Three ways to access Windows 8 boot options menu, plus all you need to know

Boot options menu - Windows 8

In this article you’ll learn the three ways Microsoft included to access Windows 8 boot options menu, plus what the new menu has to offer and how Windows will handle unsuccessful boots. 

As I mentioned in the previous article, Windows 8 users will need to get used to the idea that they won’t longer be able to directly interrupt the PC boot sequence with F8, nor with Shift+F8 to get to the advanced tools such as safe mode in the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE), or F2F12, or Esc to access the motherboard’s BIOS configuration — all this is going to change.

In the Building Windows 8 blog the company explains that Windows 8 boots very quickly and using the keyboard to access the OS troubleshooting tools is no longer a reliable option. There is only 200 ms between the PC POST and to the time that “Windows boot manager” takes over — this window is too short for a keystroke to be detected, but there are different solutions to the various scenarios when troubleshooting Windows 8 is necessary.

What’s new in the boot options menu

Windows 8 now has all the options consolidated in a single menu, which is called the “boot options menu”, there you have access to all the full set of repair tools and ways to change Windows Startup Settings behavior such as enabling debugging, disable driver signing, boot in safe mode, recovery and several other advanced boot options.

From the same menu you can also access the BIOS setup (only with Windows 8 UEFI-based firmware), and change to boot from other devices like a USB drive or network. And you’ll do this with the option “Use a device”.

Boot options menu - Windows 8

Now Windows 8 also includes code to detect if the OS didn’t load successfully, when this happens the “failover behavior” will be triggered and will automatically start the “boot options menu”, that according to Microsoft, it is “highly robust and validated environment”.

And finally for those times when nothing is wrong, but for some reason you need to access the boot options, there are several ways within the operating system to get to them — More on this later…

Not only you can configure your PC to boot from an alternate device where UEFI is present, but from the same new menu you can also request to boot into the UEFI firmware BIOS. This option is located in the “Troubleshooting” node, within the “Advanced options” group. It’s worth noting that legacy hardware will not have this option in the menu.

Advanced options Windows 8

In certain occasions, Windows 8 can detect and automatically apply actions to specific problems. Take this as an example, in the case the OS completely fails to load, it will try a second time. If this doesn’t fix it, then “Windows Recovery Environment” will kick-in and launch “Startup Repair” tool. This way you can be sure that if there is a problem, you won’t be left in the dark.

How to access the Windows 8 boot options menu

With Windows 8 you can access the boot options in different ways even when there is nothing wrong with your PC.

There are three ways to access the boot options:

1. This is the primary method and it is meant to cover most scenarios when troubleshooting is necessary. Go to PC settings, on the General tab, under the Advanced Setup, click Restart now –The easiest way to get to PC settings is with the shortcut Windows 8 Logo Monochrome+I and clicking More PC settings.

PC Settings - General - Windows 8

Hitting the Restart now button the system will start the normal restart process. Then, when Windows is about to shut down, the process gets interrupted and the blue boot menu options screen pops up. This reduces the times that the machine needs to restart in various scenarios. 

2. This is a faster way to access the boot options menu: Just get to the Power menu, hold down Shirt and then click Restart. This does the same and the primary method. Microsoft included the Shift+Restart shortcut, because there are times when users need to access these options even when they are not logged in to Windows.

Shutdown menu - Windows 8

3. The last method is by using the Command Prompt and this is done with the following command:

shutdown.exe /r /o

Shutting down Command Prompt

Note: The /o switch will only work if used with the /r switch, by itself is useless.

Here is a short video demo on the different ways you can use Windows 8 boot options menu: 

If you want to try these new options for yourself, most of them can be found in the Consumer Preview version of the OS, more changes can be expected on the Release Preview due in June.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].