How-to: Start in Safe Mode in Windows 10

Troubleshooting Windows used to go straight to the function keys. F8 would interrupt startup and boot into Safe Mode. Not any more. Here’s how-to start in Safe Mode in Windows 10.

Safe Mode doesn’t load most of the drivers, only a few of the native ones for basic graphics or networking. It allows you to troubleshoot the software stack when the machine locks, blue-screens, or otherwise misbehaves. Windows 10 now has the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) for accessing Safe Mode as an option.

WinRE lives on the protected, reserved partition of your hard drive created by Windows 10. This is specifically so that it can bypass the normal startup route when there’s a problem. It is more robust than the old method and contains essentially the same options for troubleshooting as before.

If Windows is already running, go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery, scroll to Advanced Startup and then click Restart Now.

If Windows won’t start a desktop session but you can access the sign-in screen, then click the Power icon in the lower right corner; hold down the Shift key as you click Restart to force the re-boot into Safe Mode.

If Windows crashes before the sign-in screen or when the desktop initialises, use the device’s power switch to force a restart. After three failures to boot normally, the Windows Recovery Environment should start automatically at the next restart.

Once in the Windows Recovery Environment, from the options menu, select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings. The next screen allows you to select further options. Choose Restart to display the classic startup menu containing three entries for Safe Mode, which includes Safe Mode with Networking and Safe Mode with Command Prompt.

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