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How to boot Windows in Safe Mode

Starting your computer in Safe Mode is a handy way to diagnose common issues with your PC, including unwanted malware and apps that pose a risk to your security. There are many ways to enter Safe Mode in Windows 10, whether you're booting up or restarting the system. Read on to discover how, and when, to use this essential Windows feature.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

There are two main ways to boot your computer in Windows 10 Safe Mode. If your computer loads the sign-in screen, you can boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode from startup. If you only get a blank screen when you open up your computer, you can try the instructions to booting to Safe Mode from a blank screen.

Steps for starting Safe Mode from the sign-in screen:

  1. Restart your computer.
  2. On the sign-in screen, select 'Power' > 'Restart' while holding down the Shift key.
    CCleaner boot Windows in Safe Mode
  3. Your computer will restart again but this time will load an options screen. Select 'Troubleshoot' > 'Advanced options' > 'Startup Settings' > 'Restart'.
    Boot Windows in Safe Mode
  4. Your computer will restart for a third time and display another list of options, including the option to start your PC in Safe Mode. Follow the instructions based on how you’d like to use your computer:

    a) Hold down F4 or 4 to boot in Safe Mode.
    b) Hold down F5 or 5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking (if you’d like to have internet access).

Steps for starting Safe Mode from a blank screen:

  1. Hold down the Windows logo key (normally between CTRL + ALT on your keyboard) at the same time as pressing Ctrl, Shift + B. If you’re running Windows 10 on a tablet, you’ll need to press the increase volume and decrease volume buttons together three times within a two-second period.
  2. You should see the screen dim or flutter and hear a beep, which means that Windows is trying to refresh. 

Check your connections

If you tried booting to Safe Mode from a blank screen but nothing happened, there might be a connection problem with your PC or display. Here are some things to try:

If you’re using a desktop PC:

  • Make sure your display is fully plugged in and turned on.
  • Ensure that your monitor is turned on and set to the correct input.
  • A change in driver can cause video to be sent to a different output on your PC. Try switching the cable between your computer and monitor to one that uses a different output type. For example, if they were connected with a VGA cable, try using a HDMI or Displayport cable instead. Check your monitor’s and computer’s documentation to see what output types they support.
  • If there is a problem with your computer’s video card driver, your system may default to using the integrated graphics on your processor, which will output through the motherboard. If possible, try switching your monitor cable between the motherboard’s video output and the back of the video card. 

If you’re connected to an external monitor using a laptop or tablet:

  • If it’s in a docking station, try removing it temporarily.
  • Check that the external monitor is plugged in and turned on.
  • Check for damaged cables (DVI, VGA, HDMI, Thunderbolt, DisplayPort), loose connections, or faulty adapters (such as DVI-to-VGA).
  • If you’re using multiple displays, try projecting video to a different monitor. Press the Windows logo key + P, select a display, and then press Enter.

How to restart Windows 10 in Safe Mode

If you’re signed into your system profile, you can simply reboot into Safe Mode from the settings menu. Unlike some previous Windows versions, there is no need to use a Safe Mode command prompt in Windows 10.

Steps for starting Safe Mode from the Settings menu:

  1. Open your computer’s Settings menu using one of the two ways below:p

    a) Click the 'Start' button in the bottom left of your screen, then choose 'Settings'.
    Or alternatively:
    b) Hold the Windows logo key on your keyboard and press I at the same time.

    Starting Safe Mode from the Settings menu
  2. Choose 'Update & Security'.
  3. Select 'Recovery' from the left navigation. 
  4. Click the 'Restart now' button under Advanced startup.
    Boot Windows in Safe Mode
  5. Your computer will restart again but this time will load an options screen. Select 'Troubleshoot' > 'Advanced options' > 'Startup Settings' > 'Restart'.
    Boot Windows in Safe Mode
  6. Your computer will restart for a third time and display another list of options, including the option to start your PC in Safe Mode. Follow the instructions based on how you’d like to use your computer:

    a) Hold down F4 or 4 to boot in Safe Mode.
    b) Hold down F5 or 5 to boot in Safe Mode with Networking (if you’d like to have internet access).

When you want to leave Safe Mode, simply restart your computer. When it boots up again you will be back to your normal Windows installation.

What is Safe Mode?

Safe Mode is a way of running your computer or mobile device that allows you to diagnose problems with your operating system. Unlike normal operating mode, a computer’s Safe Mode only loads the software it really needs, either ignoring (or running at a low resolution) any third-party programs or drivers you may have installed. It’s been a feature of Windows operating systems since 1995.

When to boot in Safe Mode

As a diagnostic tool, you typically only need to boot into Safe Mode when you want to troubleshoot a problem with your device or computer. This can come in particularly handy if you’ve exhausted other methods of fixing common issues with Windows 10.

If you encounter the problem that you’ve been having when you’re in Safe Mode, you’ll know that there is an issue with your device’s default settings and drivers. If you can’t replicate the issue in Safe Mode, then you’re safe to assume that the fault is with your device’s non-essential software and applications.

As so few features are loaded, booting up in Windows Safe Mode allows you to fix common issues - such as malware problems and unstable hardware drivers - without risking your whole system or network.

Another time you would boot in Safe Mode is if you have identified harmful third-party software. This is because the mode allows you to access the Control Panel and remove the software without allowing them to automatically run on startup, which could further infect or damage your computer or Windows device. Take a look at our guide to protecting your online privacy for tips to prevent such attacks.

We hope that helps! If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with support or you can tweet us (we're @Piriform).

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