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How To Force Windows To Restart in Safe Mode

...and How To Stop a "Safe Mode Loop"

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There are a number of situations that could make it incredibly difficult to start Windows in Safe Mode. This is especially frustrating because whatever reason you have for needing to access Safe Mode is itself probably very frustrating!

For example, in Windows 8, Safe Mode is accessed from Startup Settings, which itself is accessed from the Advanced Startup Options menu. Unfortunately, Startup Settings only appears as an option in Advanced Startup Options if you access it from Windows 8. In other words, Windows 8 needs to be working properly before you can boot into Safe Mode, which you only really need to use if Windows 8 isn't working properly.

True, Advanced Startup Options (and thus Startup Settings and Safe Mode) do automatically appear during Windows startup problems, but the lack of easy from-outside-of-Windows access is a little troubling.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista have some less commonly occurring situations that make getting to Safe Mode nearly impossible but they do happen.

Fortunately, there is a way to force Windows to start in Safe Mode if you can't get to Startup Settings in Windows 8, or the F8 menu (Advanced Boot Options) in Windows 7 and Vista, or even if you can't access Windows at all.

See How Do I Start Windows in Safe Mode? for the traditional method(s) of accessing Safe Mode.

Note: A kind of "reverse" of this trick also works to stop Windows from starting in Safe Mode. If Windows continually boots directly to Safe Mode and you can't make it stop, take a look at the tutorial below and then follow the advice in Safe Mode Loop at the bottom of the page.

Difficulty: Moderate

Time Required: Forcing Windows to restart in Safe Mode (or making it stop starting in Safe Mode) will probably take several minutes, at most.

Here's How:

  1. Open Advanced Startup Options in Windows 8, if you're using that operating system. Since you can't start Windows properly, use method 4, 5, or 6 outlined in that tutorial.

    With Windows 7 or Windows Vista, start System Recovery Options using your installation media or a system repair disc. Unfortunately, this process doesn't work with Windows XP.

    Note: If you want to force or stop Safe Mode from starting, and you actually can access Windows properly, you don't need to follow the procedure below. See the much easier How To Start Windows in Safe Mode Using System Configuration process.
     
  2. Open Command Prompt.

    Advanced Startup Options (Windows 8): Tap or click on Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, and finally Command Prompt.

    System Recovery Options (Windows 7/Vista): Click on the Command Prompt shortcut.
     
  3. With Command Prompt open, execute the correct bcdedit command as shown below based on which Safe Mode option you'd like to start:

    Safe Mode:
    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal
    
    Safe Mode with Networking:
    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot network
    
    Safe Mode with Command Prompt:
    bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal
    bcdedit /set {default} safebootalternateshell yes
    
    Tips: Be sure to type whatever command you choose exactly as shown and then execute it using the Enter key. Spaces are very important! The { and } brackets are the ones above the [ and ] keys on your keyboard. Two separate commands are required to start Safe Mode with Command Prompt so be sure to execute them both.
     
  4. A properly executed bcdedit command should return a "The operation completed successfully" message.

    If you see "The parameter is incorrect", or "The set command specified is not valid", or "...is not recognized as an internal or external command...", or a similar message, check Step 3 again and make sure you executed the command properly.
     
  5. Close the Command Prompt window.
     
  6. In Windows 8, tap or click on Continue.

    In Windows 7 and Vista, click the Restart button.
     
  7. Wait while your computer or device restarts.
     
  8. Once Windows starts, log in as you normally do and use Safe Mode however you were planning.

    Important: Windows will continue to start in Safe Mode every time you reboot unless you undo what you did in Step 3. The easiest way to do that is not by executing more commands, but via System Configuration. See How To Start Windows in Safe Mode Using System Configuration and follow steps 8 through 11 in that tutorial.

Safe Mode Loop

If Windows is stuck in a sort of "Safe Mode Loop," preventing you from starting in normal mode again, and you've tried the instructions I gave in the Important call-out from Step 8 above but haven't been successful, 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 it was successfully executed (see Step 4 above), restart your computer and Windows should start then normally.

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