Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Safe Mode (11/2005)

Q: My computer keeps starting up in something called “Safe Mode.” All my icons are big and some of my programs won’t run. How can I fix that? Benjamin from Russellville

A: Your computer is starting in safe mode because something is wrong with “normal” mode. This could be a hardware problem such as bad memory or video card or a software glitch such as corrupted drivers or viruses.

Windows will automatically start up in safe mode if Windows does not boot on the previous attempt. You can invoke safe mode on purpose by tapping on the “F8” key about once a second after you first turn on the computer then selecting it from a menu.

So, what is “Safe Mode?” In short, it is a special diagnostic mode of Windows with limited functionality. To ensure the best chance of starting up, safe mode doesn’t load up all the “stuff” that regular mode loads. After all, some of that “stuff” may be causing the problem in the first place. As a result, some of your software or peripherals such as scanners and cameras may not work. Software that starts-up automatically (such as antivirus or instant messaging programs) do not automatically load in safe mode.

Many kinds of software can not be installed in safe mode. But safe mode will allow you to run most kinds of software – sometimes with limited functionality. This bit of knowledge can come in handy if you have a project due tomorrow but your computer won’t start. You might be able to start up in safe mode and finish the project until you get the system fixed.

Running Windows in safe mode allows you to troubleshoot Windows and try to determine what is causing it to not function correctly. Generally speaking, if your computer starts in safe mode, but not in regular mode, then you probably have a software issue as opposed to a hardware problem. If your computer will not start up in safe mode either, you probably have a more serious software problem such as a corrupted registry, nasty virus infection or perhaps a failed piece of hardware.

So, how can you stop your system from starting in safe mode? Easy! Figure out what the problem is and fix it. Okay, that may not be terribly easy to do but there are a few things you can try. If you recently installed some software on your computer, it may be causing problems. You can use Safe Mode to uninstall the software. You might be able to use the “System Restore” feature of Windows ME and XP to revert your system to a previous working state. You can run an antivirus or antispyware scan in safe mode and remove stuff that cannot be removed in normal mode.

As always, if you get stuck, holler at a local computer shop and they can get you back up and running quickly.

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