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Useful technical information

How to boot into safe mode or VGA mode

Sometimes while changing video cards you can get Windows into such a bad state that it refuses to boot. If something is wrong with your display drivers Windows will often be unable to start up properly. But in order to fix the problem you need to get into Windows so you can re-install or fix your display drivers. So Windows won't run but you need to use Windows to try to fix the problem. Fortunately Windows can run in "safe mode" which allows it to boot while not using your installed display drivers. Unless Windows is severely damaged, it should be able to boot in safe mode.

Safe mode screen shot

To get into safe mode with Windows 98 and ME press and hold the Ctrl key immediately after you turn on your computer. In other versions of Windows you need to press the F8 key. On some computers you can press and hold F8 and on others you have to press F8 at the right time which is usually just after the initial BIOS screen (see fiddling with your BIOS) has been displayed. If you can't find the right time for F8 just press the key repeatedly after you turn on your computer. If you have pressed the right key at the right time (which can sometimes requires a bit of experimentation) then Windows will display a startup menu. Select the "Safe Mode" entry on the list and Windows will boot in safe mode. Since safe mode does not use your regular display driver you will probably be stuck in some horrible looking video mode. Once you are in Windows you can try to solve the problem which is preventing you from booting normally in the first place.

Safe mode screen shot

Many things in Windows are disabled when you are running in safe mode. It is probably not possible for you to connect to the Internet. If you are running Windows 2000 or Windows XP, there is another mode known as "VGA mode" which allows Windows to be fully functional except it uses a plain old VGA (circa 1987) video mode. You get into VGA mode the same way as safe mode except you select "Enable VGA Mode" rather than "Safe Mode" on the startup menu. If you are sure that your display adapter is the problem then use VGA mode rather than safe mode. If VGA mode cannot boot then you can try safe mode which almost always boots.

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Copyright © 2005 through 2007 by Mark Allen