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Windows Tip: How to Boot in Safe Mode

Safe Mode

Perhaps one of the more overlooked functions of Windows users is the Safe Mode. The Safe Mode is Windows’ diagnostic mode that loads Windows barebones sans the different startup sequences as those found in your normal boot sequence. Hence, it only loads the essential drivers like those for the keyboard, mouse and VGA adapters.

So what’s it for?

It’s a diagnostic mode that lets you repair Windows, like disabling some of the things that might be causing conflict in your system. For example, you installed outdated drivers for one of your devices causing Windows to crash continuously. Booting in Safe Mode will not load those outdated drivers preventing conflict. While in Safe Mode you can now disable the bad drivers. Or make other repairs. Finally, you can restart and load Windows normally.

Here are some ways to make Windows load on Safe Mode across versions.

Windows 95

  • As you computer starts, wait for the ‘Starting Windows 95…’. It’s in all text. This shows up even before any splash image appears.
  • Hit F8
  • It shows a few choices of start-up
  • Loading in Safe Mode will be a lot slower.
  • Don’t be afraid when your display shows up in low resolutions and with a few colors. This means you’re in Safe Mode, only basic VGA drivers are loaded.

Here’s one alternative:

  • Click on the Start Menu -> Shut Down
  • Choose Restart in MS-DOS mode
  • On the command line, type WIN /D:M and hit Enter

Windows 98 and ME

  • As your computer starts, press F8. Though some keyboards would require pressing the CTRL key or the Windows key. As for my experience, it has always been F8
  • Like in Windows 95, a menu will show up showing the different start-up modes. Choose Safe Mode or press F5
  • Again, Windows will load slowly and will ultimately display in low resolution. This means you’re on Safe Mode

An alternative is to enable the Startup menu in MSCONFIG:

  • Click on Start Menu -> Run
  • Type in msconfig and hit Enter
  • On the General, click Advanced
  • Check the Enable Startup Menu box
  • Accept all changes by clicking OK
  • Notice that a Startup Menu shows up the next time you run Windows

Windows 2000

  • As the computer starts, watch for the message ‘For troubleshooting and advanced startup’
  • Options for Windows 2000, press F8 at the bottom of the screen
  • Press F8 (the magic button!)
  • Type the number for the Safe Mode option.

Windows XP

  • As the computer starts right after the BIOS POST and just before you get the Windows XP logo with the Status Bar, press F8.
  • Choose Safe Mode.

Here’s an alternative for XP (I think the one for Windows 2000 is also similar):

  • Click on Start Menu -> Run
  • Type in msconfig and hit Enter
  • Click on the BOOT.INI tab. You’ll find an option called /SAFEBOOT. Check it.
  • Restart to see the changes.

NOTE: The trick here is to press F8. In my experience, it’s okay to press F8 continuously right after the BIOS POST (if yours has a beep, that’s the cue to start pressing F8.


Categories: Computers, Windows Tips


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