Everything you need to know about starting Windows 10 securely and returning to normal boot.

The chances of your Windows machine falling short in terms of performance will always be present, despite Microsoft’s attempts to manage the host of issues that could arise with your operating system, or in security.

Such issues can manifest in a number of ways – from taking a lengthy time boot up, to concerns over whether malware may be severely hampering performance. In any case, your best bet in fixing the issue lies in accessing Windows’ safe mode; starting up your computer in a limited environment to get to the root of the issue.

Safe mode starts up your device with only what is necessary to keep it running, and as a result considerably limits functionality. This may include disabling network access, although it can, on an optional basis, be turned back on.

This key tool has been with operating systems since Windows ’95, and although the way you boot your machine up in safe mode has changed, its core purpose hasn’t. Whether your device doesn’t feel quite right, or it’s suffering from a known issue, safe mode is your the most effective tool you can deploy to ascertaining any underlying problems.

What is Safe Mode?

Only the most important files and drivers needed to launch Windows 10 (or earlier) will be activated upon booting up computer in safe mode, so no third-party apps, cosmetic features or other tools will be present when you gain access to your desktop.

This stripping down process is done so you can determine which application may be causing the issues you’re experiencing, or whether the operating system itself is at the heart of the problem.

Standard safe mode restricts access to the internet, while safe mode with networking enables you to access the web via either Wi-Fi or an ethernet cable. However, safe mode with networking should be avoided if you believe your issue lies with a malware, or virus, as data may be fed back to the attackers, or the bug may spread across a network.

Why launch in Safe Mode?

Starting in Safe Mode can be helpful if, for some reason, you can’t start Windows normally, and can be a good place to start if you want to begin troubleshooting potential problems. For example, if you suspect your computer is infected with malware or has unstable hardware drivers that are causing those terrifying ‘blue screens of death’, Safe Mode can help you fix this because those things aren’t loaded the way they are when Windows starts normally.

Basically, if there’s a problem with your computer and you can’t seem to fix it, or it seems unstable and keeps crashing or blue-screening, you should drop into Safe Mode to fix it as it’s the most protected environment, and can help prevent any further damage from happening.

Although it may not troubleshoot everything, it’s a sure-fire way to stop any malicious activity getting worse or moving beyond your own PC. If it’s possible to fix your computer, it’s always safer to try to do so using Safe Mode.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

There are two ways to launch Safe Mode on your computer – either via the settings menu, if you can access it, or when you reach the sign-in screen.

Via the Settings menu

From your Start Screen, press the Windows button and the power button on your keyboard to open the Settings Menu using a shortcut. However, if that doesn’t work, you can enter the menu by selecting the Start button at the bottom of your screen and then navigating to settings.

Once you’re in the settings menu, select Update & security and then Recovery. When the screen throws up the advanced settings, select Restart now.

Your computer will now restart, presenting the Choose an optionscreen. From here, select Troubleshoot – Advanced Options – Startup Settings, then Restart.

Your PC will reboot again and this time, you’ll be able to choose to start up in either Safe Mode (option 4, or select it by pressing F4) or Safe Mode With Networking (option 5; tap F4 if you can’t choose it manually).

Via the sign-in screen

If you’ve just started up your PC to find it’s not working correctly, you can also reboot using Safe Mode when you arrive at the sign-in screen.

To do this, hold down the Shift button on your keyboard, then select Power and Restart. When your computer reboots, it should open up the same Choose an option screen, as is the case when you restart your computer in Safe Mode via the settings menu.

Once again, select Restart from the Startup Settings menu that you’ll find if you select Troubleshoot; then select Advanced Options and choose either option 4 or press F4 on your keyboard to boot up in Safe Mode, or option 5 (F5) if you need to access the internet in Safe Mode.

When to call a professional

Once you’re running Safe Mode, you can start to investigate the problems you’re experiencing with your computer and try to fix them.

However, if you’re not confident trying to fix the issue yourself, it’s always best to call in professional help either from your IT department or a third-party company to make sure you don’t damage your PC permanently.

If your computer is presenting the black screen of death and you’re unable to do anything at all, hit CTRL, ALT, DELETE to bring up the logout screen, select Restart and ensure you press down the Shift button to take you to the Choose an option screen, from which you can select Safe Mode.

How to use msconfig to launch Safe Mode

If you would rather launch Safe Mode using the command line rather than going through the rather time-consuming steps above, you can instead launch msconfig from the Start Screen by typing it in, then choosing Launch System Configuration from the list of options. Next, select Boot.

When the menu pops up, tick the Safe Boot box and choose which variation of Safe Mode you want to boot up in. Click OK and hey presto! Your Windows 10 machine will start up in Safe Mode.

How to get to the old Windows 7 Advanced Options screen

If you’re used to using older versions of Windows, you may want to use the older Advanced Boot Options that are no longer visible in Windows 10.

To do this, you’ll need to create a bootable USB flash drive or DVD, which you’ll need to do on another computer if your machine isn’t working. It’s a good idea to have one already made up though, just in case you experience problems in future.

To access the legacy Advanced Options from this bootable drive, pop the USB drive or DVD into your machine and boot from it (you may have to adjust the BIOS boot settings), select your language and when you arrive at the Repair your computer page, choose TroubleshootAdvanced Options and Command Prompt.

Now, type in the disk destination (such as c:) and press enter. Now, type in bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy followed by enter, then type exit and return to quit the Command Prompt. Remove the USB or DVD and when you reboot your computer, it will use the old-school boot. Tap F8 to get to the Advanced Options where you can choose to boot up in Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, Safe Mode with Command Prompt or any other available option.

How to exit Windows 10 in Safe Mode

Once you’re in Safe Mode and, hopefully, have corrected the problem with your computer, you’ll want to test it’s worked. To do this, you’ll need to exit from Safe Mode. You can do this once again using msconfig. Head to the Start Menu and type in msconfig to bring up the System Configuration menu.

Go to the Boot option at the bottom of the screen, untick Safe Boot, select apply and OK. you may be asked to reboot for the changes to take effect, or just restart manually to relaunch your computer in normal mode.

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