Windows XP / Beginners

Using Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a Windows XP feature that enables you to start Windows with a minimal number of drivers. Safe Mode is used in instances where you cannot start Windows normally. You can use Safe Mode to fix problems with your system-it essentially gets Windows up and running, but that's about it. Most major Windows XP features do not work in Safe Mode.

So, why would you use Safe Mode? Let's consider an example. Suppose that you have installed a new video card and the driver for the card. When you restart Windows XP, it boots, but then you get a "fatal exception" blue screen just before your desktop appears. You try this over and over and get the same result. More than likely, the video card's driver is not working correctly with Windows XP. If you boot the computer into Safe Mode, Windows will load a basic VGA driver to use with the card. Once the computer is booted, you can use Device Manager to remove or update the bad driver.

A number of other repair tools require you to boot your computer into Safe Mode in order to work. Before you see how to boot into Safe Mode, you should be aware of some other boot options that you can choose along with Safe Mode. You can access all of these options by using the Windows Startup menu, which you'll see if you hold down CTRL when you turn on your computer. (If holding down CTRL doesn't seem to work, try pressing F8 when you start the computer.) You'll see a Startup menu that allows you to choose Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and some other options. When your computer boots into Safe Mode, you can access the tools and try to solve the problem. When you're done, just reboot the computer and it will boot into normal mode. The following Safe Mode options are available:

  • Safe Mode Use Safe Mode when the computer will not start normally. Once you boot into Safe Mode, you can start and stop services, change computer settings, uninstall hardware or drivers, and launch System Restore.
  • Last Known Good Configuration This option starts Windows with the last known good Registry saved. If you make some configuration changes and restart Windows, but the restart fails, use the Last Known Good Configuration option. This setting is particularly helpful if you have installed a new driver that does not work correctly. The Last Known Good Configuration boot will use the last saved Registry, using the driver(s) that originally started correctly.
  • Enable VGA Mode This option starts the computer with a standard VGA driver. If you are sure that a video card driver has caused the problem, use VGA mode.
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt This option boots you to a command prompt where you can run command-line utilities.
  • Safe Mode with Networking This option keeps the computer configured with networking capabilities, which would typically not be available in standard Safe Mode.
  • Directory Services Restore Mode This option actually doesn't do anything; it is a leftover from Windows 2000 domain controllers.
  • Debugging Mode This choice starts Windows XP so that kernel debugging occurs. Typically, this mode is not used, since the data provided in Debugging Mode is not particularly helpful unless you are a programmer.
  • Enable Boot Logging This option creates a log file of the boot process that you can review.
  • Start Windows Normally With this option selected, Windows starts normally without using any Safe Mode options.
[Previous] [Contents] [Next]