What is Safe Mode?

While it’s likely that you’ve heard about Windows’ Safe Mode, do you know what it is and what it’s used for? Do you want to learn more about it and what it does differently from normal Windows? What about the differences between the three Safe Modes available in Windows? For answers to all of these questions, read this article:

What is Safe Mode in a Windows PC?

Let’s start with the basics: What’s Safe Mode? Well, Safe Mode is a special Windows mode designed to help you troubleshoot your computer or device. When running Windows in Safe Mode, your computer operates using only the most basic services and processes.

Windows 11 Safe Mode

On boot, Safe Mode loads only the most critical drivers and software, skipping unnecessary parts of the system and thus avoiding using hardware components or apps that are not essential for Windows to start.

Why is that important? Because by limiting the number of drivers and software loaded, you can troubleshoot your Windows computer or device more easily. If, for example, your PC crashes because of a bug in the graphics drivers, running Windows in Safe Mode can help you identify the problem because it only starts a basic compatible set of video drivers, not the full graphics drivers released by your GPU manufacturer.

What can you do in Safe Mode on a Windows PC?

As we know now, Safe Mode helps us troubleshoot issues with our Windows computers and devices. But how exactly? Here are a few things you can do in Safe Mode on a Windows PC:

  • Run the troubleshooting tools available in the operating system to identify possible problems with the network, sound, graphics, etc.
  • Use Windows Terminal, Command Prompt, or PowerShell to run advanced commands for repairing disk problems, boot record issues, network troubles, and so on.
  • Download (if you run Safe Mode with Networking), install and run programs that you believe might be useful to troubleshoot your PC.
  • Download (if you run Safe Mode with Networking) and install or uninstall drivers for some hardware components in your PC which you believe might have bugs that stop it from running as it should.
  • Check your Windows computer or device for malware or other security threats using the built-in Microsoft Defender Antivirus or any other antivirus software you might have installed.

Installing a driver in Windows 11's Safe Mode

On the other hand, in Safe Mode, you can’t run apps that need to use advanced features of your hardware. For example, you can’t play games in Windows Safe Mode. And the reason is pretty obvious now that we know what Safe Mode does: it only loads basic drivers, and that means that the desktop experience is minimal. Games need the full drivers and power of your graphics card and other components, so there’s no way you can play in Safe Mode. 🙂

What’s the difference between various Safe Modes in Windows?

Windows operating systems have three different types of Safe Modes: “normal” Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and Safe Mode with Command Prompt. While they may sound like they’re very different, the reality is that only a few things change from one to the other. So here’s what’s different between Windows’ Safe Modes:

  • Safe Mode (“normal”) starts Windows 11 in the standard Safe Mode with its basic graphical interface, a minimal set of drivers, basic services and processes, etc.

The standard Safe Mode from Windows 11

  • Safe Mode with Networking is the “normal” Safe Mode, but also with networking drivers and services. You can use it to connect to other computers in your local network, as well as to the internet to visit websites and search for documentation or troubleshooting guides. This is also the Safe Mode that you should use if you need to download and install applications or drivers.

Safe Mode with Networking in Windows 11

  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt loads the “normal” Safe Mode and automatically opens Command Prompt. You should use this mode when you’ve already tried the standard Safe Mode and encountered issues with the graphical user interface. In Safe Mode with Command Prompt, you can run commands even if Windows fails to load the desktop, File Explorer, or other visual tools.

Safe Mode with Command Prompt in Windows 11

How do you open Safe Mode?

There are many ways to open Safe Mode, regardless of whether you use Windows 11, Windows 10, or even Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. If you want to see what they are, check these comprehensive guides that we’ve prepared for you:

Once you’ve finished troubleshooting your PC, close Safe Mode and try booting Windows normally. When you get to that, here are four ways to exit Safe Mode.

Is there anything different in Safe Mode for Windows 11 and Windows 10?

There’s really nothing different about the Safe Mode(s) in Windows 11 and Windows 10. At least from what we’ve managed to see, both operating systems offer the same experience and behave identically when you use their Safe Modes.

What do you use Safe Mode for?

Windows’ Safe Mode certainly is one of the most useful parts of the operating system, especially when your computer or device misbehaves and you need to do some troubleshooting. It’s our go-to place when nothing else seems to function on our Windows computers and laptops, and we’re sure it helps many people out there. Before you go, we’re curious to find out when and how you used Safe Mode to fix problems with your PC, so if you don’t mind, let us know.

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