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January 26, 2017

Safe Mode Hell

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

A good writing day is one when I can pound out the words, hour after hour, all while standing at my PC. It’s fun! I enjoy my job, especially when I spend most of my day writing. That’s not always the case.

Because I write about technology, a lot of what I do is research. I write a little bit, then I turn to my test PC or laptop and attempt to perform some activity. When that activity goes well, I return immediately to write. When it doesn’t, I need to fix things or address issues. I get sidetracked. Sometimes the sidetracking can get quite severe.

An example of severe sidetracking, recently I’ve been testing various Safe Mode options. These options are poorly-documented, so I researched them myself: I set an option, restarted the PC, saw what the option did, and then wrote about it. All that activity takes time.

As these things happen, during one test configuration, the PC restarted but the Windows 10 sign-in screen didn’t appear.

Windows was set to boot into Safe Mode, so I couldn’t restart in Safe Mode to fix the problem. The only way to address the issue was to get into Windows and use the MSCONFIG (System Configuration) Utility to direct Windows to start normally. That process wasn’t possible.

To finally fix the problem (after about two hours of struggle), I forced a bad restart: When the Windows startup animation appeared, I unplugged the PC; I interrupted the normal startup. You must perform this task twice. After the second time of deliberately thwarting Windows startup, Windows automatically enters diagnostic mode. Once there, I could access the full Windows Recovery Environment (in Windows 10), and restart the PC in Safe Mode.

But that solution didn’t work because Safe Mode was unavailable to me; the sign-in box wouldn’t appear.

So I had to force a bad restart a second time. This time, I used the Windows Recovery Environment to run System Restore. Upon success, the MSCONFIG settings were reset, and I could finally start the computer normally.

Man! This episode was a pain in the ass, but I’m familiar with such ordeals. At the end of the day, I didn’t write a word. Still, I have enough documentation to help others out of a similar situation. So it was a good day.

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