Windows 10 Safe Mode: The Easy Way

Category: Windows-10

The Safe Mode of Windows should be seeing a lot less use these days. After all, Windows 10 is the most trouble-free operating system of all time. Right? Who needs Safe Mode? Actually, you do. Everyone needs Safe Mode, eventually. Here's the 'secret' easy way to boot your computer in Safe Mode…

The Safe Mode Dance

I've written before that Safe Mode is like a bomb shelter when Windows explodes. That may not be a perfect analogy, but this handy Windows feature can make troubleshooting certain common problems simpler.

That’s why it’s a shame that Safe Mode is being buried ever deeper in the catacombs of the Settings submenus in Windows 10. Even the "press F8 key" method during startup (that has been the standard since Windows 3.0) has been disabled. In my article New Features of Windows 10 Safe Mode I detailed all ten steps necessary to enter Safe Mode from the Start menu. If you start from the Sign-In screen, there are “only” 9 steps to get into Safe Mode.

Yet Safe Mode keeps popping up everywhere. For some reason, there are now more than a dozen ways to get into Windows 10 Safe Mode. It’s as if the development team really hates Safe Mode and tries to discourage its use. But Safe Mode is so useful that some other interest group lobbies successfully to get it included in parts of Windows it’s never been in before. The bottom line is confusion for most consumers.

Windows 10 Safe Mode - the easy way

But there is one simple, fast way to get into Safe Mode not just once, but every time you reboot “until further notice.” This trick is very handy when troubleshooting malware, startup programs, or driver issues, a process that can take lots of patience and many reboots.

Here's the "secret" easy way to enable Safe Mode, discovered by uber-geeks who are sequestered in a dark basement, somewhere deep within the bowels of the earth...

In the Start menu’s search box type msconfig and press Enter to open the System Configuration app. (If you hear deep, guttural moans during this process, do not worry, that's normal.) On the Boot tab, check the box next to Safe boot. Notice the options under Safe boot in the screenshot:

Windows 10 Safe Mode options

    Minimal: (recommended) normal Safe Mode with graphical interface
    Alternate shell: (geeky) Safe Mode using only the Command Prompt
    Active Directory repair: (even more geeky) for repairing an Active Directory server
    Network: (optional) like Minimal, but with networking support

You may want to choose Network enable networking in Safe Mode if you anticipate needing the Internet while troubleshooting in Safe Mode. Otherwise, Minimal is all most consumers need.

Click OK and close System Configuration. Now, whenever you reboot, you will reboot into Safe Mode. You can tell you are in Safe Mode by the plain black desktop and the words “Safe Mode” in all four corners of the display. To return to normal, run System Configuration and uncheck the “Safe boot” box.

Safe Mode can save many a “hopeless” situation, by allowing you to start Windows and run recovery tools when you can’t start Windows in the normal way. In Safe Mode, no third-party software gets loaded, so malware or corrupted drivers are gone. From that pristine state, you can begin to repair and restore your system.

You can tweak your auto-start programs one by one, run a virus scan, access System Restore, or try other repair options available in Safe Mode.

Your Windows 10 PC should reboot in Safe Mode automatically if it crashes more than twice, but it’s good to know how to boot in Safe Mode manually.

Have you used Safe Mode to solve a problem? Tell me about your experience. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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This article was posted by on 16 Nov 2018

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Most recent comments on "Windows 10 Safe Mode: The Easy Way"

(See all 23 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Frank D
16 Nov 2018

If you should be able to get into Safe Mode, how then do you get out of it?

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
16 Nov 2018

I'm with Don. Why would anyone want to boot into safe mode every time? How do you get into safe mode when you can't boot all the way to the start menu's search box and thence to msconfig?

Posted by:

16 Nov 2018

Don: Supposedly when Windows 10 does not start successfully three (3) times, on the next time a repair screen ("Automatic Repair") will be shown in which "Advanced options" will include a method to booting into safe mode. You'll find it under "Startup Settings."

Posted by:

Bab Krinno
16 Nov 2018

All of these different methods, including W10 failing to boot correctly 3 times, which sometimes doesn't work, none actually addresses the problems one sometimes faces that having the F8 boot into Safe Mode from cold, would help to resolve.
We need someone to hack the part of the code of W10 that would give us back our beloved F8 safe mode.
I cannot think of any real reason why M$ removed it.
Safe mode still exists in Windows so why not have it directly from F8 ?
Sheer control freakery and bloody mindedness.

