We show you how to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode on a PC or laptop. Unlike previous versions of Windows (XP, Vista and 7), you can’t just hit F8 when your PC is booting to see the advanced startup options, such as Safe Mode. It’s all changed with Windows 8 and 10, but we explain what you need to do and how to get back that old boot options screen by pressing F8.

When your PC has shut down incorrectly or refuses to boot up properly, Safe Mode is your friend. Safe Mode starts Windows with a limited set of files and drivers - no programs start automatically with Safe Mode, and your PC or laptop won't connect to the network so an infection is unlikely to get worse. This means you can find and solve problems with your PC, without endangering your hardware or data.

Updated 14 June 2016 on how to get out of Safe Mode - click here to jump to the update.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode

If you’re able to boot into Windows, it’s a simple case of going to the Start menu, clicking Settings near the bottom, then on Update and Security.

Choose Recovery, then Advanced startup. Click on Startup settings and then Restart now and when your computer reboots you will see some options.

Choose Troubleshoot and then Advanced options, Startup settings, Restart. Then pick from the list, in which Safe Mode should be no. 4.

How to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode

How to boot to Safe Mode in Windows 10: method 1

If you need Safe Mode or another advanced startup option, you’ve probably got a problem which is preventing Windows from booting in the first place. If that’s the case, then Windows 10 should automatically start in the recovery environment with a message similar to ‘Recovery. It looks like Windows didn't load correctly'. You should see the Troubleshoot option as in the image above.

Failing this, you can use another computer to download and create a bootable Windows 10 flash drive and use that to try to fix whatever is causing your boot problem. Also, don’t forget to follow our advice on fixing a PC that won’t boot.

How to start Windows 10 in Start Mode: method 2

If you're able to boot Windows normally, but still need to enter Safe Mode, you can skip the rather convoluted previous method by going to the Start screen and typing msconfig. (This also works in Windows 8.) Launch System Configuration from the list of search results, then select its Boot tab. On this screen (pictured below), you can check a box to enable Safe boot, with various different types of Safe Mode available below. Click Ok, then click Restart to boot your computer into Safe Mode.

Windows 8 System configuration

There is also an even easier way: at the Windows login screen, simply choose restart and hold down the Shift key. You will arrive at the windows with options to troubleshoot your system from which you can select to boot in Safe Mode.

Of course most people who need Safe Mode will already have a problem with their PC. If you are already logged in and can see only a black screen, hit CTRL, ALT, DEL to bring up the selection screen, and choose logout, restart. Then hold down the Shift key and you will be taken to the window via which you can choose Safe Mode.

How to get the old Advanced Boot Options in Windows 10

First, create the Windows 10 bootable USB flash drive or DVD mentioned in method 1. Boot from it (change your BIOS boot device settings if necessary) and then click through the initial language screen to get to the 'Repair your computer' link.

Choose the Troubleshoot option, then Advanced options, then Command Prompt.

How to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode

At the prompt, type c: and press Enter. This will change from the default X drive to your Windows drive. If you know Windows is installed on a drive with a different letter, use that instead.

Now type the following command: bcdedit /set {default} bootmenupolicy legacy and press Enter again.

Type exit and press Enter to quit out of the Command Prompt. You can now remove your bootable Windows 10 flash drive or DVD and turn your computer off.

When you next boot your PC, you can press F8 to get the Advanced Boot Options menu you once had in Windows 7. Just use the cursor keys to select the mode you want and press Enter.

How to start Windows 10 in Safe Mode with F8

How to get out of Safe Mode in Windows 10

To exit Safe Mode in Windows 10, you'll need to enter msconfig. You can do this by simply typing in msconfig or System Configuration in the Start Menu. Alternatively if it doesn't show up, click the Windows Key + R, or finding Run in your Start Menu and then type msconfig in the Run search box and hit enter.

Once you have msconfig open, navigate to the Boot tab at the top and untick Safe boot under Boot options. Click Apple and then OK - you'll be prompted to restart your machine to apply the changes. If you're not prompted manually restart the PC and you will now be out of Safe Mode.

Exit Safe Mode - msconfig