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How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

Long-time Windows users will already be familiar with the feature, but novices may not be aware of how to boot in safe mode, especially in Windows 11

Screenshot of Windows 11's recovery settings menu

If you’re running into recurring issues with your PC, knowing how to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode can be helpful in pinpointing the core issue. Safe Mode in Windows 11 is a dedicated version of Windows that’s stripped back to the bare essentials, using only a limited selection of files and drivers.

The idea behind booting in Safe Mode is that if the issues you encounter in your regular version of Windows 11 cease when in Safe Mode, then the reason for the problem likely lies either in a custom configuration or an additional driver that didn’t come installed when the PC was first shipped to you. Put simply, booting in Safe Mode allows users to narrow down the reasons for a variety of PC issues.

There are different variants of Safe Mode that come in Windows, so knowing which is right for your circumstance is as important as knowing how to boot from Safe Mode to start with. Most people will be able to use the normal version, but other cases may call for Safe Mode with Networking, which allows users to access the internet while in Safe Mode. There’s also an advanced version of Safe Mode which relies on knowledge of Command Prompt - no user interface features here, just an old-fashioned command line interface (CLI). One for only the most technical of folks.

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Why boot into Safe Mode in Windows 11?

The Windows 11 Safe Mode is there to help users load up their computers when there is a problem. This could be problems booting the machine, or any that arise immediately after one has booted their machine.  

One of the most common faults that Safe Mode is used for is driver faults. The dreaded blue screen is waiting for every user that tries to download software from the web for some external hardware, like a mouse or a keyboard, particularly if it isn't compatible with the system being used or the download is from a suspect source. 

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 protection software. 

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

Image showing the safe mode notification on Windows 11

After following all the steps below, there should be no doubts over whether you’ve successfully booted into Safe Mode. For a start, all the customisations you’ve made to your PC should have disappeared, that includes all colour schemes and custom desktop backgrounds. 

Another telltale sign of successfully booting into Safe Mode is that ‘Safe Mode’ will be displayed in small text above the clock, which should be positioned in the bottom right corner of the display.

How do I boot into Safe Mode in Windows 11?

There are a number of different pathways you can take in order to boot your device into Safe Mode. The good news is that, if you're used to Windows 10, the menus you interact with are more or less the same in Windows 11, as are the various methods to boot into Safe Mode.

In order to get into Safe Mode, you need to first access the Recovery Menu. Let’s look at the different methods for accessing this one at a time.

Safe Mode in Windows 11: 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

Safe Mode in Windows 11: Method Two - The Advanced Start Method

Screenshot of Windows 11's advanced settings menu
  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

Safe Mode in Windows 11: 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

Safe Mode in Windows 11: 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

Once you’ve completed the steps in any of the above methods, the computer will reboot into a recovery menu.

  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. 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’re done, a simple reboot will put you back into regular Windows 11.

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

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