How to Boot to Windows XP Safe Mode With Command Prompt

How to Start Safe Mode With Command Prompt

Starting your computer in Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt can help you perform advanced diagnostics and solve many serious problems, especially when starting normally, or in other Safe Mode options, is not possible.

The steps to start Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt are nearly identical to entering into the normal Windows XP Safe Mode, but you'll see that Step 2 below is different from Step 2 in that tutorial.

01
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Press F8 Before the Windows XP Splash Screen

Screenshot of the Windows XP Professional splash screen
Windows XP Starting Up.

To begin entering Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt, turn your PC on or restart it.

Just before the Windows XP splash screen shown above appears, press the F8 key to enter the Windows Advanced Options Menu.

02
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Choose Windows XP Safe Mode With Command Prompt

Screenshot of the Windows XP Advanced Options Menu
Windows XP "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" Option.

You should now see the Windows Advanced Options Menu screen. If not, you may have missed the small window of opportunity to press F8 from Step 1 and Windows XP is probably now continuing to boot normally if it's able to. If this is the case, just restart your computer and try pressing F8 again.

Here you are presented with three variations of Windows XP Safe Mode you may enter:

  • Safe Mode - This is the default option and is usually the best choice. This mode will load only the absolute minimum processes necessary to start Windows XP.
  • Safe Mode with Networking - This option loads the same processes as Safe Mode but also includes those that allow the networking functions in Windows XP to work. This is valuable if you may need to access the Internet or your local network while troubleshooting in Safe Mode.
  • Safe Mode with Command Prompt - This flavor of Safe Mode also loads a minimum set of processes but will allow access to the Command Prompt. This is a valuable option if more advanced troubleshooting is necessary.

Using the arrow keys on your keyboard, highlight the Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt option and press Enter.

03
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Select the Operating System to Start

Screenshot of the Windows XP Operating System Choice Menu
Windows XP Operating System Choice Menu.

Before entering the Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt, Windows needs to know which operating system installation you would like to start. Most users only have a single Windows XP installation so the choice is usually clear.

Using your arrow keys, highlight the correct operating system and press Enter.

Tip: Don't worry if you don't see this menu. Just move on to the next step.

04
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Choose an Administrator Account

Screenshot of the Windows XP login screen
Windows XP Login Screen.

To enter Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt, you must log on with an administrator account or an account that has administrator permissions.

On the PC displayed in the screen shot above, both my personal account, Tim, and the built-in administrator account, Administrator, have administrator privileges so either one could be used to enter Safe Mode with Command Prompt. If you're not sure if any of your personal accounts have administrator privileges, choose the Administrator account by clicking on it.

05
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Make Necessary Changes in Windows XP Safe Mode With Command Prompt

Screenshot of the Windows XP Safe Mode Command Prompt screen
Windows XP Safe Mode With Command Prompt.

Entry into Windows XP Safe Mode with Command Prompt should now be complete.

Make any changes you need to make by entering commands into the Command Prompt, and then restart the computer. Assuming there are no remaining issues preventing it, the computer should boot to Windows XP normally after a restart.

Tip: You can "convert" Safe Mode into one with a Start menu and desktop by entering the start explorer.exe command. This might not work because you're most likely using this form of Safe Mode because the normal Safe Mode won't start, but it's worth a try.

Note: You can't see it in this screenshot, but it's very easy to identify if a Windows XP PC is in Safe Mode because the text "Safe Mode" will always appear in the corners of the screen.