Here’s how to troubleshoot your computer if it only works in safe mode:
The goal is to figure out which element of your system that safe mode deactivated is causing the issue.
After that, you may try to fix or delete the faulty program, which should address the problem.
If you can’t track out the offender, you may always delete and restore your computer.
So, if you want to learn everything there is to know about what to do when your computer only runs in safe mode, this post is for you.
What Is Safe Mode? | Explaining Safe Mode
When you understand what safe mode is and how it works, solutions to this problem will become more clearer.
Both PCs and Macs have a safe mode.
These safe modes are not identical, but they are designed to accomplish the same goal.
The fact that this mode immediately disables all third-party kernels makes it “safe” in general.
I’ll go into more detail regarding kernels later, but here’s the quick and dirty version.
When safe mode is enabled, third-party software is prohibited from automatically loading system-level instructions.
So, if you have Steam installed and want it to open whenever you turn on your computer, safe mode will prevent that from happening.
Some third-party software can still be used, but it cannot self-load.
You must manually launch it, and even then, only certain third-party apps will operate.
You’ll understand why when we get onto drivers, but that’s not crucial right now.
Here’s the crux of the matter.
Because of how safe mode works, if you have malicious software on your computer, it will most likely not operate properly in safe mode.
Safe mode can also help you cope with faulty third-party software that is causing problems on your computer.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some of the nuances of safe mode as they apply to PCs and Macs.
1. On a PC
Safe mode is available on all Windows PCs.
Safe mode is incorporated into Windows operation, so you have it unless Windows itself is damaged.
On Windows 10 or later, you may enter safe mode from the settings screen, the sign-in screen, or even a blank or black screen.
Networking is one of the distinguishing elements of Windows safe mode.
There are two distinct types of safe mode.
There are no networking drivers loaded.
Consider this to be an extra-safe mode.
No program can connect to the internet since there are no network drivers, and malicious malware cannot upload or download anything.
Furthermore, safe mode without networking is an extremely constrained environment that allows you to focus your troubleshooting efforts.
Safe mode with networking is also available in Windows.
You’ll need this version of safe mode if you want to try installing updates or downloading tools to help you repair the problem.
2. On a Mac
Safe mode is also enabled by default on macOS.
You can get there by turning on the computer and holding down the shift key for any version of macOS that is still supported.
Hold the key down until the login window displays.
After that, you may let go and sign in.
You will be in protected mode.
Safe mode on a Mac is quite similar to that of Windows, except your Mac has just one version.
Because networking is enabled by default in this safe mode, you may always try to download drivers or other tools if you believe they are required.
A Mac’s safe mode is more concerned with deactivating startup items and third-party kernels.
The notion is that this mode just runs the basic macOS systems.
So, if anything works in safe mode but not in normal mode, you know that one of the items disabled by safe mode is to blame.
The remainder of this post will explain how to determine which object is the perpetrator and how to deal with it after it has been recognized.
Why Would a Computer Operate Only in Safe Mode? (3 Possible Causes)
As I’ve indicated before, the goal of safe mode is to disable as many extraneous programs as possible while still allowing the computer to function.
Even though safe mode differs slightly between Macs and PCs, troubleshooting is quite similar on both systems.
So I’ll describe everything in general, and if and when it becomes essential, I’ll bring out particular distinctions for each system.
The idea of it is that you’re attempting to figure out which turned-off component is causing problems in your system, and there are three areas you may check.
1. Third-Party Kernels
We’ll start with third-party kernels.
Technically, any program that isn’t included with your operating system must load third-party kernels, but in this section, I’d want to focus on authorized applications.
We’ll get to malware later.
Let’s start by defining what a kernel is.
To keep it simple, a kernel is the layer of code that allows software to instruct hardware.
It is software infrastructure-level code.
Now, your operating system contains a plethora of kernels, many of which must be loaded even in safe mode.
However, your operating system should be OK without any third-party kernels.
Using Steam as an example, this is software that requires its own kernels to work.
Steam has to be able to transmit orders to your computer’s hardware in order to connect online, draw visuals on your screen, and do anything else.
The kernels are required for this.
However, Windows and macOS do not require Steam to function.
So, when you boot into safe mode, the operating system works correctly, but Steam does not instantly launch and cannot function regularly.
Remember that Steam is only one example.
Third-party applications and apps will be handled uniformly.
Having said that, you may still try to manually run Steam while in safe mode, and the computer will attempt to install the required kernels in order for Steam to operate.
Whether or not this works is also dependent on drivers, which I’ll discuss shortly.
First, I’d want to discuss malware.
Microsoft and Apple do not make a living by embedding viruses in their operating systems.
So, if you have a virus, adware, or other dangerous software, it is referred to as third-party software.
This implies that safe mode stops harmful software from loading vital systems that allow them to function.
Malware requires kernels as well, and without them, it is forced to accomplish nothing.
Malware, on the whole, does not function in safe mode.
It is now feasible to create malware that only uses vital services and systems, however this is extremely difficult and unusual.
