Windows 10 Safe Mode – how do I use it?

Windows 10 Safe Mode
Safe as houses: restart your computer in Safe Mode

Your PC is playing up. It won’t start properly, it keeps crashing, it’s completely and utterly snookered. The traditional solution to a misfiring PC is to boot into Safe Mode and diagnose from there. But how do you enact Windows 10 Safe Mode?

Windows 10 Safe Mode – where to find it

By far the easiest way to put your Windows 10 PC into Safe Mode is to hold down the Shift key while choosing Restart from the power options in the Windows 10 Start Menu, as shown below.

Windows 10 Safe Mode
Hold down the Shift key while clicking on Restart

An alternative method is to press the Windows and I keys simultaneously to open the Settings menu, select Update & Security and then Recovery from the left-hand menu. Then click Restart Now from the Advanced Setup menu, as shown below.

Windows 10 Settings
Click Restart Now to prompt Safe Mode after a reboot

When your PC restarts, select Troubleshoot, then Advanced Options, Startup Settings and Restart.

The PC will restart once more, and this time select 4 to boot into Safe Mode or 5 to choose Safe Mode with Networking. The latter leaves you with an internet connection, which can be handy for downloading new software drivers, if required. 

What can I do in Safe Mode?

Safe Mode is basically a stripped-back version of Windows. It uses only the bare minimum of files and drivers to start the operating system. 

If your computer keeps falling over in normal mode but is stable in Safe Mode, it’s normally a fair indication the problem is software related.

Have you installed any new programs or devices? Have you (or has Windows) recently updated device drivers – the pieces of software that makes devices work properly?

In Safe Mode, you can uninstall recently installed software or check the Windows Update logs to see if any drivers have been updated recently, which may be causing instability. The most common driver problems are display/graphics card drivers.

It’s also worth unplugging peripherals and re-adding them one by one to check if any of these are responsible for bringing your PC to its knees. 

Now read this: What should I do if Windows 10 won’t boot after an update?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at

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