We’re always hearing those IT guys saying things like “boot the computer into Safe Mode” or “you need to run it in Safe Mode“. But seriously, what and where is this Safe Mode?
Windows operating systems are very large and complex. Not only are the operating systems themselves complicated, but you obviously can install third party software on your computer that has to be able to integrate with Windows. This can be stuff like video games, security software, word processing software, email software, entertainment stuff or software drivers designed to make Windows work correctly with your computer’s hardware.
And, as we all no doubt know, sometimes things can go wrong. You loads up Windows and something isn’t right. An error message. A blue, black or blank screen. Some unexpected behaviour that has you suspicious or worried. We’ve all been there. It happens to the best of us.
But what is causing the problem? Sometimes we can determine the cause of the problem from the symptoms. For example, if an error message pops up saying our antivirus is corrupt and needs reinstalling, then we have a pretty good idea the first troubleshooting step will be to reinstall that antivirus software.
But sometimes the problem isn’t always obvious. Sometimes we can’t even load Windows up. Something has gone wrong, and we need to know what has caused the problem. Enter Windows Safe Mode.
Windows Safe Mode is sort of like ‘Windows Light’. Basically, the computer loads up Windows, but only with the files needed to make Windows run, and no added extras. No programs you may have installed yourself. No extra device drivers. No fancy background processes or programs are loaded. Just core Windows files needed to allow Windows to function. If Windows Safe Mode loads up fine and your problem doesn’t reoccur, straight away you know that your problem is being caused by something other than the Windows core files.
This allows Safe Mode to be used as a diagnosis tool. You can start trying to eliminate programs as the cause of your problem. If your problem prevented normal Windows from loading, you can also use Safe Mode to delete any potential causes of the problem, like uninstalling programs.
This also means Safe Mode is a great way of getting rid of malware. Since malware can often stop normal Windows loading correctly, Safe Mode is great for getting rid of malware infections since the malware usually can’t load up when Windows Safe Mode starts (since it is third party software.)
So long story short, Safe Mode is like a core, basic version of Windows that doesn’t load up anything that isn’t directly required for Windows to run. The fewer things that load up, the less chance of a software problem occurring.
So how do you load up Safe Mode? You need to continually tap a specific F-Key when you turn your computer on. For most computers that is the F8 key, though some may require the F5 key instead. Check your computer documentation to make sure or give them both a go.
Will Safe Mode solve all problems? No. It’s not going to solve problems caused by your hardware, and sometimes software issues will affect Windows itself that will prevent it from loading up, in which case another solution will need to be offered.