Posted by:

16 Nov 2018

keith h's comment caught my eye. I also couldn't boot at the same time something mysterious happened to his machine. Did MS make some error somewhere or was it simply a coincidence. ??

Also, my backups were on an encrypted drive! I learned a lesson, there!

Posted by:

Jay R
16 Nov 2018

All this talk about Safe Mode. Does this mean that I am normally running in Unsafe Mode? Why would MS want me to do that?

Posted by:

17 Nov 2018

I will never mess with "safe boot" again. Last time I did it I couldn't get out of it and had to do a complete re-install of windows.
The only reason I experimented with it to begin with was to see if I could actually do it as per instructions given here by somebody.

In ALL the years of using windows, I have needed "safe boot" maybe 2 times, and couldn't resolve the issues anyway in using it.

My theory is stay out of trouble.
Quit messing with your config, settings, and system files.
Stay away from sites you KNOW are risky, and quit replying to emails from people you don't know.
TIP: Do not ever click a link from a site you are not completely satisfied is safe, especially social networking sites or emails from unknown senders that peaked your curiosity.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2018

Re: Fred's caution about clicking on a link: It has become relatively common for web sites and emails to be "spoofed". That is, the source of the email/web site may be falsified. Don't ever click on a link unless you have *separately* determined that you are expecting the link. If you're not sure, contact the sender to verify the link.

Posted by:

David Scanland
17 Nov 2018

How to turn on F8
Here is the caveat:
You have to do this on a good system because you have to get to the system DOS prompt under administrator
turn on:
bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

turn off
bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy standard

then you should be able to use like every version of windows.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2018

I agree with Don, how do you get into safe mode when you can't even start W10? After the last W10 update my hard drive is in constant state of operation. I need to get into Safe-Mode to find out what it is doing.

Posted by:

17 Nov 2018

You can also enable the F8 key with the following command...
Open an elevated command prompt, or a command prompt at boot.
Type "bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes" (no quotes). Press the Enter key.
Close the command prompt window, and the computer will be ready to use the F8 key (Advanced Options) at the next bootup attempt.

Posted by:

Bob K
17 Nov 2018

Frank D: "If you should be able to get into Safe Mode, how then do you get out of it?"


Have you ever heard of Google?

Posted by:

gabriel narvaez
19 Nov 2018

To get windows 10 into safe mode is so easy, just keep shift key down at booting time, that is all!

Posted by:

30 Nov 2018

THAK YOU FOR THE REMINDER! I've worked on PCs everyday for the last 30 years (or so). I already knew everything you pointed out and still I was doing the "10 setps" aproach every time I needed Safe Mode. And again. So, bless you for reminding me what I already knew, but some how did not know!!

Posted by:

Peter Oh
30 Nov 2018

"To get windows 10 into safe mode is so easy, just keep shift key down at booting time, that is all!"

Holly molly - after all the blather can it really be that easy?

No I am not game to try, at least until MS stops foisting improperly tested Win 10 updates on us.

Posted by:

03 Dec 2018

It should be easier, like the F8 option of old.
Your method works BUT DO NOT USE A PIN to log into Windows (instead of a password)
Booting in safe mode does not recognize the PIN for login (why not!?) and if you can't remember the password after a year of using a PIN you have locked yourself out of your own machine. No way to get back into it without a lot of work.

Posted by:

John Crudden
03 Dec 2018

Go to and look for "How to fix safe mode Windows 10 F8 menu missing". It will show you how to "Include Safe Mode in your Boot Menu Permanently. This works for me every boot. Select Win 10 boot or Safe Mode boot. GREAT FIX!

Posted by:

06 Dec 2018

Thank you all for your tips..
I've been on Windows since windows 98.. Done very helpful people I've met through message boards have taught me the how-to's if fixing a computer.
Which was oh so easy, but Windows 10 is a different monster.
So reading all the tips after wonderful
Thank you all

Posted by:

Lisa VanDenBerghe
09 Dec 2018

i just realized i do not have a "search tab" does that mean i have something wrong with start up?

Posted by:

26 Mar 2020

no sleep select at shut down

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