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Beginners Guides: Windows XP Safe Mode Explained

Beginners Guides: Windows XP Safe Mode Explained - PCSTATS
Abstract: Safe Mode is a powerful tool for fixing problems in Windows, and finally PCstats explains how to actually use it!
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Beginners Guides Feb 10 2011   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > Beginners Guides

How do I get into safe mode?

How do you get into Safe Mode? Very easily. When booting your system, as soon as the first (POST) screen appears showing your memory and hardware information, start pressing 'F8.'

The Windows XP advanced options menu will come up listing various boot options. As you can see, there are a few safe mode options available. 'Safe Mode' is the one we are interested in for now. 'Safe mode with networking' allows you to connect to other computers via a network, and also allows you Internet access if you are using an Internet sharing device connected to your network. Note that dial up connections like DSL will not work directly in safe mode. 'Safe mode with command prompt' does not attempt to load the Windows Explorer graphical interface, instead transporting you straight to XP's DOS-like command prompt.

Why should you remember all this?

Because safe mode is the single best thing to try if you are experiencing problems booting your system or if running certain software causes issues with your PC. Using safe mode can let you determine if the problems you are experiencing are hardware malfunctions or software issues.

Safe mode works by providing the minimal set of software needed to boot you into the Windows Graphic environment. So, if you can boot in safe mode but cannot boot properly into the normal Windows environment, you have a problem with some of the software or a device driver installed on your system. Safe mode also provides you with access to the tools you need to resolve these kinds of problems.

XP Home safe mode - some differences

The Windows XP Home safe mode is fundamentally identical to the one in Windows XP Pro, with a couple of notable changes. In Windows XP Home, the built-in 'administrator' account is only available in safe mode and is the default account for that mode. The password for the administrator account is blank, since it is not accessible except in safe mode. It's recommended that you log in as this account to make changes in safe mode.

The fact that the administrator password is blank by default also allows you to use XP Home's safe mode to reset the password of other user accounts on your machine in the event that you lose the original password. Of course, this also means that every user account on your system is vulnerable to someone with direct access to the system, which is why XP Home is intended for non-business use only.

Practical uses for safe mode

Now let's explore some of the uses that safe mode has on the average Windows XP desktop. There's a reason why attempting to boot in safe mode is the first thing any tech will do when confronted with a PC that will not boot fully into Windows.

Removing viruses/spyware

Often the only way to correctly remove certain persistent virus and spyware programs is to run your system in safe mode. Many forms of malicious software will protect or reinstall themselves constantly if they are allowed to start in the first place. These programs will situate themselves in one of the many autorun locations in the Windows XP registry and file structure, so when Windows is started normally, so is the offending software, running as a process in the background.

When you start the PC in safe mode, these autorun locations are not used, and no software is started automatically. This can allow virus and spyware removal programs the opportunity they need to correctly and completely remove the malicious software.

If you are having virus or spyware problems on your PC, you should always run antivirus and anti-spyware programs in safe mode to ensure that they have maximum effect. If you are following manual virus removal instructions from a website like www.sarc.com, they will often require safe mode also.

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Contents of Article: Beginners Guides
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Windows XP Safe Mode Explained
 Pg 2.  — How do I get into safe mode?
 Pg 3.  Running System Restore in Safe Mode
 Pg 4.  Identifying the cause of the problem
 Pg 5.  Stoping Autorun Programs Con't
 Pg 6.  Locating Bad Drivers Con't
 Pg 7.  Disabling devices in safe mode

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