Safe Mode is a special, simplified version of Windows that will often allow you to start your PC up and run checks or repairs that you might not be able to perform under normal conditions. For instance, if a virus is affecting your computer, starting it in Safe Mode will let you run a scan while limiting potential damage.
There are two main versions of Safe Mode you may need to use. The first is just called Safe Mode, while the second is Safe Mode with Networking - this second one gives your computer internet access, while the first one doesn't.
What to do in Windows Safe Mode
From Safe Mode, you can run a scan with your security software, for example, or install and run a second malware scanner, such as Malwarebytes (see our guide to using Malwarebytes).
You can also uninstall software while logged into your PC in Safe Mode, or take steps to update your hardware drivers or carry out a full System Restore on your PC.
Windows 10 Safe Mode
Restart your PC then wait until you see the sign-in screen. Instead of signing in as usual, hold down Shift and click Power > Restart.
Your PC will restart, and present you with a new screen saying Choose an Option. Click Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Start-up Settings > Restart.
Your PC will restart again and present you with a number of options, including Safe Mode and Safe Mode with Networking.
Access Safe Mode via the Start button
If this method isn't working for you, from within Windows 10, click the Start Button then Settings. Click Update & Security > Recovery > Advanced Start-up > Restart now. This will take you to the Choose an Option screen mentioned above. Follow the remaining steps above.
Windows 7 Safe Mode
Switch your PC on and tap the F8 key repeatedly during the initial boot screens until you see the Advanced Boot Menu. Next, use your arrow keys to choose Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking from the list and press Enter.
Windows 8.1 Safe Mode
In some cases, holding the Shift key and tapping the F8 key repeatedly during the initial boot screens will open Windows 8.1’s recovery tools screen, but this isn’t guaranteed to work on all PCs.
If you are able to open and run Windows 8.1, you can reach the recovery tools screen by pressing the Windows key + I, then clicking the Power icon and, while holding down the Shift key, clicking Restart. The blue screen will give you three options – Continue, Troubleshoot or Turn off your PC.
Click Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart and, when a list of startup modes appears, press the F4 key to boot your PC into Safe Mode.