How to boot into Windows 11 Safe Mode

Screenshot of the Windows recovery settings menu that allows users to open Windows 11 Safe Mode

Windows 11 Safe Mode provides users with a helpful tool to establish the root cause of performance issues, crashes, and many other problems. By simplifying the operating system, leaving only the essential features for operation, Windows 11 Safe Mode allows users to evaluate what is causing a particular issue on their system.

In layman’s terms, Windows 11 Safe Mode is a stable, stripped back version of the Windows operating system. If users are able to boot into Safe Mode, it is very likely that any problems they may have with the machine can be attributed to some recently installed software or a faulty driver. If the problem is still present in Safe Mode, it’s more than likely that there is a hardware issue with the machine.

We recommend the standard Windows 11 Safe Mode configuration, which will cover the majority of issues users frequently encounter. Small modifications to the setup may be needed for specific instances, such as using ‘Safe Mode with Networking’ for cases that require internet access, or a configuration that requires users to have a good understanding of the command line interface.

Why boot into Windows 11 Safe Mode?

The Windows 11 Safe Mode enables users to boot their computers when they encounter an issue. These problems might include failure to boot, or issues that occur directly after the computer has been powered on.


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One of the most common problems that Windows 11 Safe Mode can provide help with are driver faults. The infamous blue screen of death will greet users trying to download drivers from an external source. We have a handy guide available for any users wondering how to fix the blue screen of death error in Windows 11.

Thankfully we have Safe Mode for this type of issue. It essentially prevents software from running in the background, allowing the juicer to spot the cause of the issue. It's worth noting here that it isn't best practice to spend more time in Safe Mode than necessary as it's a system that limits the functions of the computer. Some users activate the Safe Mode just for a faster boot of the device, though this puts the machine at risk because it disables security features, like antimalware or antivirus protection software.

How do I know if Windows 11 is in Safe Mode?

Image showing the safe mode notification on Windows 11

Once you’ve followed the steps below, it should be clear if you have been able to successfully boot into Windows 11 Safe Mode. Firstly, any personalizations you may have made to your PC should have been cleared, including the desktop background and theme.

Another indicator of success is that the words ‘Safe Mode’ will be shown in small text above the clock, located in the bottom right corner of the display.

How do I boot into Safe Mode in Windows 11?

You can boot your device into Windows 11 Safe Mode through a number of different actions. Handily, if you are familiar with Windows 10 the process for booting into Safe Mode in Windows 11 is virtually identical, including the menus you will need to navigate through.

To reach Safe Mode, you will first need to get to the Recovery Menu. Here are the various ways in which you can access the Recovery Menu in Windows 11.

  • Method One - The Start Menu method
  • Method Two - The Advanced Start method
  • Method Three - The Function Key method
  • Method Four - The ‘When all else fails’ method

Read on to see detailed instructions for each step.

Method One - The Start Menu method

The first, and easiest way is using the Start Menu inside Windows 11's desktop.

  1. Click on the ‘Start’ Menu
  2. Click on the ‘Power’ button in the bottom right of the menu
  3. Hold down the ‘Shift’ key
  4. While holding down ‘Shift’, click on ‘Restart
  5. Wait for the reboot

Method Two - The Advanced Start Method

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  1. Click on the Windows key + i (or open Settings from the Start Menu)
  2. Click on System from the sidebar menu (you should already be in this menu)
  3. In the main window, look for Recovery and click it
  4. Click on ‘Advanced Startup’
  5. A pop up will tell you ‘We will reboot your device, so save your work’
  6. Click on ‘Restart Now’
  7. Wait for the reboot

A screenshot showing Windows 11's advanced startup option

(Image credit: ITPro)

Method Three - The Function Key method

This is great if you can’t boot into Windows 11 at all.

  1. Start with the computer completely shut down.
  2. Hold down the power key for at least ten seconds so the machine doesn’t try and ‘Quick Start’
  3. Press the power key again to turn on the machine whilst holding down F11*

*On some machines this will be F8 instead of F11 and on others won’t work at all without a registry hack. Check your manufacturer for more information

Method Four - The ‘When all else fails’ method

If you’ve tried everything else and still can’t trigger safe mode, there’s a workaround.

  1. Start with the computer completely shut down
  2. Turn on the computer
  3. Immediately hold down the power button until the boot is interrupted and the computer shuts down again
  4. Repeat steps 2&3 twice more
  5. After the third interrupted reboot, you’ll get a popup offering ‘Startup Repair’
  6. Select Advanced Options

Navigating the Recovery Menu

Screenshot showing Windows 11's recovery menu

After following the steps outlined in any of the methods listed above, your PC will reboot into a recovery menu. At this stage you will need to complete these steps:

  1. Click on ‘Troubleshoot’
  2. Click on ‘Advanced Options’
  3. Click on ‘Start Up Settings’
  4. Click on ‘Restart’

Screenshot of Windows 11's recovery settings menu

You’ll then be given a variety of Safe Mode options to pick from, although we're really only concerned with Option 4 onwards. 

Option 4 is typically the default for most people, providing Safe Mode with all networking options disabled, including internet connectivity. This will let you diagnose any issues inside an isolated environment.

Option 5 - Safe Mode with Internet connectivity - is for those instances where access to the Internet is needed in order to diagnose a problem. However, it’s critical to understand that your system’s security protections will be disabled in Safe Mode, so it’s advised you only choose Option 5 if absolutely necessary.

Option 6 - Safe Mode with Command Prompt - will take you to a Command Line window instead of the desktop when selected. This is meant for experienced users and those that find it easier to navigate through Windows using commands.

Whichever option you choose, your machine should then boot in Safe Mode.

Leaving Safe Mode

The good news is that once you’ve finished this step you can simply restart the machine and your original, personalized version of Windows 11 will be restored.

If you need to reboot and then go back into Safe Mode, you’ll need to follow one of the above methods each time.

Chris Merriman has been writing about technology since the 1990s for a variety of titles including Computer Shopper, MSN, TechRadar, Tom’s Guide and The Inquirer, where he broke a number of major tech news stories that were picked up globally.  He has appeared on BBC, Sky News and Al Jazeera and was the resident tech expert at TalkRadio for a number of years. In between times, he has also been a consultant for several major tech firms.

Chris is fascinated by automation and the internet of things, as well as the evolution of the ways we communicate in the digital era. He's also a frequent contributor to ITPro's software guides, including Windows operating systems. Other specialisms include storage, peripherals, and web apps, and any gadget he’s allowed to take apart and fiddle with, preferably after throwing away the box, manual and receipt.