How to boot in Safe Mode or access the Recovery mode in Windows 8

Safe Mode - Windows 8 Desktop

Learn the four ways in which you can boot Windows 8 in Safe Mode or access the Recovery mode.

Safe Mode in Windows is a troubleshooting mode that loads a limited set of device drivers and some others Windows processes, just enough to run the operating system. This allows users to diagnose many hardware and software problems that may occur and apply the corresponding fixes. Even though, Windows 8 comes a new built-in tools to fix problems such as, System Refresh and Restore, and System repair; Safe Mode still necessary for a variety of troubleshooting procedures and is not included as a quick option.

Did you realize that hitting F8 on Windows 8 Consumer Preview won’t bring up the “Safe Mode” menu, like in previous versions of Windows, or access to the Windows 8 “Recovery” mode to troubleshoot problems? What’s up with that, right? Let’s just get this out in the open, F8 doesn’t do anything anymore on Windows 8, now you should use the Shift+F8 keyboard shortcut at boot instead to bring the Recovery mode to access the “advanced repair options”.

So, how do you enable Safe Mode in Windows 8? Because Microsoft has buried this option even more for the next version of Windows — possible reason being that the new Recovery mode may help the average users better –, you are going to need to do some steps before you can access these advanced options.

Now with this new version of Windows, you can access Safe Mode in at least four different ways:

Accessing Safe Mode from boot

The easiest would be by restarting the PC and at boot press and hold Shift+F8 to bring the Recovery mode, click See advanced repair options, and continue with step 3 in “#2 Booting in Safe Mode within Windows 8”.

Booting in Safe Mode within Windows 8

1. Move the mouse pointer to the top-right or bottom-right of the screen to bring up the Charms Bar, click Settings, and then click More PC settings.

More PC Settings - Windows 8

2. In PC settings navigate to General, scroll-down and under the Advanced startup, and click Restart now. This will bring the new “Advanced Options” graphical user interface menu.

PC Settings - General - Windows 8

3. From here, click Troubleshoot to access Refresh or reset your PC, or use advanced tools.

Advanced Startup - Windows 8

4. Then click the Advanced options.

Troubleshoot menu - Windows 8

Quick Tip: From the new Recovery mode you can also access to the new Windows 8 recovery options:

  • Refresh your PC: If your PC isn’t running well, you can refresh it without losing your files.
  • Reset your PC: If you want to remove all of your files, you can reset your PC completely.
  • Advanced options: If your PC is having trouble, you can use: System Restore, System Image, Recovery, Automatic Repair, Command Prompt, Windows Startup Settings (a.k.a Safe Mode menu).

5. Now click Windows Start Settings.

Windows Startup Settings - Windows 8

6. Finally, click Restart. Now when the computer reboots again, you’ll be presented with the “Advanced Boot Options” page from where you can select Safe Mode option.

Safe Mode - Windows 8

Booting in Safe Mode within Windows 8 from the System Configuration

Alternatively to the steps shown before, you can boot your computer into Safe Mode by modifying the Windows 8 boot loader.

1. Bring up the Run command with the +R keyboard shortcut, type msconfig and click OK.

2. Navigate to the Boot tab, and under Boot options, click on Safe boot. Then click Apply and OK.

Safe Boot - msconfig - Windows 8

If you are wondering:

  • Minimal is to enter to the safe mode.
  • Alternate Shell is to enter to the safe mode, but with just the command prompt.
  • Network is to enter to the safe mode with networking capabilities.

After you done choosing, click Apply and OK, and then test the new configuration by clicking the Restart button.

Then when the computer reboots it will automatically start in Safe Mode.

Important: If you don’t revert the System Configuration (msconfig), the computer will continue to boot in Safe Mode. To change back to the old settings, go to the Run command one more time, type mscsonfig, and under the Boot options, uncheck the Safe boot, then click Apply and OK, and click Restart one more time. Or do the next thing.

Booting in Safe Mode by triggering the graphical boot loader menu

This last option is a little bit more advance for the average user, proceed with caution

1. To enable Safe Mode, open the Windows Command Prompt by typing cmd in the Start Screen, right-click it and select Run is an as administrator.

2. In the Command Prompt type the following and press Enter:

bcdedit /enum /v

3. Copy the “identifier” value, e.g {ab123-abcd-fffff…}, this will be from the Windows Boot Loader menu, where the description value is “Windows 8 Consumer Preview”.

4. Now type the following command and press Enter:

bcdedit /copy YourIdentifierValueHere /d “Windows 8 Consumer Preview Safe Mode”

Boot menu - bcdedit - Safe Mode - Windows 8

5. Use the +R to bring up the Run command, type msconfig and click OK.

6.  Navigate to the Boot tab, select Windows 8 Consumer Preview Safe Mode and under Boot options, click on Safe boot. Then click Apply and OK

Safe Boot mode msconfig Windows 8

Then click Restart, and at boot you’ll have the option to either boot normally or boot into Safe Mode.

In this last process, what you’ve done is to add another entry to start Windows 8 in Save Mode (or Safe Mode) to the Windows boot loader menu, which will now be triggered when the computer restarts.

As you can see Microsoft seems to want users to move away of the Safe Mode to troubleshoot Windows, because now this options is so much buried than it was before, but there still plenty of ways to access it.

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].