are also inaccessible. In Windows Safe Mode, you can diagnose the following issues:

Driver conflict

Although driver conflict is less common nowadays, it can still slow down or crash your system. By restarting your computer in Windows 10 Safe Mode, you can safely analyze the issue, roll back the changes or restore your computer to a more stable version.

Software conflict

Poorly optimized software can negatively impact your system’s performance. You can use Windows 10 Safe Mode to isolate and correct the issue. In Safe Mode, you can either uninstall the problematic software or repair it.

Bad hardware

You can often use Safe Mode to understand if your computer is crashing because of bad hardware or software. For example, a system with faulty RAM will crash in any mode. However, a computer crashing due to corrupt Startup software will usually be OK in Safe Mode.

Malware infection

Running Windows 10 in Safe Mode can help to block some types of malware that are programmed to load when Windows starts. Entering Safe Mode can prevent them from starting up. For example, a computer virus piggybacks on other pieces of software, such as the programs that load on your Startup, so computer viruses usually don’t run in Safe Mode. However, some malware can. Let’s take a look at a couple of them:

  • Rootkits: A rootkit is an especially dangerous type of malware that allows a threat actor to control your system. It’s helpful to know how to prevent a rootkit attack because some rootkits can operate unhindered in Safe Mode.
  • Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that hijacks your computer by encrypting your files and folders. Some strains, like REvil ransomware, can even encrypt files in Windows Safe Mode.

While entering Safe Mode can help to diagnose a malware infection, the best way to prevent one in the first place is to keep a good antivirus/anti-malware software running on your computer and up-to-date.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

There are three ways to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode.

From Settings

  1. Click Start.
  2. Type Settings in the search bar and press enter.
  3. Click Settings.
  4. Click Update & Security.
  5. Click Recovery.
  6. Click Open Recovery Settings.
  7. Click Restart now.
  8. From the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot.
  9. Click Advanced options.
  10. Click Startup settings.
  11. Click Restart.
  12. Pick option 4 for Safe Mode or option 5 for Safe Mode with Networking after your computer restarts.

From your sign-in screen

  1. Hold the Shift key and click Power.
  2. Click Restart.
  3. From the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot.
  4. Click Advanced options.
  5. Click Startup settings.
  6. Click Restart.
  7. Pick option 4 for Safe Mode or option 5 for Safe Mode with Networking after your computer restarts.

From a blank screen

  1. Hold down the power button until your computer turns off.
  2. Press the power button again to start your machine.
  3. Hold down the power button until your computer turns off.
  4. Press the power button again to start your machine.
  5. Hold down the power button until your computer turns off.
  6. Press the power button again to start your machine.
  7. Wait until you see the Choose an option screen.
  8. From the Choose an option screen, click Troubleshoot.
  9. Click Advanced options.
  10. Click Startup settings.
  11. Click Restart.
  12. Pick option 4 for Safe Mode or option 5 for Safe Mode with Networking after your computer restarts.

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