How to Start Windows 10 or 11 in Safe Mode

Safe mode starts Windows in a basic state, using a limited set of files, drivers, and services. If a problem doesn’t happen in safe mode, this means that default settings and basic device drivers aren’t causing the issue.

There are other situations that warrant booting Windows into Safe Mode — e.g., fixing the service registry settings, writing to certain protected directories or registry locations, deleting a stubborn file or folder, or logging in as built-in Administrator, etc. — which are otherwise not possible (“Access is denied” or “File in use”) when in Normal mode.

In this article, we’ll see how to start your Windows 10 or 11 computer into Safe mode.



Start Windows 11 or 10 in Safe Mode

  1. Click Start, click on the Power button, press and hold the Shift key down and click Restart. This starts the Windows Recovery Environment.

    Alternatively, you can restart your device into safe mode from the Windows sign-in screen. On the Windows sign-in screen, press and hold the Shift key while you select Power → Restart.

  2. In Windows RE, click Troubleshoot → Advanced options → Startup Settings.


  3. In Startup Settings, press the 4 or F4 button on your keyboard. Or, to start Windows in “Safe Mode with Networking”, press 5 or F5.
    windows re startup settings
  4. Windows 10/11 will now restart in Safe Mode.

tips bulb iconThe built-in “Administrator” account shows up on the lock screen while in Safe Mode if no other administrator account user exists on the computer. This is regardless of whether the built-in Administrator is currently enabled (active) or not.

The Microsoft article Start your PC in safe mode in Windows lists two more methods to access the Safe Mode in Windows 10 and 11.


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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded Winhelponline.com in 2005.

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