Depending on your version of Windows, this Startup Settings loop or Advanced Boot Options loop is a common way that Windows won’t start. There could be a problem with important system files that are needed to load Safe Mode. Follow this troubleshooting guide if your computer always goes back to the Startup Settings or ABO Screen when you try to start it in Safe Mode, Last Known Good Configuration, or another way.
What to Do if Windows Won’t Boot Into Safe Mode?
Booting into Safe Mode is one of the most common ways to find the cause of a critical error in Windows. Safe Mode turns off all drivers and third-party programs that aren’t needed for your computer to start up.
But what if your computer can’t even start up into Safe Mode? When you try to boot into Safe Mode, your computer may get stuck on the Startup Options screen or just crash. You can try a lot of things to fix this error, which is good news.
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Method 1. Repair System Files with DISM and SFC Scan
If you have tried to fix a startup error before, you have probably used the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool. This tool looks for problems in the Windows disc image and fixes them.
Putting aside the technical terms, you can fix many system errors by using DISM and System File Checker (SFC) together. Before you log in, you should always run DISM before SFC, because SFC uses the system image to fix things. You can use the Command Prompt to run the DISM tool.
Command Prompt for DISM:
- Type cmd into the search box on the Start menu
- Then right-click on Command Prompt and choose “Run as Administrator.”
- In the console of the Command Prompt, type:
DISM /Online /Clean-Image /RestoreHealth
- Then press the Enter key.
- Wait until the repairs are done.
Don’t worry if the process seems to be stuck. Fixing something does take a while.
System File Checker (SFC) is a built-in Windows tool that looks for corrupt or missing system files and fixes them automatically. When troubleshooting many Windows problems, including when Windows won’t start up in Safe Mode, you should always start with an SFC scan. This is because most system errors happen when Windows files are broken or missing.
Through the Command Prompt, you can run SFC:
- In the search bar on the Start menu, type cmd.
- Then, when the results come up, right-click on
Command Prompt > Run as Admin.
- Type sfc /scannow into the Command Prompt console.
- Press the Enter button.
- Wait for SFC to look for missing or broken Windows files on your system. This could take a while, so please be patient.
- After running DISM and SFC, restart your computer and try to start it in Safe Mode. If it still doesn’t work, go on to the next section.
Method 2. Fix the CMOS (Complimentary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor)
The Complimentary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor (CMOS) stores the settings for how your computer is set up on the motherboard. The power comes from the CMOS battery, which is also part of your motherboard.
If you take this battery out and put it back in, the CMOS is cleared and all BIOS settings are returned to their original settings. This trick might not require you to open up your PC, which is good news. Some motherboards let you change the settings from the BIOS menu, so you don’t even need to take out the CMOS battery.
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Clear the CMOS by Resetting the CMOS Battery:
If the menu above doesn’t give you the option to reset your BIOS, you can still do the same thing by putting the battery back in. But if you don’t know how to work with computer hardware, you shouldn’t use this method.
- Open your PC’s case.
- Find the CMOS battery on your motherboard. It should look like a regular battery, like the ones in watches.
- Take out and put back in the cell.
- Start over with your computer. Now, you should set the CMOS back to how it was made.
- Try turning the computer back on in Safe Mode after you’ve cleared the CMOS.
To reset the CMOS, use the BIOS Menu:
- Click on “Start” and then on “Settings” to get there.
- Go to Updates and Security and then Recovery.
- Under “Advanced Startup,” click on “Restart now.”
- Your computer will start up again, and you’ll see the same blue screen as before.
- Now, click Troubleshoot, then click Advanced, then click UEFI Firmware Settings.
- Choose to begin again.
- Your computer will go to the BIOS menu when it starts up again.
- Here, you should look for things like “reset to default” and “default settings.” Different brands will call the option something different.
- After putting the BIOS back to how it was, you should restart your computer.
Method 3: Test the Hard Drive
If Windows doesn’t start the way it should, your hard drive might be broken. Even in Safe Mode, a hard drive can’t load an operating system correctly if it can’t read and write information correctly. If your tests show that something is wrong, you should buy a new hard drive. After you change the hard drive, you’ll have to do a clean installation. If your test works, your hard drive is fine. The problem must be with Windows. If this is true, the problem will be fixed by the next step.
Method 4: Press Either F8 or Shift+F8
If you were using Windows 7, you could press F8 before it started to load. This brought up the “Advanced Boot Options” window, where you could select “Safe Mode” to start Windows 7. Many websites say to press Shift+F8 before Windows loads to get to the recovery mode, from which you can get to Safe Mode.
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But Shift+F8 and F8 don’t work, even though Microsoft made them and said they would work with Windows 10 and 11. Please remember that you can’t stop the boot process on a modern PC with a UEFI BIOS and a fast SSD drive by pressing a certain combination of keys. Some users have said that these keys might work on older PCs, especially ones with a classic BIOS and no SSD drive.
If Windows will only start in one or more of the Safe Mode options, but not in any of the others, you can use Safe Mode to make it easier to follow the steps on this page. If Windows starts up after you turn on Last Known Good Configuration, the problem was caused by a change you made after the last time your computer started up correctly.
If the same change is made, the mistake could happen again. You shouldn’t have to do anything else as long as you don’t make the same mistake again. If your computer starts up with low-resolution video, it’s likely that the video card is broken.