How to fix a computer that won't boot in safe mode

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Alejandra Rangel
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Windows does not start in safe mode. Stops at startup settings or advanced startup options? The Startup Settings (Windows 10 & 8) and the Advanced Startup Options menu (Windows 7, Vista, and XP) exist so you can boot into Windows in specially configured ways, hopefully bypassing any issues preventing Windows from starting normally.


However, what if all the options you try fail and when your computer restarts, you immediately go back to one of those screens?



This cycle Startup Settings or Advanced Startup Options, depending on the version of Windows, is a common way for which Windows does not start. This is the troubleshooting guide to follow if you return to the Startup Settings or ABO screen again each time you try to access the Safe mode, last known good configuration, and other boot methods.

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How to fix a computer that won't boot in safe mode

Stops at startup settings or advanced startup options? This procedure could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on why Windows does not start in Safe Mode or one of the other Windows diagnostic modes.


Here's what to do:

  • Start Windows in Safe Mode
  • Start Windows with the last known good configuration
  • Start Windows in low resolution video / display mode

How to fix a computer that turns on and then turns off

Try starting Windows with every available boot method. You may have already done this, but if not, know that every boot method available from the Startup Settings or Advanced Startup Options menu is there to help you avoid one or more specific problems that can cause Windows to freeze:



Repair your Windows installation. The most common reason Windows continually brings you back to the Startup Settings or Advanced Startup Options menu is because one or more important Windows files are damaged or missing. Windows Repair replaces these important files without removing or modifying anything else on your computer. In Windows 10, 8, 7 and Vista this is called Startup Repair. Windows XP refers to it as a repair installation. Windows XP repair installation is more complicated and has more disadvantages than the startup repair available in later Windows operating systems. So, if you are an XP user, I recommend that you wait until you have tried these other steps first.


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Perform a System Restore from Advanced Boot Options or System Recovery Options, depending on the version of Windows, to undo recent changes. Windows may revert to the Startup Settings or Advanced Startup Options menu due to damage to a driver, important files, or part of the registry. A System Restore will restore all of these things to the state they were in at a time when your computer was working fine, which could completely fix your problem.

  • Windows 10 and 8: System Restore is available outside of Windows 10 and 8 from the Advanced Boot Options menu.
  • Windows 7 and Vista: System Restore is available outside of Windows 7 and Vista via System Recovery Options and is most readily available when booting from the Windows installation disc. If you are using Windows 7, system recovery options are also available here from the Advanced Boot Options menu as the Repair your computer option. This may not work, however, depending on the cause of the general problem, so you may need to boot to the installation disc after all.
  • Another option for Windows 10, 8 or 7: if you don't have the Windows 10, 8 or 7 installation disc or flash drive but have access to another computer with one of those versions of Windows installed, like at a friend's house, you can create repair media from there which you can use to complete this step on your computer.
  • Windows XP and Me users: this troubleshooting option is not applicable. System Restore has been made available from a startup disk since the release of Windows Vista.

Use the System File Checker command to restore protected Windows files. A corrupted OS-related file may be preventing you from getting past the Startup Settings or Advanced Startup Options menu, and the sfc command may fix the problem. Since you can't log into Windows right now, you'll need to run this command from the Command Prompt available from Advanced Boot Options (Windows 10 and 8) or System Recovery Options (Windows 7 and Vista).



Clear CMOS. Clearing the BIOS memory on the motherboard returns the BIOS settings to their factory default levels. Wrong BIOS setup could be the reason why Windows won't even start in Safe Mode. If clearing CMOS solves the Windows boot problem, make sure all changes made in the BIOS are completed one at a time, so if the problem recurs, you'll know which change caused the problem.


Replace the CMOS battery if the computer is more than three years old or if it has been turned off for a long period of time. CMOS batteries are very cheap, and one that no longer charges can cause strange behavior during the Windows boot process.

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Reposition anything you can get your hands on. Resetting will reset the various connections inside your computer and may fix the problem that causes Windows to freeze on the Advanced Boot Options or Startup Settings screen.


Try reseating the following hardware and then see if Windows starts properly:

  • Reseat all power cords
  • Reseat the memory modules
  • Reseat any expansion cards
  • Also disconnect and reconnect your keyboard, mouse and other external devices and while doing so restart your computer

Test the RAM. If one of your computer's RAM modules fails completely, your computer won't turn on. Most of the time, however, the memory slowly fails and will work up to a point. If the system memory fails to start, Windows may not be able to boot into any mode. Replace your computer's memory if the memory test shows any kind of problem.


Test the hard drive. A physical problem with your hard drive is definitely a reason why Windows may not boot as it should. A hard drive that cannot read and write information correctly cannot load an operating system properly, even from Safe Mode. Replace the hard drive if tests show a problem. After replacing the hard drive, you will need to perform a fresh installation of Windows. If the hard drive passes the test, the hard drive is physically correct, so the cause of the problem must be with Windows, in which case the next step will fix the problem.

Perform a clean install of Windows. This type of installation will completely erase the drive that Windows is installed on and then reinstall the operating system from scratch.

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