The point is that while some uncommon viruses may still function in safe mode, most varieties will not.
All of this means that you may utilize safe mode to avoid the harmful program before removing it.
After that, your computer should resume regular operation.
When I get into repairs a little later, I’ll go through how to uninstall dangerous software while in safe mode.
3. Driver Issues
Another important consideration with safe mode is drivers.
Some drivers are loaded in safe mode, but the majority are left turned off.
This is due to a number of factors.
First, many drivers are really third-party software that is turned off by default.
Furthermore, safe mode attempts to simplify the operating system in order to make it simpler to discover faults.
The more drivers you can leave in safe mode, the better you will do in this regard.
As a result, in safe mode, there may be no sound.
Wi-Fi may not be available.
You may be unable to change your graphics settings.
There are several options, depending on whether you require third-party drivers for certain services.
This is why some software works fine in safe mode while others do not.
Aside from kernels, software need drivers to interface with your computer’s hardware.
The kernels are a collection of instructions that direct the computer’s hardware.
Drivers are essentially translators that guarantee the hardware understands the instructions.
So, if you have a third-party web browser installed on your computer, it may not require any third-party drivers to work.
The browser is primarily only utilizing the basic visual and networking drivers, so as long as those are switched on (always on for Mac and occasionally on depending on whatever safe mode you pick for PC), it should function perfectly.
Other types of software require their own drivers, which might prohibit them from operating in safe mode.
If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that drivers may create issues even while in safe mode.
However, if your computer operates in safe mode rather than normally, the intrinsic drivers (produced by Microsoft or Apple depending on your machine type) are not the issue.
How Do You Troubleshoot a Computer That Only Runs in Safe Mode? (5 Steps)
We’ve covered a lot of ground up to this point.
Because you now know so much about safe mode, troubleshooting should be easy.
I’ll walk you through a procedure that will address almost all occurrences of this problem.
Because computers are difficult, you may be the 1 in 10 million exception to the norm, but you can fix your computer by following this procedure in order.
Safe mode is a tool for isolation.
The whole point is to help you limit down your options.
The fact that your computer operates in safe mode rather than regular mode already indicates the source of the problem.
One (or more) of the items that safe mode disabled is causing problems with your computer.
So you wish to broaden the concept of solitude.
You can try opening applications in safe mode one at a time to check if any of them interfere with the computer’s performance.
If this occurs, you have located your perpetrator.
If it doesn’t work, the next thing you need do is disable all startup items.
Here are the steps for both Windows and Mac.
Turn them all off, no matter how much you enjoy any of them.
After that, restart the computer normally to determine whether the problem remains.
If everything works normally, you know that one of those startup items is the source of the problem.
You may try turning them on one at a time, restarting the computer after each one, and see what happens.
At this point, you must return to safe mode, but you already know who the offender is.
Turn it off as a starting item before proceeding to the following steps.
If turning off all starting items doesn’t make the computer run normally, you’ve ruled out everything else and may go to the next stage.
There are two parts to this.
If you know which piece of software is causing the issue, try running updates on it.
Normally, you may accomplish this from safe mode while networking.
If the software will not operate in safe mode, go to the next step.
If you don’t know which software is causing the issue, execute as many updates as you can in safe mode.
There’s a strong likelihood that all of that third-party software has a defective driver or kernel.
Because you can’t rule it out individually, bulk upgrades are the best option.
This will eliminate many possible issues.
If you are unable to effectively update any program, you must remove and reinstall the software.
In safe mode, you may remove the program.
Then, restart in regular mode.
If the computer works, you know you’ve located the specific problem.
You may reinstall the program once you are in normal mode.
Make sure you receive the latest up-to-date version by downloading it from the source.
If it still screws up your computer after reinstalling, boot into safe mode and remove it again.
You can’t address this with simple solutions.
You should contact the developers for assistance in addressing the matter.
If it isn’t important to you, you may delete it from your computer and go about your business.
However, if you still have no clue what is causing the problem, you should run a virus check.
If you’re not reading this in chronological sequence, you can potentially run a virus check whenever you want.
It is only important that you pick a scanning tool that operates in safe mode.
There are several, but there is no ideal master list.
This will need some study on your side.
You should also enter safe mode with networking, since you will most likely need to download your scanning tool (and possibly update it too).
Check for malware.
Allow the program to eliminate any that you detect.
Then restart the machine in regular mode.
It has a decent possibility of succeeding.
5. Clean Wipe
If you haven’t fixed the computer after all of that, you’re out of basic choices.
Because it is impossible to pinpoint the problem and solve it directly, the best alternative is to fully delete and reinstall your system.
Before you begin, enter safe mode and make a backup of everything vital to you.
You should concentrate on backing up files that are important to you rather than applications and apps.
After the clean, you should be able to reinstall programs and apps.
When you’re confident that everything has been backed up, you may proceed with the wipe and reinstall.
In those links, you’ll discover instructions for Windows and macOS.
Remember, you’re attempting to uninstall and reinstall everything.
That is the most effective technique to remove the malicious program from your computer.