What is Windows Safe Mode?

Windows Safe Mode

If your computer is having issues booting up with Windows OS, Safe Mode is a tool that can help bypass this issue. Safe Mode will still give you access to limited Windows features to help fix any problems you may be experiencing.

Windows Safe Mode serves a number of diagnostic purposes. Users are most familiar with the Normal Windows startup mode, but this article will explain what Windows Safe Mode is and how it works.

What is Windows Safe Mode?

Windows Safe Mode is a startup mode that only permits vital system programs and functions to run when the system is booted up. Safe Mode intends to provide an environment for the user or a trained software professional to fix problems that are preventing the OS from booting up normally.

If a computer or PC is malfunctioning due to problematic drivers or crashing due to a malware infection, Safe Mode might be the user’s only way to boot up their computer. For these and many other reasons, Safe Mode is considered a key Windows resource.

In Windows Safe Mode, the PC starts with the bare minimum assortment of functions and drivers. In this mode, non-essential Windows functions and third-party drivers or software will not load. This is a real benefit, as it allows the user to remove harmful software such as malware or viruses without unnecessary software or functions interfering in the process. Safe Mode is also a reliable environment for using several Windows OS troubleshooting features and for rolling back troublesome drivers.

Safe Mode provides a non-distracting, essentialized environment where the user or a trained software troubleshooter can seek out the root causes for the Windows OS malfunctioning. The Windows OS can be booted up normally once the problems causing the original malfunction are corrected.

What are the Differences between Safe Mode and Standard Booting?

There are several notable differences between Windows booting up in Safe Mode as opposed to its standard booting. As mentioned before, the majority of drivers won’t be loaded in Safe Mode, including device drivers that allow Windows to interact with hardware such as scanners and printers. The modern graphics mode supported by today’s computers won’t work in Safe Mode; instead, a Windows PC running in Safe Mode will use a standard VGA graphics mode.

The majority of normal system files and scripts won’t run, including the config.sys files and the autoexec.bat files. Windows Safe Mode loads the OS’s testing of its extended memory through the “/testmem:on” switch, a function normally performed through the config.sys script. The msdos.sys file is checked in Safe Mode to locate other Windows files. Once the OS locates the necessary files, it will load Safe Mode through the command “win /d:m.” If the search for the right Windows files is unsuccessful, the system will bring up the command prompt.

Windows uses the batch file “systems.cb” to boot in Safe Mode, as opposed to using the standard system.ini file under normal conditions. The “systems.cb” file then loads Virtual Device Drivers (VxDs), allowing Windows to interact with various standard parts of the PC. Afterward, it loads the normal system ini.file, the Registry settings and the win.ini file. Windows Safe Mode appears on computer and PC screens in 16 colors and with a resolution of 640 x 480. “Safe Mode” also appears in each corner of the computer screen.

When is Windows Safe Mode Helpful?

Generally, the Windows OS normally launches startup programs, boots all services designed to load on startup and loads any installed hardware drivers. Safe Mode is essentially the opposite of the normal booting process. It uses only basic video drivers, producing a low-resolution screen. Very little hardware supports operate in Safe Mode, and only the most necessary of services will run. This means that third-party programs that the user usually wants to load on startup will not load in this mode.

Windows Safe Mode is most helpful for troubleshooting issues that can’t be solved in the normal mode of the Windows OS, or for when Windows will not start normally. If the user’s PC or computer is left with blue screens from faulty hardware drivers or computer viruses or malware, Safe Mode provides the user with a means of fixing these issues. It can also be used to remove security systems that were unintentionally installed.

Whenever the user experiences a problem that can’t be fixed normally, or if the PC is crashing or malfunctioning, then Safe Mode is the best means of fixing these issues.

How Do You Start Windows Safe Mode Manually?

If there’s a serious enough problem with your PC’s Windows OS, its Safe Mode will automatically boot up. There are also ways to manually boot Safe Mode if there is an issue that needs to be resolved.

For Windows 7 and earlier: As the computer boots, press the F8 key before the Windows OS loading screen and after the BIOS screen initially loads.

For Windows 8: Starting Safe Mode requires holding down the Shift key while clicking the power menu’s Restart option through the Charms bar menu or using the login screen.

For Windows 10: In the Start Menu’s “Power Options” submenu, click Restart while holding down the Shift key. Afterward, click “Troubleshoot,” then “Advanced Options,” “Startup Settings” and finally “Restart.” Once the Startup Settings screen appears, press the “4” key to start Safe Mode.

Fixing PC Issues in Windows Safe Mode

Once Windows has successfully booted up in Safe Mode, there are many troubleshooting functions and regular system maintenance tasks that can be performed:

Malware Scan: In Safe Mode, an antivirus application can scan for malware and effectively remove such problems in a Windows PC. Some malware is designed to interrupt and prevent antivirus application attempts to remove it under normal conditions. Safe Mode provides a more effective environment to remove harmful elements stemming from computer malware. PC users without some sort of antivirus software should be able to locate and implement this service while in Safe Mode. An offline malware scan with Windows 10’s Windows Defender can also help to remove malware.

System Restore: System Restore can restore an OS to an earlier, “known-good” configuration that worked. It’s very useful in situations in which a user is dealing with an unstable or crashing system. Sometimes it won’t be possible to run a System Restore due to OS problems affecting its normal operations. Safe Mode may provide a safe-haven to effectively run a System Restore.

Uninstallation of Recently Installed Software: Recently installed software can sometimes cause a PC to unexpectantly crash or blue-screen. Through the Windows Safe Mode, problematic new software can be uninstalled through Window’s Control Panel, returning an OS to full functionality.

Updating Hardware Drivers: Some other issues can stem from unstable drivers that need to be updated. In these cases, the driver updates should be downloaded and installed from the manufacturer’s website using Safe Mode. Doing this in Safe Mode prevents the unstable hardware driver from interfering with the hardware update.

Check Safe Mode for Crashes: There are cases in which a PC will crash while even in Safe Mode. A computer hardware problem is a likely cause of this occurrence. Windows Safe Mode can be a useful means of discovering hardware issues impacting computers.

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