CU Home Help
Columbia University Information Technology
 Service Alerts
 CUIT Service Catalog
 Get Help Now
 Manage My UNI
 Services Overview
 Network Overview
 Labs & Classrooms
 Network Use Policy
 About CUIT
 CUIT Home

E-mail & Computing
Rebooting Windows in Safe Mode

Instructions for booting your computer in Safe Mode, paraphrased from Symantec.

All recent version of Windows include a special diagnostic mode called Safe Mode. In Safe Mode, you are often able to troubleshoot hardware problems which prevent Windows from starting up normally. When the machine is in Safe Mode, most viruses cannot run, and Anti-virus scans are often more effective. If you've tried to remove a virus in Windows, and have been told by your Anti-virus program that "access is denied," a scan in Safe Mode is a good idea.

Windows 98

  1. Do one of the following:
        A) If Windows is running: Close all open programs. Click Restart, and then click OK.
        B) If Windows is not running: If the computer is on, turn off its power switch. Wait 30 seconds. Then turn the computer's power switch on again.

  2. As the computer restarts, press and hold down the Ctrl key until the Windows 98 startup menu appears.
  3. Choose Safe mode from the startup menu, and then press Enter. Windows starts in Safe mode.

Windows 2000

  1. If the computer is running, shut down Windows, and then turn off the power.
  2. Wait 30 seconds, and then turn the computer on.
  3. When you see the black-and-white Starting Windows bar at the bottom of the screen, start tapping the F8 key. The Windows 2000 Advanced Options Menu appears.
  4. Ensure that the Safe mode option is selected. In most cases, it is the first item in the list and is selected by default. (If it is not selected, use the arrow keys to select it.)
  5. Press Enter. The computer will start in Safe mode. This can take a few minutes.
  6. When you are finished with all troubleshooting, close all programs and restart the computer as you normally would.

Windows XP
  1. Start Windows, or if it is running, shut Windows down, and then turn off the computer.
  2. Restart the computer. The computer begins processing a set of instructions known as the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). What is displayed depends on the BIOS manufacturer. Some computers display a progress bar that refers to the word BIOS, while others may not display any indication that this process is happening.
  3. As soon as the BIOS has finished loading, begin tapping the F8 key on your keyboard. Continue to do so until the Windows Advanced Options menu appears. If you begin tapping the F8 key too soon, some computers display a "keyboard error" message. To resolve this, restart the computer and try again.
  4. Using the arrow keys on the keyboard, scroll to and select the Safe mode menu item, and then press Enter.

To reach this page quickly in the future, use the keyword safemode.

Reporting Security Problems

Send reports of security incidents, attacks, or questions to