- Safe Mode is a basic diagnostic mode for your operating system that starts the computer without most of its drivers and software.
- You can use Safe Mode to solve serious issues like uninstalling incompatible software or malware that’s preventing your computer from running properly.
- Both Windows and Mac computers can be booted into a version of Safe Mode.
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If your computer is experiencing serious problems, either due to a software glitch or malware, and will not run properly, then you might need to use Safe Mode.
Safe Mode is a basic diagnostic and troubleshooting mode that launches the operating system without most of its usual drivers and software. A computer that refuses to start normally because of a catastrophic glitch should be able to start in Safe Mode, where you can attempt to troubleshoot and resolve the problem.
Both Windows and Mac computers have their own version of Safe Mode.
What happens in Safe Mode
Safe Mode is designed to launch your computer with the minimum necessary software to give you access to your operating system, such as Windows or MacOS. That means it starts with a minimal set of services and drivers. For example, you’ll find that when in Safe Mode, your screen resolution is greatly reduced; the full video drivers are bypassed and instead, a simplified VGA driver is used regardless of the screen resolution.
Most or all networking and file sharing features are disabled in Safe Mode as well. In addition, no startup programs or third-party software is run at startup. The intention is to start the computer with the minimum configuration to give you the best chance of identifying and solving the problem you’re experiencing.
Despite the limitations, you can get to all settings and control panels, uninstall software, and run most software, such as utilities and antivirus programs.
How to start your computer in Safe Mode
Both Windows and Mac have their own version of Safe Mode you can invoke if you’re having a serious problem with your computer.
The method of starting Safe Mode has changed over the years with various versions of Windows. Through Windows 7, you would typically invoke Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key just as your computer starts to boot. In Windows 10, you don’t have to time pressing a function key during startup. Instead, you can start Safe Mode from the Settings app — restart into Safe Mode from the Recovery section. Read our article on how to boot your Windows 10 computer into Safe Mode for more information.
You can launch your Mac into Safe Mode by holding down the Shift key just as you start your computer. Read our article on how to start your Mac computer in Safe Mode for more information.