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Start Windows in Safe Mode

Safe mode is a diagnostic mode used by certain computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, as well as other complex electronic devices. While an operating system is in safe mode, it will have reduced functionality, but it is easier to isolate problems because many non-core components are disabled.

Safe ModeIt is possible to start your XP in Safe Mode from the Windows Advanced Options menu. From this menu, you can choose other options that help you debug and fix Windows problems.

To start from the Windows Safe Mode menu, press the F8 key after rebooting your computer. You will then see the following options:

Safe Mode
Safe Mode with Networking
Safe Mode with Command Prompt
Enable Boot Logging
Enable VGA Mode
Last Known Good Configuration
Directory Services Restore Mode
Debugging Mode
Start Windows Normally
Return to OS Choices Menu

Why Use Safe Mode?

The reason to use safe mode is that it boots up your computer with only minimal services running (it only boots the core services required by the OS). This situation is necessary and sometimes vital for debugging purposes. If your system is experiencing blue screen errors or serious driver problems, the only way to boot up may be via safe mode. Also in cases of adware/spyware/virus infection, the only way to boot and restore your system may be via safe mode.

So if your system has a serious crash or will not properly boot up, then don't panic. Just restart the computer and then press the F8 key as it boots. This will then bring up the safe mode options menu. From here there are various options. The most commonly used will just be "Safe Mode". You can also try the "Last Known Good Configuration", which will boot your computer to a previous working point. All of these options are described more below:

Safe Mode Options Explained:

Safe Mode
This option uses a minimal set of device drivers and services to start Windows. Use this mode for debugging and troubleshooting.

Safe Mode with Networking
This is the same as safe mode, except that it also loads in the drivers needed for networking. Use this option if you need to debug networking devices, networks or similar drivers.

Safe Mode with Command Prompt
This is again the same as safe mode except for the loading in of cmd.exe. Cmd.exe is the Windows command line tool. This will start up instead of Windows Explorer.

Enable VGA Mode:
This mode will boot up your computer using its existing video driver. Typically in safe mode, it will only boot up using the vga.sys driver which is limited to 640 x 480 resolution. Use VGA mode if you require a higher resolution or need to debug your video driver.

Last Known Good Configuration:
This option starts Windows by using the previous good configuration. Note: This option will not work in all situations. You may still need to enter safe mode for further debugging.

Directory Service Restore Mode:
Use this mode if you are dealing with a Windows domain controller. From here you can perform a directory repair. This won't apply to most home users.

Debugging Mode:
This option turns on debugging Windows. Debugging information can be sent across a serial cable to another computer with a debugger. This can be very useful for identifying where certain problems are occurring.

Enable Boot Logging:
This mode allows you to turn on logging when the computer is started. This can also be very useful for identifying where certain problems/errors are occurring. The log file is saved as: Ntbtlog.txt, in the %SystemRoot% folder.

Starts Windows Normally:
This option starts Windows in its normal mode.

Restart your computer.

Return to OS Choices Menu:
If you have more than one operating system installed, this will return you to the OS boot menu.