How to start in safe mode?


I have been trying to help my Grandma with her computer. When it starts up, the Windows ME booting screen asks to start in safe mode, but it won't even start in that mode. It usually sits there for a while or shuts down. I have tried a recover disk, but I can't even set the bios to CD by pressing F1. It is like it doesn't respond to me when I press F1 while booting up the computer. I am not sure if it is the operating system, hard drive, or what. Any suggestions?


This question was answered on December 27, 2004. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

So, how do we get into Safe Mode? That's the easy part When you first start the computer (or restart), just keep touching F8 rapidly until a screen appears that has a number of choices like this:

1 Normal

2 Command Prompt

3 Safe Mode

and some other choices.

At this point, your mouse does not work Use the keyboard down arrow to select number 3 and touch enter Windows will go into Safe Mode You will get a warning telling you some stuff won't work (Like the Internet) Click OK Your desktop will look funny since you are in the lowest color settings and 640X480

Note: Here is a way to make the menu visible when you start Windows without having to hit F8: In Windows 9x/Me, click Start, Run and type msconfig (Discussed in Utilities) Click the Advanced tab on the general page Then check the box for Enable Start Menu Then restart the computer and the menu will display automatically

(New) In Windows 2000, msconfig does not exist

In XP, you need to go to the Boot.ini tab and select Safe Boot Click OK, reboot.

Solving Problems (See also Utilities)

You can still go into the Control Panel and use the Add/Remove Programs to delete unwanted programs This assures it gets completely removed since no startup files are running This is especially true for removing an anti-virus program They are very hard to remove because they run all the time.

You can also use the Windows Explorer to copy files to a floppy You probably can't use your CD burner or Zip drive, so stick to files that are small enough to fit on a floppy.

You may be able to open various programs to save a backup of data Programs like Quicken, Quick Books, Family Tree Maker and some e-mail programs have backup tools to copy data to a disk Don't bother copying the program, just the data.

After you have finished saving any wanted information, try reloading Windows from Safe Mode or use your restore disk and reload Windows.

Doing Maintenance

While in Safe Mode, you can still use your Weekly Cleanup folder on the desktop You do have one, right? Doing Scandisk and Defrag from here works better since no interfering programs are running When you are done, just restart normally.

Final comment: A question from readers asks:

When I download software updates and other software should I be in safemode?

My answer:

No you should not download in safe mode since many functions do not work including the Internet access itself Safe mode is running Windows without any support programs running, so any that are needed are not available The advantage of using safe mode is that it prevents interference between running programs that cause the error messages, but what can be done is very limited.

See also my page of instructions on Downloading.

(New) Additionally, Symantec Support has some well written articles on how to get into Safe Mode Check these links and if they are no longer available, e-mail me for a copy:

This page discusses How to Start Windows in Safe Mode and has links to the next 2 Actually all 3 cross reference to each other In addition, each page has a link to place it in Printable format Be sure to use that if you are going to print them.

This page is almost the same but is specifically for all but XP

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Posted by Kareem of Katharine Gibbs School - New York on December 27, 2004