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Windows 8 and Windows 7 Safe Modes: How to enter and when to use them

Lincoln Spector | Dec. 5, 2014
No reader question today. Instead, I want to discuss Safe Mode, Windows' stripped-down, minimum-driver environment. For years now, there's been one quick way to enter Safe Mode--pressing F8. But that trick doesn't work for all Windows 8 PCs.

No reader question today. Instead, I want to discuss Safe Mode, Windows' stripped-down, minimum-driver environment. For years now, there's been one quick way to enter Safe Mode — pressing F8. But that  trick doesn't work for all Windows 8 PCs.

And even in older versions, it's not always the easiest form of entry.

Safe Mode gives you a low-resolution, visually ugly, feature-limited Windows environment useful for diagnostic and repair purposes. You wouldn't want to create a PowerPoint demonstration there, but if things are misbehaving, it can be a fruitful place to visit. For instance, if a program's uninstall routine keeps failing, it just might uninstall properly in Safe Mode.

[Have a tech question? Ask PCWorld Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector. Send your query to answer@pcworld.com.]

Among the things that standard Safe Mode cannot do is networking. However, because network and Internet access are needed for some diagnostic chores — such as malware scanning and updating drivers — Windows also provides an alternative Safe Mode with Networking environment.

The conventional way of entering Safe Mode still works in Windows 7 and Vista, and in some Windows 8 PCs. Boot the computer and start pressing and releasing F8 repeatedly. Once the Advanced Boot Options menu pops up, you can select Safe Mode or Safe Mode with Networking.

If that doesn't work, here's something specific to Windows 8:

Here's one more path to Safe Mode, and it works in Windows 7, 8, and Vista:

One problem with this method: When you're done and you reboot Windows, it will take you back into Safe mode. So while you're still in Safe Mode, launch msconfig and uncheck the Safe boot option.

 

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