How To Start Windows 7 in Safe Mode

1
Press F8 Before the Windows 7 Splash Screen

Screenshot of the Windows 7 splash screen
Windows 7 Safe Mode - Step 1 of 5.

Starting Windows 7 in Safe Mode is an excellent next step when starting Windows normally is not possible. Safe Mode only starts the most important Windows 7 processes so, depending on the problem you're having, you might be able to troubleshoot or even fix the problem from here.

To begin entering Windows 7 Safe Mode, turn on or restart your PC.

Just before the Windows 7 splash screen shown above appears, press the F8 key to enter Advanced Boot Options.

Tip: See How Do I Start Windows in Safe Mode? for specific instructions for your version of Windows.

2
Choose a Windows 7 Safe Mode Option

Screenshot of the Advanced Boot Options Menu in Windows 7
Windows 7 Safe Mode - Step 2 of 5.

You should now see the Advanced Boot Options screen. If not, you may have missed the short window of opportunity to press F8 in the previous step and Windows 7 is probably now continuing to boot normally, assuming it's able to. If this is the case, just restart your computer and try pressing F8 again.

Here you are presented with three variations of Windows 7 Safe Mode you may enter:

  • Safe Mode - This is the default option and is usually the best choice. This mode will load only the absolute minimum processes necessary to start Windows 7.
     
  • Safe Mode with Networking - This option loads the same processes as Safe Mode but also includes those that allow the networking functions in Windows 7 to work. You should choose this option if you think you may need to access the internet or your local network while troubleshooting in Safe Mode.
     
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt - This version of Safe Mode also loads a minimum set of processes but starts the Command Prompt instead of Windows Explorer, the usual user interface. This is a valuable option if the Safe Mode option didn't work.

Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight either the Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, or Safe Mode with Command Prompt option and press Enter.

3
Wait for Windows 7 Files to Load

Screenshot of Windows 7 loading Safe Mode files
Windows 7 Safe Mode - Step 3 of 5.

The minimum system files necessary to run Windows 7 will now load. Each file being loaded will be displayed on screen.

Note: You don't need to do anything here but this screen could provide a good place to start troubleshooting if your computer is experiencing very serious problems and Safe Mode won't completely load.

If Safe Mode freezes here, document the last Windows 7 file being loaded and then search Lifewire or the rest of the internet for troubleshooting advice. Check out my Get More Help page for some more ideas beyond that.

4
Login With an Administrator Account

Screenshot of the Windows 7 logon screen
Windows 7 Safe Mode - Step 4 of 5.

To start Windows 7 in Safe Mode, you must log on with an account that has administrator permissions.

Note: If you're not sure if any of your personal accounts have administrator privileges, logon using your own account and see if that works.

Important: If you're not sure what the password is to an account with administrator access, see How To Find the Administrator Password in Windows 7 for more information.

5
Make Necessary Changes in Windows 7 Safe Mode

Screenshot of Safe Mode in Windows 7
Windows 7 Safe Mode - Step 5 of 5.

Entry into Windows 7 Safe Mode should now be complete. Make any changes you need to make and then restart the computer. Assuming there are no remaining issues preventing it, the computer should boot to Windows 7 normally after a restart.

Note: As you can see in the screenshot above, it's very easy to identify if a Windows 7 computer is in Safe Mode. The text "Safe Mode" will always appear in each corner of the screen when in this special diagnostic mode of Windows 7.