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After starting "msconfig" and activating the "Safe boot" option Windows 8.1 fails to start Safe Mode, displaying only a black screen and seldomly the words "Safe Mode" in each corner. User sometimes reports mouse control.
The user is stuck being unable to return to regular boot, since he cannot access Safe Mode to do so and, additionally, the boot order screen and advanced boot options fail to remedy this problem.

In effect the problem of the user is being unable to access Safe Mode and being unable to boot normally.

Methods that do not work:

  • System Restore
  • Boot Record repair
  • Boot order screen and advanced boot options
  • I am posting this question, because I found myself in this predicament not too long ago and from what I searched around stackexchange and the Internet, this serious problem is not answered anywhere, save for two threads. Everywhere else people have this problem, but noone can help them, that is why I am sharing this obscure piece of information. – mathgenius Nov 20 '15 at 12:31
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The reason this is happening is because in some instances of Windows 8.1 Safe Mode does not work correctly and only shows a black screen. What is actually happening is that your computer is in fact booting into "Safe Mode", but for some reason it doesn't load properly and instead of your usual Safe Mode desktop all you see is a black screen, sometimes with a mouse pointer and the words "Safe Mode" flashing in each corner of the screen.

This issue is not caused by problems with one's video card and/or drivers, as is erroneously suggested around the web.

The problem with Safe Mode is beyond this question's reach, perhaps being better addressed to Microsoft.
However the normal booting can be easily restored.

In order to return to the normal Windows boot you need to run this command at a Command Prompt (you may access one from the "Advanced Boot Options" menu) and restart the computer.

bcdedit /deletevalue safeboot

That should fix your problems.


Why does this happen and why none of the other methods work?

When you enable any sort of "Safe Boot" in msconfig a file called "safeboot" is added to the boot sector of your hard drive. When your system loads it first looks at the boot sector in order to decide what to do next, when it sees this file it boots into Safe Mode.
Normally this file is deleted after you exit Safe Mode, but since in this specific predicament you are unable to do so you are stuck in an endless loop.

System Restore
System Restore will not work, because it only alters files on your hard drive and the registry. In other words - it does not touch the boot sector, which you need.

Boot Repair
Repairing the Master Boot Record or the entire boot sector will not help, either, because there is nothing wrong with them. Repairing them usually means just replacing the boot files, so that if they are corrupted or damaged they will work again, but what you need is to delete a file.
However boot "manager" programs could help you, if they are configured with more advanced options.

Boot order screen and advanced boot options
None of the options in the boot order screen or advanced boot options remove the "safeboot" file. Choosing "Normal Boot" simply allows the booting to continue, while choosing any of the "Safe Mode" options loads up Safe Mode.

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  • I say that some instances of Windows 8.1 lack a Safe Mode "(or perhaps all of them)" because I was unable to find an official statement or upade/patch on the matter, yet the Internet is full of reports of this problem. – mathgenius Nov 20 '15 at 12:33
  • While this answer address the symptom of not being able to boot into Safe Mode, Windows cannot "lack" Safe Mode, that just isn't possible. A better description of this behavior instead of saying the system "lacks" Safe Mode is that, Safe Mode, is erroneously enabled. You basically explain that when Safe Mode is enabled, a file is created, but only deleted once Windows successfully boots into Windows while in Safe Mode. – Ramhound Nov 20 '15 at 13:07
  • The Windows 7 Forum article How to Start Windows 7 in Safe Mode goes into detail. – Ramhound Nov 20 '15 at 13:12
  • @Ramhound, while I am unsure how much a system cannot "lack" a Safe Mode, you do realise this is just semantics and the important part is what I am trying to convey across, correct? And thank you for the article, but I fail to see why it is relevant. – mathgenius Nov 23 '15 at 9:01
  • It isn't just semantics. If you say "Windows lacks Safe Mode" it means Safe Mode is missing. Saying the installation Safe Mode has been erroneously enabled that says something else entirely. Don't make me regret upvoting your answer because of its potential, I certainly didn't upvote it, because of its technical correctness. – Ramhound Nov 23 '15 at 11:52

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