How do you restart Windows in safe mode to fix problems?

Learn how to start the PC in Safe Mode - you might need it one day

Got a virus? Restart in safe mode and run antivirus software. Got spyware or adware? Run a removal tool in safe mode. Got a problem? Fix it in safe mode. Starting in safe mode used to be easy, but how do you start Windows 8 in safe mode?

Restart Windows in Safe Mode to fix problems

Safe mode is a special mode of Windows that is very useful for fixing problems. It is a minimal version of Windows that avoids loading many of the usual programs and drivers that load in the background when the computer is started normally.

This makes it easier to solve problems, remove software, viruses, spyware, adware and other things.

If safe mode is so useful and used so often to fix problems, why does Microsoft make it so hard to get to with Windows?

Up until Windows 7, all you needed to do is to press the F8 key a couple of times just after switching on the computer. If you hit the key just at the right time, a text menu would appear and you could select safe mode from a list of startup options.

In Windows 8 and then Windows 10, Microsoft changed the way you get into safe mode. It is still there, but the old technique of pressing F8 just after powering on will not work. If you need safe mode to fix a problem, here is how to get to it in Windows 10 and 8.

(There are minor differences between Windows 8 and 10 that aren't worth mentioning. It's basically the same procedure.)

Shift+Restart for safe mode

Start the computer and when the lock screen appears, press a key to get to the log-in screen. Hold down the Shift key and click the power button, then click Restart. Let go of Shift.

You can do this when Windows is up and running too. Click the Start button, click the power icon, and then Shift+click Restart.

 Windows restart options

Choose a startup option

When the computer restarts, a completely different screen appears like this.

 Windows 8.1 safe mode

Troubleshoot problems

Click the Troubleshoot tile and new troubleshooting options are displayed.

 Windows 8.1 startup options

Advanced options

Notice in the previous screenshot and the next one, that there are options to reset the PC and use System Restore. To get into safe mode though, we need to click the Advanced options tile and more options appear.

 Windows 8.1 startup options

Start-up settings

Click the Start-up Settings tile on the right. We're getting there honest! There are multiple steps to get into safe mode these days and you need to click the right options.

Now there is a list of restart options, but a single Restart button. Click it.

 Windows 8.1 startup options

Restart options

It looks confusing because when you get this far there is a Restart button. This does not restart the PC. Not yet anyway. It shows a list of options for restarting the PC.

 Windows 8.1 startup options

The screen might flash and then the startup menu is displayed that you will be familiar with if you have used safe mode with previous versions of Windows. Press the 4 key to restart the computer in safe mode.

4) Safe Mode is the best mode to start in because it loads the minimum of software. If you need to access the internet then press 5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking.

There are a lot of steps to get to safe mode and it is useful to remember them. You never know when safe mode might be needed.

Pressing Esc abandons this menu and starts Windows normally, but if you do start in safe mode, just restart Windows to return to normal mode.

Safe mode runs more slowly than normal, so expect the computer to take longer to start up and then be a bit slow. This is expected.

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