Restarting Windows 10 and Windows 8 in the safe mode

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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 and 10, you are supposed to be able to press the Shift+F8 key combination to achieve a similar effect, 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 does not want to recognize your Shift+F8 keys, don't despair: there is another way. Wait for Windows 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 to keep booting into the safe mode every time, without going through the long sequence of the option screens every time? (You may need to do that if you are troubleshooting some especially difficult case of a misbehaving program). Here is how to set it up. First, open the System Configuration utility of Windows (you can find it easily on the Start menu, under Windows Administrative Tools). 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.

Yet another solution to this problem is to force Windows 8 and Windows 10 to behave in the same way as Windows 7. To do that, run Command Prompt "As Administrator", and enter the following command:

bcdedit /set {current} bootmenupolicy legacy

This should make Windows 8 and Windows 10 display the old-style black-and-white boot menu, instead of the fancy new one.

An update: If you have one of the latest builds of Windows 10, then it probably uses PowerShell instead of the regular command prompt. In such a case, the above command will NOT work! It must be entered into the "old" command prompt window, not into the PowerShell one.

Unfortunately, Windows 10 does not offer an easy way to open the "old" command prompt. Here is the trick that should get you started:

Click on the Windows Start button, and while the Start menu is displayed, start typing "cmd" (without the quotes). As soon as you type it, it should show Command Prompt as the best match. Press the Ctrl and Shift keys simultaneously, and while keeping them depressed, press the Enter key. This should launch the "old" command prompt "as administrator".

Good luck!

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  1. 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. @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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. Same exact problem as CB Whitt…Followed all directions. All screens appeared as they should but when the Startup Settings menu appeared asking to select F1-F9 or corresponding number it simply will not respond as it should. Every single time I enter either a function key or corresponding number it takes me back to logging on in normal startup mode. Like CB Whitt I am attempting to access safe mode with networking or menu option 5.

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