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One trick the tech pros know about Windows 10

One trick the tech pros know about Windows 10
© Paulus Rusyanto | Dreamstime.com

You gotta love Microsoft Windows. For decades, it has been the go-to operating system for billions of computers to operate.

If you don't think about Windows, you're not alone. It's so commonplace that we're all a little guilty of taking it for granted.

You wake up in the morning, head to your home office or go to work. You turn on the computer and take care of literally every aspect of your life on it.

You use it to log onto a web browser like Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge. You use your computer to create spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations, legal documents and so much more.

It's gotten to the point where you might find yourself wondering, "How did I do my job before computers?" Or you may suffer a computer crash at home and break into a sweat.

"How am I going to pay my bills? How am I going to chat with my kids? How am I going to schedule my day?!?"

Of course, if you're at work, you just call the IT guy. In a minute, he does something to turn the screen black. Tap, tap, tap and suddenly your computer is up and running. But, what did he do and how can you do it at home?

It has to do with something IT pros know is called Safe Mode. We'll tell you more about it and, most important, we'll give you a couple of quick tips to use Safe Mode to figure out what's wrong with your computer.

Bonus: Leaked Microsoft memo exposes Surface quality issues

Windows Safe Mode

Unless you're an IT tech or a computer geek, and most people aren't, you've probably seen your computer in Safe Mode but have no idea what it is. Simply, Safe Mode is a way to figure out what's wrong with your computer by opening a bare bones version of it.

It's particularly helpful if you suspect your computer is infected with a virus. If it is, you may not be able to move your cursor or restart your computer.

If something's wrong with your computer, you may not be able to click on the apps that you use every day. You may not be able to open files you've already created. It's frustrating and a little scary.

As IT pros know, Windows Safe Mode is one way to fix what's wrong with it, without viruses or other problems getting in the way. (Keep reading for tips to start your computer in Safe Mode.)

In Safe Mode, your computer doesn't turn on some hardware like your scanner or printer, for instance. Your computer doesn't run autoexec.bat. It doesn't run config.sys either.

Your computer's graphics are also bare bones, without the images or colors that you usually see. You'll just have a black screen with words like "safe mode" on it.

If something is wrong with your computer, it might automatically open in Safe Mode. You can then start searching for problems, so you can fix it and get back to work. But, if it doesn't automatically start in Safe Mode, you'll want to force it into Safe Mode.

Safe Mode on Windows 10

If you're using one of the roughly half billion computers running the most recent version of Windows, called Windows 10, there are several ways to start your computer in safe mode or Safe Boot. Here's an easy way that we like.

You can use your Cortana task bar on the lower left side of your computer screen. If you use the voice-activated version of it, say "system configuration." Or just type in those words.

System Configuration >> click on System Configuration desktop app >> select Boot >> Safe Boot >> select Minimal unless you know that you need another option >> OK >> select either Restart or Exit Without Restart.

Safe Mode in previous versions of Windows

Try this to get into Safe Mode: Start >> Restart >> hold down the F8 key as your computer is restarting. But, do it before you see the Windows logo. Otherwise, you'll need to try again.

You'll see multiple options for Safe Mode (see Microsoft Support's descriptions below). If you're not sure which mode you need, start with Safe Mode with Networking.

  • Safe Mode with Networking. Starts Windows in safe mode and includes the network drivers and services needed to access the internet or other computers on your network.
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt. Starts Windows in safe mode with a command prompt window instead of the usual Windows interface. This option is intended for IT professionals and administrators.
  • Enable Boot Logging. Creates a file, ntbtlog.txt, that lists all the drivers that are installed during startup and that might be useful for advanced troubleshooting.
  • Enable low-resolution video (640×480). Starts Windows using your current video driver and using low resolution and refresh rate settings. You can use this mode to reset your display settings. For more information, see Change your screen resolution.
  • Last Known Good Configuration (advanced). Starts Windows with the last registry and driver configuration that worked successfully.
  • Directory Services Restore Mode. Starts Windows domain controller running Active Directory so that the directory service can be restored. This option is intended for IT professionals and administrators.
  • Debugging Mode. Starts Windows in an advanced troubleshooting mode intended for IT professionals and system administrators.
  • Disable automatic restart on system failure. Prevents Windows from automatically restarting if an error causes Windows to fail. Choose this option only if Windows is stuck in a loop where Windows fails, attempts to restart, and fails again repeatedly.
  • Disable Driver Signature Enforcement. Allows drivers containing improper signatures to be installed.
  • Start Windows Normally. Starts Windows in its normal mode.
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