What is Safe Mode & How to Boot into Safe Mode in Windows 7

In this article we're going to talk about Safe Mode in Windows 7. First, we'll discuss what Safe Mode is and how it works. Then we will go over methods of getting in and out of it, in Windows 7.

What is Safe Mode in Windows?

When told to enter Safe Mode, Windows basically only loads the barest essentials needed to function (a minimal set of drivers and services). You won't have access to anything but the core programs and functions of Windows, which doesn't include the drivers for your networking devices - meaning you usually cannot access the internet while in the standard Safe Mode.

While in Safe Mode, your screen will probably look pretty wonky and different than it usually does. This is because it has been set to run at the lowest possible graphics settings and the minimum resolution supported by Windows. In the case of Windows 7, we are talking about 800x600 pixels.

Also, you will notice that all four corners of the Desktop have "Safe Mode" written in text and the Windows Help and Support tool is loaded, explaining what Safe Mode is and how to use it.

Once again, please remember that Safe Mode will not load any third-party services or programs that were supposed to run at startup. Only the core services and functionality needed by Windows 7 to run.

Also, during the boot procedure, you won't see the boot load but a black screen displaying what drivers and services are loaded by Windows 7.

How to Boot into Safe Mode in Windows 7

There are a couple of different ways to go into safe mode. The first option is to use the System Configuration tool. Bring up the tool and go to the Boot tab. There you will find the Safe boot option.

Check the Safe boot entry, click OK and confirm whether you would like to restart now or later. The next time you boot into Windows 7, it will be using Safe Mode.

Note that this is somewhat permanent until you change it back. You will need to to return to the System Configuration tool, uncheck the Safe Boot option, hit OK and then restart your computer again in order to get back out of Safe Mode.

The other method for entering Safe Mode is for those situations in which you cannot boot your Windows 7 normally because of software issues. In order to do this, you basically hold down your F8 key while your computer is starting up, immediately after turning it on. Some systems may get a stuck key error for doing this, for those cases simply tap the F8 key rapidly instead of holding it down. This will bring up the Advanced Boot Options window, in which you are able to choose to boot in Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and Safe Mode with Command Prompt among several other options. Use the arrow keys to select one of these and hit Enter.

Please note that if you are unable to start your computer normally after installing new software or changing settings, you may want to go down and try the Last Known Good Configuration option before trying Safe Mode. Ideally, this will reboot your machine as it was before the problem program or option was put in place.

What do the different kinds of Safe Mode do?

You might have noticed that you do have a couple of options beyond plain old Safe Mode.

If you need the internet in order to update drivers or other programs, make sure to choose the "Safe Mode with Networking" option when initiating Safe Mode. This will load the drivers necessary to use your network card or modem so that you can access the internet or other networked computers while in Safe Mode.

Alternatively, if you prefer to use the Command Prompt, you'll want to use the "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" option so it will know to load the tools necessary to do this. The advanced users who use the Command Prompt probably already know why this is helpful, but it will basically allow anyone accustomed to using these to navigate the computer more quickly while using Safe Mode.

Now you can boot in all kinds of Safe Mode!

Congrats! Now you should know what to do if your computer's software or settings get screwy and you need to go in and fix them. Safe Mode can be a lifesaver for all sorts of embarrassing situations, and we'd love to hear any stories you have about using it!