Safe Mode On Surface


Have you tried to get your Surface into Safe Mode only to find out that it’s harder than you think?

With Windows 7, all you had to do is hit F8 at boot and it would give you the option to enter Safe Mode but as you probably found out, that doesn’t work on the Surface.

So how can you do it?

Read on, today I’ll tell you all you need to know about Safe Mode on your Surface device.

Safe Mode On Surface: What is Safe Mode?

If you don’t know about Safe Mode, it’s a special mode of operation built into Windows that disables any drivers, devices, and applications that “could go wrong” and only loads a minimal set of what’s needed to run the computer.

This makes it very handy to facilitate troubleshooting or malware recovery if you’re having problems getting your Surface started normally.

Safe Mode On Surface: Accessing Safe Mode

In the past, with Windows 7, it was much easier (and more direct) to get into safe mode. With Windows 8.1 however, you first have to access the Advanced Start screen then navigate a series of menus to get into Safe Mode.

There are multiple ways to access the Advanced Start screen but, on a Surface the most reliable (although not necessarily quickest) is to do the following:

  • Bring up the Search charm
  • Search for Change advanced startup options
  • Select Change advanced startup options from the results
  • Tap Restart Now from under the Advanced Startup section

Safe Mode On Surface - Advanced

Your Surface will restart and boot into the Advanced Startup screen.

I advocate this method because there’s no guarantee you’ll have a keyboard with you. However, if you do happen to have a keyboard attached, it’s much easier to get to the advanced boot screen. All you have to do is hold down the shift key while you tap the restart option from your Start Screen (under the Power icon). If you do that, it will take you straight to the Advanced Start screen.

In either case, once you’re at the Advanced Startup screen, you will need to follow the steps outlined in the infographic below to actually get into Safe Mode.


Safe Mode On Surface: Safe Mode and Bitlocker

If you have Bitlocker encryption turned on for your system drive, you’ll get a prompt for the Bitlocker key once you finish the steps in the infographic flowchart to boot into Safe Mode.

In order to get past this and into Safe Mode, you’ll be prompted to enter your recovery key. You can find out more about how to do that at this web page: Microsoft Recovery Key FAQ

Safe Mode On Surface: Add Safe Mode to Startup

Since you’re probably not going to need to get into Safe Mode too often, the steps above are a pain but not unbearable. However, if you would like to be able to get into safe mode easily without navigating a series of menus, you can always add a “Safe Mode” option at startup.

This has the advantage of being relatively quick and easy to get into Safe Mode on your Surface if you should need to but, it comes at the cost of slowing down your Surface at startup.

Also, this method is not recommended if you’re using Bitlocker encryption on your Surface because you will need to enter your encryption key to start your Surface in Safe Mode.

The method I outline below will add a screen to the start sequence giving you the choice to either start Windows Normally or start in Safe Mode. If you don’t make a choice, it will start normally after a 30 second delay.

  • Attach a keyboard to your Surface (it’s just easier this way)
  • Press the WIN + X keys at the same time or tap and hold (right-click) on the Start button to open the Power User Menu
  • Select Command Prompt (Admin). This will open what’s called an elevated command prompt
  • Click Yes button if the User Account Control message prompts you
  • In the elevated command prompt, type the following command (including the quotes): bcdedit /copy {current} /d “Safe Mode” and press Enter
  • Press WIN + R, and type Msconfig in the Run dialog then tap or click the OK button and the System Configuration utility window should appear

  • From there, go to the Boot tab and select Safe Mode (C:\Windows)
  • Check the Safe boot checkbox then check the Network box

Safe Mode On Surface-msconfig

  • Finally click the OK button
  • If you have Bitlocker enabled, you’ll get a warning like the one below

  • Click Yes to proceed

Once you’ve finished this procedure, you’ll start seeing a blue selection menu when you restart your Surface asking you to boot into Windows 8.1 or Safe Mode. There will be a 30 second timer and when it reaches 0, assuming you followed along correctly, it will boot into Windows 8.1 normally.

Safe Mode On Surface: Remove Safe Mode from Startup

If you would like to remove the Safe Mode from the Windows Boot Manager, all you have to do is go back into the Microsoft Configuration (msconfig) utility and delete the Safe Mode entry from under the Boot tab.

Knowing how to get into Safe Mode is one of those things that you don’t need often but, if you do, you won’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it while your Surface is (likely) broken or having problems.

So, I would bookmark this article and keep it handy, just in case.

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