Windows 10 - Getting into Safe Mode

How to restart Windows 10 - and how to activate and use Safe Mode?

If you have used Windows 10 for a while, you may have noticed that the "old ways" of booting into Safe Mode no longer work. By that, I mean trying things like pressing the F8 or the Shift + F8 keys on your keyboard while booting.

Let's take a closer look and see all the ways you can get into Safe Mode in Windows 10:

Problems with your PC? Try a restart

The usual [F8] key method no longer works  — it’s been disabled to speed up boot times.

Restart Windows 10 normally

1. Using the Start menu

This is the way to restart Windows 10 that every user should know about. Simply open the Start menu, click the Power button and select Restart.

Restart Windows 10 using the Start menu

 

2. Using Tablet mode

You can also restart Windows 10 in Tablet mode, without using the Start menu. Turn on Tablet mode by opening the Action Centre — click the speech bubble in the Notification Area and click the Tablet mode button.

Look at the bottom left of the screen, just above the Start button, and you’ll see a Power button. Click it to see the usual Sleep, Shut down and Restart options.

Restart Windows 10 using Tablet mode

 

3. From the login screen

You can also restart Windows 10 from the login screen, which you can access instantly by pressing the [Windows] + [L] keys on the keyboard. Click the login background image to display the usual username and password request, but now click the Power icon at the bottom right of the screen.

Be sure to save any open documents before restarting in this way, although Windows 10 should remind you before going any further.

Restart Windows 10 from the login screen

 

Restart Windows 10 in Safe Mode

1. Press [Shift]

If you can access any of the Power options described above, you can also restart in Safe Mode by holding down the [Shift] key on the keyboard when you click Restart.

 

2. Using the Start menu

If you can open the Start menu, you can restart in Safe Mode by selecting Start > Settings cog > Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced start-up > Restart now.

Shift + Restart to enter Windows 10 Safe Mode

 

3. But wait, there’s more…

With both options 1 and 2 above, there are still some additional steps to complete before getting to Windows 10 Safe Mode.

When Windows 10 restarts, you’ll see a series of blue screens, starting with Choose an option.

From here you need to select Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Start-up Settings > Restart and then press either the [4] or [5] key on your keyboard to restart in Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking (if you need internet access).

Windows 10 startup options

Windows 10 Troubleshooting

Windows 10 Restart options

Windows 10 Startup settings

 

4. By pressing [F8]

Yes, we know we said this no longer works in Windows 10, but you can manually reactivate it. Here’s how.

Right-click the Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu that appears (this isn’t the usual Start menu).

Click the Yes button if prompted to allow the app to make changes to your PC.

Windows 10 command prompt

Type — or copy and paste — the following into the Command Prompt window and press the [Return] key:

bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

You should now be able to enter Safe Mode when restarting Windows 10 by pressing [F8].

Windows 10 enable F8 startup

How to Stop a Safe Mode Loop

If Windows is stuck in a sort of "Safe Mode Loop," preventing you from starting in normal mode again, try this:

  1. Start Command Prompt from outside of Windows, the process outlined in Steps 1 and 2 above. 
  2. Once Command Prompt is open, execute this command:
    bcdedit /deletevalue {default} safeboot
    
  3. Assuming the command  was successfully executed, restart your computer and Windows should then start normally.

How to Use Command-line to Restart Windows

You can also restart Windows through the Command Prompt using the shutdown command.

  1. Open Command Prompt.
  2. Type this command and press Enter:
​shutdown /r

The "/r" parameter specifies that it should restart the computer instead of just shut it down.

The same command can be used in the Run dialog box, which you can open by pressing the WIN (Windows) key with the R key.

Something like this will restart the computer in 60 seconds:

shutdown /r -t 60


Why using F8 or Shift + F8 does not work when using a modern computer with UEFI BIOS and fast SSD's?

In Windows 7, you were able to press F8 jbefore Windows got loaded, to open the Advanced Boot Options window, where you could choose to start Windows 7 in Safe Mode.

The problem for Windows 10 is that most times, Shift+F8 and F8 doesn't work, even though they are correct commands, and are supported by Windows 10.

This official blog post from Microsoft (Designing for PCs that boot faster than ever before) explains that this behavior is caused by their work in creating a very fast boot procedure (true for both Windows 8 & 10). To quote Steve Sinofsky:

“Windows 8 has a problem – it really can boot up too quickly. So quickly, in fact, that there is no longer time for anything to interrupt boot. When you turn on a Windows 8 PC, there's no longer long enough to detect keystrokes like F2 or F8, much less time to read a message such as “Press F2 for Setup.” For the first time in decades, you will no longer be able to interrupt boot and tell your PC to do anything different than what it was already expecting to do.”

If you have modern PC with a UEFI BIOS and a fast SSD drive, it is not possible to interrupt the boot procedure with your key presses. On older PCs, with a classic non-UEFI BIOS and a slower hard drive (not SSD), pressing these keys may still work.

Conclusion

Windows 10 is now operating system with a fast boot process. Safe Mode might not work the way it did in older Windows operating systems, but the above methods are possible for you to use.