In the first article in this series on Windows 7/10 Safe Mode, we looked at what to do when the F8 method to start Windows in Safe Mode just doesn’t work. However, we also found a few boot options gems that can serve as powerful troubleshooting and diagnostic tools that simply aren’t available in standard safe mode.
To see these options, first click Start and then Run. If you do not have the Run command on the Start menu, hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press R. In the Run dialog box, type msconfig and click OK.
Click the Boot tab and find the Boot Options section.
Safe Mode boot options for Windows 7/10
This part of the article discusses the four main options for booting in Safe Mode. Each has distinct advantages over the others, and each is used for different troubleshooting and diagnostic purposes.
Minimum Safe Mode
Minimal Safe Mode
As discussed in the previous article in this series, the Minimal option is the same type of safe mode that you get when using the F8 method. Minimal graphical user interface (GUI) load, but only critical system services are running.
This does not include your graphics card drivers, so when booting into Safe Minimum, your computer usually displays a minimum resolution of 800×600. Safe Minimum is best when you don’t know what the problem is with your computer and need to start from scratch.
Alternative shell safe mode
Alternative Safe Mode Shell
An alternative shell safe mode boots Windows using the command line with the graphical interface completely disabled. This safe mode requires in-depth knowledge of how to navigate Windows using text-only commands and without using a mouse.
This mode is especially useful for troubleshooting graphics problems on your graphics card, as well as problems with your hard drive or file system. Alternative shell mode also doesn’t load any network drivers or software, so you won’t have access to your local network or the Internet.
Active Directory Safe Recovery Mode
Safe Mode Active Directory Repair
Active Directory Safe Mode is a little difficult to explain. Unlike the Windows registry, Active Directory does not contain dynamic information or data that can change frequently. One of the things stored in Active Directory is machine-specific information such as print queues, contact information, and data related to your computer’s hardware.
If Active Directory gets damaged or if you unsuccessfully replace hardware on your computer, you may experience instability issues with Windows. One of the most common problems occurs when a computer owner replaces a faulty motherboard with a different brand and model of the old one. Active Directory Safe Recovery Mode can help you restore the stability of your computer by storing new or revised information in Active Directory.
You will probably never need to use this setting unless your computer is a domain controller or part of a domain.
Network Safe Mode
As the name suggests, in Network Safe Mode, Windows boots with a graphical user interface and with network enabled. This means that you will also have access to your local network and the Internet.
This safe mode is best used when your Windows computer is unstable and you need to update or download a driver, patch, or update the hardware or software on your computer. Network Safe Mode is especially useful when installing new hardware, such as a graphics card, and needing to download the latest driver from the manufacturer’s website.
Network Safe Mode is also useful when you are sure your computer’s problem is offline. Restarting Windows 7 in this safe mode allows you to create local network backups and download drivers from the Internet before troubleshooting and diagnosing problems with your computer.
In the final article in this series, we’ll discuss the rest of the options available to you and find out how they differ from the Safe Mode options presented above. While not technically part of Windows Safe Mode settings, they complement Safe Mode settings to help you troubleshoot and diagnose computer errors.