The Windows operating system (OS) has a number of tools and features designed to allow users to troubleshoot and solve problems that may hinder the ability to use a computer as intended. One of the most helpful of these is Safe Mode, a diagnostic option that allows you to access your system if your computer isn't starting normally. Safe Mode can help you recover data, remove viruses or roll back Windows updates. On a Dell laptop, Safe Mode can be accessed by using any one of a few simple methods.
What is Windows Safe Mode?
Safe Mode is a special startup option, available in every modern version of the Windows OS. When engaged, Safe Mode starts the operating system with only the essential functions, drivers and services required for Windows to work properly: installed programs that run on startup will not open, and non-essential drivers will have to be manually enabled. Internet connectivity options will also be disabled unless a user specifically requests them (by using the "Safe Mode with Networking" option).
You can identify whether a computer has been booted in Safe Mode or not by looking at the desktop – in Safe Mode, the desktop background will be replaced with a black screen with the words "Safe Mode" in each corner and the installed Windows build listed at the top of the screen. In Safe Mode, users can access base-level Windows functions, like browsing files and opening basic programs, but cannot perform higher-level tasks without enabling drivers or similar functions manually.
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Basic Dell Safe Mode Startup Process
On a laptop manufactured by Dell, the Safe Mode startup process will depend on the version of Windows installed, not the model of computer. In other words, whether you're working with a Dell Inspiron or Dell Latitude, Safe Mode will function the same and can be accessed in the same way if the Windows version is the same on both machines.
On laptops running Windows 7 and older (Windows Vista, XP, 2000, 98 and 95), Safe Mode can be accessed easily by tapping the "F8" key as the computer is turning on. When the Advanced Boot Menu opens, follow the instructions to select either "Safe Mode" or "Safe Mode with Networking," then press the "Enter" key. Your laptop will then boot into Safe Mode.
On laptops running Windows 8 and newer (Windows 8.1 and Windows 10), booting into Safe Mode requires a few extra steps. To access Safe Mode while the computer is powering on, hold the "Shift" key and tap the "F8" key at the same time – this will load Windows Recovery. From this menu, click "See advanced repair options," then navigate to "Troubleshoot" in the following menu. From there, select "Advanced Options," followed by "Windows Startup Settings." Click the button labeled "Restart" and when your computer restarts, it will open the Advanced Boot Menu. You will then be able to follow the instructions to select either "Safe Mode" or "Safe Mode with Networking."
Accessing Safe Mode from Normal Mode
If you want to boot directly into Safe Mode from a laptop that has already booted into Windows 8, 8.1, or 10 as normal, you can do so via the Settings menu. To do this, click the Start Button in the lower-left corner of the screen, then click the gear icon to open the Settings app. From this menu, navigate to "Update & Security," then select "Recovery." Find the "Advanced Startup" heading on the page, then click the button labeled "Restart Now." Confirm that you wish to restart, then wait.
When your laptop boots into the "Choose an Option" screen, navigate to "Troubleshoot" in the menu. As with booting directly into this menu when powering on the computer, select "Advanced Options," followed by "Windows Startup Settings." Click the button labeled "Restart" and when your computer restarts, it will open the Advanced Boot Menu. You will then be able to follow the instructions to select your preferred Safe Mode option.