Restarting Windows 8 in the safe mode

Prior to Windows 8, the procedure of restarting Windows in the safe mode was relatively straightforward: you would restart the computer, and then you would keep pressing the F8 key, about once every half second, before Windows begins to boot. With a bit of luck, Windows would detect the F8 key and display the black-and-white start menu:

The black-and-white start menu on Windows 7
The safe mode options screen in Windows 7

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In Windows 8, you are supposed to be able to press the Shift+F8 key combination to achieve a similar effect (although you would not find the black-and-white start menu there), except that the window of opportunity for the Shift+F8 keys is much shorter now and it may take you a few restart attempts to press it at just the right time.

If Windows 8 does not want to recognize your Shift+F8 keys, don't despair: there is another way. Wait for Windows 8 to start as usual, and then open the menu that contains the Restart command, but don't select it yet. (You can usually get to this menu by moving the mouse into the top-right corner, wating for the "charms" to appear, selecting "PC Settings" and finally clicking on "Power".)

The Power menu of Windows 8
The Power menu of Windows 8

Now press the Shift key, and while keeping it depressed, click on Restart (and release the Shift key, as well.) In a few moments Windows should prompt you what to do next:

The Restart options of Windows 8
The Restart options of Windows 8

To continue booting in the safe mode, select the middle option, Troubleshoot, and be presented with another screen of options:

The Troubleshoot options of Windows 8
The Troubleshoot options of Windows 8

Select Advanced options there to see yet another screen of choices:

The Advanced startup options of Windows 8
The Advanced startup options of Windows 8

Select Startup settings there, and see yet another screen (are we still counting?)

The Startup settings screen of Windows 8
The Startup settings screen of Windows 8

Press Restart on this screen, and after a few seconds we should (almost) reach the destination: the screen that finally lets us select one of the safe mode options:

The screen of Windows 8 that offers the safe mode options
The screen of Windows 8 that offers the safe mode options

Choose the desired safe mode option, and after a few seconds Windows 8 should boot into the safe mode! Be prepared to see some things not as they used to be: in the safe mode, Windows loads only the most basic components, to keep the running processes to a minimum. The screen may be black, the desktop icons may be moved, and so on. You should see the text "Safe Mode" displayed in each corner of the desktop:

A part of the Windows 8 desktop in the safe mode
A part of the Windows 8 desktop in the safe mode

When you are done using the safe mode, just restart Windows, and it should boot into its normal mode, as usual, without any additional intervention from you.

What if you want Windows keep booting into the safe mode every time, without going through the long sequence of the option screens every time? Here is how to set it up. First, open the System Configuration utility of Windows: you can find it easily if you have StartFinity, just use it to select Programs - Administrative tools to find this command:

Using StartFinity to run the System Configuration utility
Using StartFinity to run the System Configuration utility

Select the Boot tab on the System Configuration screen, and then select the Safe boot box:

The Safe boot option on the System Configuration screen
The Safe boot option on the System Configuration screen

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Press OK, and you may be prompted to restart Windows. You can do it right away, or after some time, but from this point on, whenever you restart Windows, it should boot into the safe mode.

How to disable the automatic reboot in the safe mode that we've set up above? Open the System Configuration utility, and deselect the Safe boot option. Keep in mind, though, that if Windows is restarted in the safe mode, the StartFinity icon may not be loaded automatically for you, but you can still start it manually using the StartFinity tile on the Start Screen, and then navigate to the System Configuration command as described above.

Good luck!

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Comments:

  1. Beverly Stenger says:

    Just purchase Windows 8 as desk top wireless system. When I try to log in or use monitor, I get a message “Restarting”. Computer does not progress off this screen. Is there a function or key I should strike to help Computer move on the “Start Menu”? Please respond. Thank you.

    Beverly Stenger

  2. Megan says:

    bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy

  3. WinAbility Software says:

    @Beverly Stenger: it’s difficult to say what might be wrong with your computer without having a physical access to it, sorry. You may want to take it your local computer shop for repair.

  4. Jerry says:

    I just tried to do this on my laptop (restart in safe mode), but it said it had an error and now it just keeps restarting before it even gets to the login screen. Any clue why this might be or how I might fix it?

  5. WinAbility Software says:

    Jerry: it’s difficult to say what might be wrong with your laptop from the distance. You may want to try one of the troubleshooting or repair options that Windows offers and see if that helps. Good luck!

  6. CBWhitt says:

    Followed directions. All screens appeared but about getting to final screen to pick how I would like safe mode to start, key board will not respond. Instructions say to use F1-F9 keys of # keys. Neither works. What now? Want to start in Safe boot and Network.

  7. aastha says:

    I’ll try all above thing bt i cant get my real view of laptop. I still logged in as admin bt notifications shows that u r not logged in as admin..
    What to do now please help me

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