How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

Wondering how to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode? If your operating system has been acting up, we walk you through three options to run it in Safe Mode

Choose an option screen with troubleshooting option selected
Image Credit: Microsoft
(Image: © Microsoft)

Knowing how to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode is an important trick to have up your sleeve for those times when your operating system decides to act up. While it's not designed to be used every day, the Safe Mode feature can be a real lifesaver when your computer either isn't working or won't start.

Regardless of whether you have the best computer of the best Windows laptop, being well versed with the ins and outs of Safe Mode is likely to come in handy at some point. Nearly every version of Windows has this feature and if you're running Windows 10 you can rest assured that you've definitely got access to Safe Mode.

If you're not familiar with Safe Mode, it's basically a way of disabling your drivers and files, leaving you with essentially a bare bones version of Windows 10. When you start Windows 10 in Safe Mode this you'll be disabling most of the features, slowing down the speed of your programs and eliminating internet access so you can figure out if any of the OS’ settings or drivers are the root cause of your problems. If you need to access the internet or devices on your network, you can however select “Safe Mode with Networking.”

When it comes to getting up and running in Safe Mode, you have three options to choose from. No matter which one you go with, they each will need you to get into the Advanced options of the Troubleshooting section of the Windows 10 Advanced startup tool.Thankfully, that’s the only part of the process with alternate ways of progressing. Continuing on in safe mode afterward all follow the same steps. 

Below, we walk you through exactly how to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode, including the different ways to access the Advanced startup tool and the various steps to boot in Safe Mode. For more great advice, check out our guide to how to use Windows 10, which has lots of helpful tips and tricks.

Accessing the Advanced startup tool through Windows Settings

Windows 10 has a quick and easy way to reach the Advanced startup tool by restarting your system to directly boot into it. If you’re already logged into Windows 10, you can perform this reboot by using the following steps:

Windows 10 toolbar

 Image Credit: TechRadar 
  • Step one: Open Windows Settings by pressing the Windows Key and selecting the Settings Gear Icon, or use the Windows Key+I keyboard shortcut.

Windows 10 settings screen

 Image Credit: TechRadar 
  • Step two: In the settings menu, select Update & Security, and then find and select Recovery in the side panel.

Windows 10 recovery screen

Image Credit: TechRadar
  • Step three: On the new screen, underneath the heading Advanced startup, press the “Restart now” button.

This will reboot your computer into the Advanced startup tool. You may also be able to reach this screen by pressing the Windows Key, typing “advanced startup” into the search bar, and selecting “change advanced startup options” from the search results.

  • Step four: Proceed to the instructions on how to boot into Safe Mode using the Advanced startup tool.

Accessing the Advanced startup tool from the Windows login screen

If you can’t reach the Advanced startup tool using the above method, or can’t log into Windows, then you may want to use this approach. You’ll need to be on the Windows sign-in screen for this to work, so either reboot your computer, or log out of Windows by pressing Windows Key+L.

  • Step one: From the Windows 10 sign-in screen, hold Shift and click on the power button in the bottom corner of the screen and select “Restart”.

This will restart your PC and boot into a menu with the option to open a troubleshooter where the Advanced startup options are.

  • Step two: Proceed to the instructions on how to boot into Safe Mode using the Advanced startup tool.

Accessing the Advanced startup tool from a failed startup

The easiest way to get into Safe Mode is to start with Windows 10 already running. However, if your system is misbehaving, that may not be an option. Fortunately, you can interrupt the startup process to reach the Advanced startup tool.

Begin with your PC powered down, or power it down by holding the power button until it turns off.

Finger hovering over keys on laptop

Image Credit: TechRadar
  • Step one: Power up the PC by pressing the power button, and as soon as the computer appears to be booting the operating system (it may show the Windows or device/motherboard manufacturer’s logo on your screen), hold the power button to shut it back down.
  • Step two: Repeat the previous power-on, power-off step two more times.
  • Step three: Power on your computer, this time allowing it to boot fully.

Your computer should now be booted into the Windows Recovery Environment.

  • Step four: Proceed to the instructions on how to boot into Safe Mode using the Advanced startup tool

How to boot into Safe Mode using the Advanced startup tool

The final set of steps to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode is to boot using the Advanced startup tool. If you followed any set of the above steps successfully, your Windows PC should have booted to a blue screen that says “Choose an option.”

Choose an option screen Windows 10

Image Credit: Microsoft (Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Step one: Select “Troubleshoot” from the list of options.

Windows 10 troubleshoot screen

 Image Credit: Microsoft  (Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Step two: On the new screen, select “Advanced options.”

Windows 10 advanced options screen

 Image Credit: Microsoft  (Image credit: Microsoft)
  • Step three: From the Advanced options page, find and select “Startup Settings.”

This will take you to a new screen that prompts you to restart your computer again.

  • Step four: After your computer has restarted, find and select Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking to boot your computer into Safe Mode.

And there you have it - you now know how to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode.

Mark Knapp

Over the last several years, Mark has been tasked as a writer, an editor, and a manager, interacting with published content from all angles. He is intimately familiar with the editorial process from the inception of an article idea, through the iterative process, past publishing, and down the road into performance analysis.