How to Start Windows XP in Safe Mode

Windows XP Safe Mode loads minimal set of drivers and services for the user to perform various troubleshooting techniques. This helps troubleshooters to identify if third party drivers are causing your computer to reboot in a continuous loop on startup for example.

Windows XP can be booted into Safe Mode, Safe Mode with Networking, and Safe Mode with Command Prompt by pressing and holding the F8 key on startup to access the Windows XP Safe Boot screen. Safe Mode only loads a minimal set of drivers and services while Safe Mode with Networking will also load networking drivers. Safe Mode with Command Prompt will load a minimal set of drivers and services with the Command Prompt (cmd.exe) replacing Explorer shell. (pic)

In this blog post I will describe how to start Windows XP in Safe Mode in a few different ways.

Safe Mode

Safe Mode Boot Option Method

  1. Press and hold F8 when your computer powers-on to gain access to the Windows XP Safe Boot Options.
  2. Select Safe Mode using the Up or Down arrows on your keyboard. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode Boot Options

  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. Select the Operating System to boot to Safe Mode.
  5. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  6. At the Logon Screen select an Administrator account then, if required, enter the password for the Administrator account.

MSCONFIG Method

  1. Click Start and then Run.
  2. Type msconfig.exe in the Run dialog box.
  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. You should see the System Configuration Utility window (msconfig.exe). Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG.EXE)

  5. Click on the Boot.ini tab then place a checkmark for /SAFEBOOT. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode Boot Using MSCONFIG

  6. Click Apply then OK.
  7. Restart Windows XP.

NOTE

To undo the changes when using the MSCONFIG Method the read the section below called "Exiting Safe Mode when Using the MSCONFIG Method"

Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Safe Mode Boot Option Method

  1. Press and hold F8 when your computer powers-on to gain access to the Windows XP Safe Boot Options.
  2. Select Safe Mode with Command Prompt using the Up or Down arrows on your keyboard. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt

  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. Select the Operating System to boot to Safe Mode with Command Prompt.
  5. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  6. At the Logon Screen select an Administrator account then, if required, enter the password for the Administrator account.

MSCONFIG Method

  1. Click Start and then Run.
  2. Type msconfig.exe in the Run dialog box.
  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. You should see the System Configuration Utility window (msconfig.exe). Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG.EXE)

  5. Click on the Boot.ini tab then place a checkmark for /SAFEBOOT and select MINIMAL(ALTERNATESHELL). Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode Boot with Command Prompt Using MSCONFIG

  6. Click Apply then OK.
  7. Restart Windows XP.

NOTE

To undo the changes when using the MSCONFIG Method the read the section below called "Exiting Safe Mode when Using the MSCONFIG Method"

Safe Mode with Networking

Safe Mode Boot Option Method

  1. Press and hold F8 when your computer powers-on to gain access to the Windows XP Safe Boot Options.
  2. Select Safe Mode with Networking using the Up or Down arrows on your keyboard. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode with Networking

  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. Select the Operating System to boot to Safe Mode with Networking.
  5. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  6. At the Logon Screen select an Administrator account then, if required, enter the password for the Administrator account.

MSCONFIG Method

  1. Click Start and then Run.
  2. Type msconfig.exe in the Run dialog box.
  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. You should see the System Configuration Utility window (msconfig.exe). Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP System Configuration Utility (MSCONFIG.EXE)

  5. Click on the Boot.ini tab then place a checkmark for /SAFEBOOT and select NETWORK. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP Safe Mode Boot with Networking Using MSCONFIG

  6. Click Apply then OK.
  7. Restart Windows XP.

NOTE

To undo the changes when using the MSCONFIG Method the read the section below called "Exiting Safe Mode when Using the MSCONFIG Method"

Exiting Safe Mode when Using the MSCONFIG Method

To stop Windows XP from booting into Safe Mode then reverse the changes to MSCONFIG, you will need to perform some steps within Safe Mode. Once you have performed the required steps then your computer should start normally.

  1. Click Start and then Run.
  2. Type msconfig.exe in the Run dialog box.
  3. Press ENTER on your keyboard.
  4. You should see the System Configuration Utility window (msconfig.exe). Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP MSCONFIG Selective Startup

  5. Select Normal Startup – load all device drivers and services. Refer to Image below.

    Windows XP MSCONFIG Normal Startup

  6. Click Apply then OK.
  7. Restart Windows XP.

Version 2.3
Edited: May 2, 2012

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5 Responses to How to Start Windows XP in Safe Mode

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