3 ways to boot into Safe Mode in Windows 7

If you want to boot into Safe Mode, it means that there is probably something wrong with your computer. Safe Mode can help you diagnose and sometimes even repair issues in Windows. However, before doing so, you must first know how to boot your computer into Safe Mode. In this article we will talk about booting into Safe Mode on computers with Windows 7. We discuss what Safe Mode is and how it works, and we walk you through the methods of getting in and out of it:

1. Use the System Configuration tool (msconfig.exe)

The first option is to use the System Configuration tool. The fastest way to do that is to type the command msconfig in the search field from the Start Menu and then click on the msconfig result.

Once System Configuration opens, go to the Boot tab. There you will find a settings section called Boot options and an option called “Safe boot”. Enable it.

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

Note that this is somewhat permanent until you change it back. You must return to the System Configuration tool, uncheck the “Safe boot” option, hit OK and then restart your Windows 7 PC again in order to get back out of Safe Mode.

2. Hold down the F8 key during boot

An alternative method for entering Safe Mode when you cannot boot Windows 7 normally, is to hold down the F8 key on your keyboard while your PC is starting, immediately after turning it on. Some older systems may stop booting the operating system completely and display an error message about a stuck key for doing this. For those cases tap the F8 key rapidly instead of holding it down. This brings up the Advanced Boot Options window, in which you can choose to boot into Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and Safe Mode with Command Prompt, among several other options. Use the arrow keys to select the Safe Mode you prefer and press the Enter key after that.

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 reboots Windows 7 as it was before the problem program or option was put in place.

3. Use a Windows 7 installation drive and the Command Prompt

Use a Windows 7 installation DVD to boot your computer from. Once you see the first screen of the setup wizard (the one shown in the screenshot below), press simultaneously on the Shift + F10 keys from your keyboard. This triggers the launch of a Command Prompt window.

In the Command Prompt window, run this command: bcdedit /set {default} safeboot minimal. Then press Enter on your keyboard.

After a second or two, you should get a message saying that “The operation [was] completed successfully”.

Now close Command Prompt and also close the Windows 7 installation wizard. The wizard asks if you are sure about cancelling the installation. Say Yes and wait for the computer to reboot.

Once your computer restarts, it should automatically boot into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode in Windows 7

When told to enter Safe Mode, Windows only loads the barest essentials needed to function (a minimal set of drivers and services). You do not have access to anything but the core programs and functions of Windows, which do not include the drivers for your networking devices - meaning you usually cannot access the internet while in the standard Safe Mode. While in Safe Mode, you might feel that your screen looks 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, that is 800 x 600 pixels.

Also, you might notice that all four corners of the desktop have “Safe Mode” written in text. Additionally, when you boot into Safe Mode in Windows 7 you are always greeted by the Windows Help and Support tool, explaining what Safe Mode is and how to use it.

Once again, please remember that Safe Mode does not load any third-party services or programs that were supposed to run at startup. It loads only the core services and features needed by Windows 7 to run.

What do the different kinds of Safe Mode do?

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

If you need the internet to update drivers or other programs, make sure to choose the “Safe Mode with Networking” option when initiating Safe Mode. This loads 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 might want to use the “Safe Mode with Command Prompt” option so that it loads the tools necessary to do this. The advanced users who use the Command Prompt probably already know why this is helpful. However, even beginners can benefit from using Command Prompt in Safe Mode. With just a few simple commands, they can navigate the computer more quickly.


Congratulations! Now you know how to boot any Windows 7 computer into Safe Mode. It can be a lifesaver for all sorts of embarrassing situations, and we would love to hear any stories you have about using Safe Mode for troubleshooting.