Startup Settings

How to Navigate the Startup Settings Menu in Windows 10 and 8

Screenshot of the Startup Settings menu in Windows 10
Startup Settings (Windows 10).

Startup Settings is a menu of the various ways in which you can start Windows 10 and Windows 8, including the well known diagnostic startup option called Safe Mode.

Startup Settings replaced the Advanced Boot Options menu available in previous versions of Windows.

What Is the Startup Settings Menu Used For?

The options available from the Startup Settings menu allow you to start Windows 10 or Windows 8 in some restricted fashion when it won't start normally.

If Windows does start in the special mode, it's likely that whatever was restricted is involved in the cause of the problem, giving you some information to troubleshoot from.

The most commonly accessed option available from the Startup Settings menu is Safe Mode.

How to Access Startup Settings

Startup Settings is accessible from the Advanced Startup Options menu, which itself is accessible via several different methods.

See How To Access Advanced Startup Options in Windows 10 or 8 for instructions.

Once you're on the Advanced Startup Options menu, touch or click Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, and finally Startup Settings.

How to Use the Startup Settings Menu

Startup Settings doesn't itself do anything - it's just a menu. Choosing one of the options will start that mode of Windows 10 or Windows 8, or change that setting.

In other words, using Startup Settings means using one of the available startup modes or features available on the menu.

Important: Unfortunately, it seems that you must have a keyboard attached to your computer or device to be able to select an option from the Startup Settings menu. Windows 10 and Windows 8 were both designed to work best on touch-enabled devices, so it's disappointing that the on-screen keyboard wasn't included with the Startup Settings menu.

Let me know if you find a different solution.

Startup Settings

Here are the various startup methods you'll find on the Startup Settings menu in Windows 10 and Windows 8:

Tip: You can start Windows 10 or Windows 8 in Normal Mode at any time by pressing Enter.

1) Enable debugging

The Enable debugging option turns on kernel debugging in Windows. This is an advanced troubleshooting method where Windows startup information can be transmitted to another computer or device that's running a debugger. By default, that information is sent over COM1 at a baud rate of 15,200.

Enable debugging is the same as Debugging Mode that was available in previous versions of Windows.

2) Enable boot logging

The Enable boot logging option starts Windows 10 or Windows 8 normally but also creates a file of the drivers being loaded during the next boot process. The "boot log" is stored as ntbtlog.txt in whatever folder Windows is installed on, almost always C:\Windows.

If Windows starts properly, take a look at the file and see if anything helps with the troubleshooting of whatever issue you're having.

If Windows does not start properly, choose one of the Safe Mode options and then look at the file once Windows starts in Safe Mode.

If even Safe Mode doesn't work, you can restart into Advanced Startup Options, open Control Panel, and view the log file from there using the type command: type d:\windows\ntbtlog.txt.

3) Enable low-resolution video

The Enable low-resolution video option starts Windows 10 or Windows 8 normally but sets the screen resolution to 800x600. In some cases, like with older CRT style computer monitors, the refresh rate is also lowered.

Windows won't start properly if the screen resolution is set out in the range supported by your screen. Since almost all screens support an 800x600 resolution, Enable low-resolution video gives you a chance to correct any configuration problems.

Note: Only display settings are changed with Enable low-resolution video. Your current display driver is not uninstalled or changed in any way.

4) Enable Safe Mode

The Enable Safe Mode option starts Windows 10 or Windows 8 in Safe Mode, a diagnostic mode that loads the minimum set of services and drivers possible to make Windows run.

See How To Start Windows 10 or Windows 8 in Safe Mode for a full walkthrough.

If Windows starts in Safe Mode, you may be able to run additional diagnostics and testing to figure out what disabled service or driver is preventing Windows from starting normally.

5) Enable Safe Mode with Networking

The Enable Safe Mode with Networking option is identical to the Enable Safe Mode option except that drivers and services required for networking are enabled.

This a great option to choose if you think you might need access to the internet while in Safe Mode.

6) Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt

The Enable Safe Mode with Command Prompt option is identical to Enable Safe Mode but Command Prompt is loaded as the default user interface, not Explorer, which loads the Start screen and Desktop.

Choose this option if Enable Safe Mode doesn't work and you also have commands in mind that might be helpful in figuring out what's keeping Windows 10 or Windows 8 from starting.

7) Disable driver signature enforcement

The Disable driver signature enforcement option allows non-signed drivers to be installed in Windows.

This startup option can be helpful during some advanced driver troubleshooting tasks.

8) Disable early launch anti-malware protection

The Disable early launch anti-malware protection does just that - it disables the Early Launch Anti-malware (ELAM) driver, one of the first drivers loaded by Windows during the boot process.

This option could be useful if you suspect a Windows 10 or Windows 8 startup problem might be due to a recent anti-malware program installation, uninstallation, or settings change.

9) Disable automatic restart after failure

The Disable automatic restart after failure disables Automatic restart in Windows 10 or Windows 8.

When this feature is enabled, Windows forces your device to restart after a major system failure like a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death).

Unfortunately, since Automatic restart is enabled by default in both Windows 10 and Windows 8, your first BSOD will force a restart, possibly before you're able to jot down the error message or code for troubleshooting. With this option, you can disable the feature from Startup Settings, without needing to enter Windows.

See How To Disable Automatic Restart on System Failure in Windows for instructions on doing this from within Windows, a proactive step that I recommended you do.

10) Launch recovery environment

This option is available on the second page of options in Startup Settings, which you can access by pressing F10.

Choose Launch recovery environment to return to the Advanced Startup Options menu. You'll see a short Please wait screen while Advanced Startup Options loads.

Startup Settings Availability

The Startup Settings menu is available in Windows 10 and Windows 8.

In previous versions of Windows, like Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP, the equivalent startup options menu is called Advanced Boot Options.