Everyone tells you to boot into safe mode to troubleshoot a computer problem but they never mention what to do when you actually get into safe mode. In this article I will list some diagnostic tools you can use in safe mode to troubleshoot a computer problem.
First – Entering Safe Mode
Starting a PC in Safe Mode means stripping Windows down to its bare bones and preventing all non-Windows applications from starting up. This helps in two ways: the processor has to run at only a tiny fraction of its capacity; and it enables users to test installed software for faults one by one.
To boot to safe mode you simply repeatedly press F8 when your computer is booting up. This will take you the Windows Advanced Options Menu where you will find the safe mode option.
Types of Safe Mode
Often people get confused when they have to choose which safe mode to boot in to. There is usually three different types.
Safe Mode: Normal safe mode with the least amount of drivers and applications loaded.
Safe Mode with Networking: Safe Mode with Networking allows you access to the internet, so that you can download any needed software or updates.
Safe Mode with Command Prompt: Safe Mode with Command Prompt is for advanced computer users who know how to run DOS commands.
Diagnostic Tools to Use in Safe Mode
When you are entering safemode, Disk Check will run before Safe Mode initializes just after loading mup.sys and classpnp.sys. If it finds any errors you will see the hard drive activity indicator light flashing as the disk is scanned thoroughly.
You shouldn’t try to escape of shut down your computer while the computer is working as it will definitely cause more serious errors.
If all disks are clean and error free, Windows then starts in Safe Mode.
To take advantage of some of the diagnostic tools in safemode, you will probably be prompted for an administrator password.
System restore can be an awesome feature to use in safe mode. Of course you can use this option in normal boot mode but when you can’t access your computer, safe mode is the way to go.
To open System Restore all you have to do is:
1. Click the Start button to open the menu.
2. Choose All Programs from the bottom of the menu.
3. Find the Accessories folder and click on it.
4. Choose System Tools and then System Restore.
You will see different restore dates and events to choose from. For example, a restore point might be just before you installed something that you think caused your problem.
Device Manager: Where Driver Troubleshooting Begins
Having a problem with a device driver is the most common computer problem, therefore when in safe mode, this is one of the most important areas to know about.
Device manager does exactly what the name says, manages devices for your computer. In there you can update drivers, rollback drivers, remove problem drivers and access other windows settings to help diagnose a problem.
Use this keyboard shortcut WINDOWS KEY+R to open Run dialog. Type devmgmt.msc and click OK.
In Event Viewer you can see detailed entries about system and program events on your computer. This information can be extremely handy when your computer has been experiencing errors.
You can easily access the event viewer by clicking on the start menu, then right clicking on computer, and choosing manage from the menu.
When computer management opens, click on the plus sign next to event viewer. Then you will see the Windows logs sections. If you are having a problem with a program, choose application to investigate those logs.
You can also access the Event Viewer by typing eventvwr.mscentering into the the Run dialog box.
Open System Information by clicking the Start button , clicking All Programs, clicking Accessories, clicking System Tools, and then clicking
System Information. View details about your computer’s hardware configuration, components, and drivers.
Command Prompt and RUN Box
Using the command prompt in a CMD window or a run box is for advanced users because you need to know a command to type in to achieve tasks.
You can access the Run Box on all Windows versions by pressing the WINDOWS KEY+R. To access the CMD window all you have to do is type CMD and a black box will appear.
You can see a list of run commands you can type in for various diagnostic tools but here are the most popular. Please note that you can use these commands in a CMD window, the Vista and Seven start menu, and the run box. For Windows XP you can use these in the CMD or Run box.
- Type devmgmt.msc to open Device Manager.
- Type regedit.exe to open the Windows Registry.
- Type eventvwr.msc to open Event Viewer.
- Type msconfig.exe to open the System Configuration Tools.
- Type services.msc to open Services.
Editing the windows registry is not recommended, but sometimes you cannot avoid it. One wrong move and you can render your computer unusable so it is definitely not for beginners.
To open the Registry Editor you only need to go to the Start button, type regedit into the Search box, then press ENTER on your keyboard. You can also type regedit into the run box.
As for knowing what to edit, there are a million possibilities so I do recommend you follow some trustworthy instruction very clearly.
This is an old but still useful program that will show you what drivers might be causing the problem. For example, just say you had a blue screen of death and didn’t see the error message flash by. Using WhoCrashed can show the cause of that blue screen. To use this third party tool you’ll need to choose Safe Mode with Networking to analyze crash dumps with WhoCrashed.
You can download it for free at CNet. Please note, the true download link is well hidden amongst advertising so be sure to click on the link that says ” direct download link”.
Removing Software in Safe Mode
Sometimes you have installed software and then suddenly get problems with your computer. Obviously the best way to remedy this problem is to remove the offending software.
When in safemode you can remove most software, but not all. For example, you cannot remove programs that use the Windows uninstaller as you are not using the full version of Windows in safe mode.
You also cannot install Microsoft security updates in safe mode as it will probably fail. Your first port of call should be system restore, providing you have a restore point prior to installing your software.