Windows 11 Logo with Wallpaper

If you’re having trouble starting your Windows 11 PC, it might help to reboot into safe mode, which temporarily disables drivers and features to make your PC more stable. Here’s how to do it.

How to Enter Safe Mode at Boot

With Windows 7 and earlier, you could typically start Safe Mode by pressing a function key (such as F8) just after turning on your PC. Microsoft removed this feature starting in Windows 8 because, thanks to new technologies, startup times became too fast for someone to quickly hit F8 in time before Windows loaded.

Instead, Microsoft designed an “automatic failover” workaround for times when your PC malfunctions and Windows won’t load properly. Your PC will automatically enter an advanced startup troubleshooting mode if it fails to start twice in a row. You can force this by powering on the PC, and then pushing its physical power button just as you see the manufacturer’s logo appear. Do this twice, and you’ll see a “Choose an Option” advanced startup screen. Then, follow the directions described in the section below to enter Safe Mode.

How to Enter Safe Mode from Windows

There are several different ways to restart your computer into an “Advanced Startup” mode on Windows 11 that will allow you to select “Safe Mode” after several choices. The easiest way? Open the Start menu and click the power icon in the lower-right corner. Then, hold down the Shift key on your keyboard and click “Restart.”

Click the power button in Start, then hold down Shift while clicking "Restart."

Alternately, you can begin the long road to Safe Mode through the Settings app. First, launch Settings by pressing Windows+i (Or, you can find it by searching in Start.). When Settings opens, click “System” in the sidebar, and then select “Recovery.”

In Settings, click "System," then select "Recovery."

Advertisement

In Recovery Options, locate the “Advanced Startup” option and click the “Restart Now” button beside it.

Select "Restart Now."

Windows will confirm with a pop-up dialog box that asks you to save your work before you restart. When you’re ready, click “Restart Now.”

Select "Restart Now."

After that, Windows will shut down and restart into a blue-colored screen titled “Choose an Option,” with several options in a brief list. Select “Troubleshoot.”

Select "Troubleshoot."

In Troubleshoot, select “Advanced Options.”

Select "Advanced Options."

In Advanced Options, select “Startup Settings.”

Select "Startup Settings."

In Startup Settings, click “Restart.”

Click "Restart."

The PC will restart into a “Startup Settings” menu with nine numbered options. Press the “4” key on your keyboard for Safe Mode, “5” for Safe Mode with Networking, or “6” for Safe Mode with Command Prompt.

Generally, you’ll want to press 4 or 5 here, but 6 can be useful for advanced troubleshooting if you’re good with the Windows command line.

On the "Startup Settings" screen, press 4, 5, or 6 on your keyboard for Safe Mode.

Advertisement

Once you’ve made your selection, Windows will finally boot into Safe mode. Your display will be at a lower resolution, and Windows will replace your desktop image with a black background that says “Safe Mode” in the corners.

In Windows 11 safe mode, you'll see "Safe Mode" written in the corners of the desktop.

At this point, you can do whatever troubleshooting tasks you need to accomplish. When you’re done, just restart (or shut down) your Windows 11 PC as usual. If all goes well and your problem has been fixed, when you reboot the next time, you’ll be back in regular non-safe Windows mode. Good luck!

RELATED: How to Turn Off a Windows 11 PC

Benj Edwards Benj Edwards
Benj Edwards is an Associate Editor for How-To Geek. For over 15 years, he has written about technology and tech history for sites such as The Atlantic, Fast Company, PCMag, PCWorld, Macworld, Ars Technica, and Wired. In 2005, he created Vintage Computing and Gaming, a blog devoted to tech history. He also created The Culture of Tech podcast and regularly contributes to the Retronauts retrogaming podcast.
Read Full Bio »

The above article may contain affiliate links, which help support How-To Geek.