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Troubleshooting Boot and Startup Problems - Safe Mode

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Perhaps the most common reason Windows systems become unbootable is that a device driver crashes the machine during the boot sequence. Because software or hardware configurations can change over time, latent bugs can surface in drivers at any time. Windows offers a way for an administrator to attack the problem: booting in safe mode. Safe mode is a boot configuration that consists of the minimal set of device drivers and services. By relying on only the drivers and services that are necessary for booting, Windows avoids loading thirdparty and other nonessential drivers that might crash.

When Windows boots, you press the F8 key to enter a special boot menu that contains the safe-mode boot options. You typically choose from three safe-mode variations: Safe Mode, Safe Mode With Networking, and Safe Mode With Command Prompt. Standard safe mode includes the minimum number of device drivers and services necessary to boot successfully. Networking-enabled safe mode adds network drivers and services to the drivers and services that standard safe mode includes. Finally, safe mode with command prompt is identical to standard safe mode except that Windows runs the command prompt application (Cmd.exe) instead of Windows Explorer as the shell when the system enables GUI mode.

Windows includes a fourth safe mode—Directory Services Restore mode—which is different from the standard and networking-enabled safe modes. You use Directory Services Restore mode to boot the system into a mode where the Active Directory service of a domain controller is offline and unopened. This allows you to perform repair operations on the database or restore it from backup media. All drivers and services, with the exception of the Active Directory service, load during a Directory Services Restore mode boot. In cases where you can’t log on to a system because of Active Directory database corruption, this mode enables you to repair the corruption.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press Windows Internals 5th Edition

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