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How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

Unless you’re a complete Windows novice, you’ll have come across Safe Mode before - but what exactly is it, and how do you access it in Windows 11?

Screenshot of Windows 11's recovery settings menu

If you're experiencing significant and regular faults with your Windows 11 machine, it might be best to boot your device in its dedicated Safe Mode.

The Windows 11 Safe Mode effectively strips the boot process down to its bare essentials, allowing the system to load without the interference of peripheral devices or faulty drivers.

Safe Mode comes in three different tiers, all of which are available regardless of whether you're on Windows 11 Home or Pro. There is a standard Safe Mode which retains the UI but blocks network connections. This is a basic, but user-friendly version, that's best for everyday problem-solving.

There is also an intermediate version, which enables users to still access the web. This can still present the risk of hacking while in operation and even remote access of the PC being used.

The third variant of Safe Mode relies heavily on Command Prompt, making it something of an advanced version. It is the most bare-bones version of Windows 11 Safe Mode; it disables the user interface (UI) forcing the user to navigate their software with lines of command, which requires some technical know-how.

Why boot into Safe Mode in Windows 11?

The reason one might use the Windows 11 Safe Mode is to isolate any problems they're having with their laptop or computer. This includes issues with booting your machine, or if it runs into problems right after the machine has booted. 

Driver faults are, perhaps, the most common reasons to use the Safe Mode. Every user, at some point, will have had to download software from the web to install some type of external hardware, such as a mouse or keyboard, but these drivers don't always mix well with your system, especially if they're not from a legitimate source. It is in these situations that you may find your system crashes, leaving you with the blue screen of computer death. 

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This is where safe mode comes in, essentially preventing software from running and allowing you to identify whether it was the cause of the issue. That said, you probably don’t want to spend more time in Safe Mode than you need to, due to its limitations.

Some users decide to boot their PC in Safe Mode since it’s also known for speeding up a system. Although they aren’t experiencing any issues with their PC, they want to access the prized speed boost. Despite this, it isn’t recommended for users, as you’ll lose access to very important features like antimalware protection, which is disabled when you boot up your computer in Safe Mode.

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

Image showing the safe mode notification on Windows 11

It will be very obvious right away whether you have successfully booted into Safe Mode. Most-notably, the words “Safe Mode” will be displayed just above the notification area, as seen in the screenshot above. Sometimes you’ll also find your PC’s Windows build number overlaid in the bottom right-hand corner, near the clock.

Aside from that, you might also notice that any customisations you’ve made to your PC to personalise Windows, like the themes or colour schemes, will be disabled and everything will look basic.

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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