The MSCONFIG Program

In Windows there is a very useful program called MSCONFIG.  It can be run from the “Run” entry box in the “Start” menu.  It allows you to selectively decide what programs and services will be run the next time the PC is booted.  This can be very useful when trying to diagnose a problem with your PC.  The program is not new, having been around since at least Windows XP and still exists in Windows 10.

The Problem

It is possible, by disabling the wrong programs and services, to make it so that when you restart the PC no log-in entry box is shown and you can no longer log in.  A very nasty situation.

The Windows 10 Catch

With Windows versions prior to 10 it was possible the press the F8 key during boot to get a menu that allows the operating system to be started in Safe Mode.  Once in this mode, log-in is possible and MSCONFIG can be run again and the mischief undone, allowing normal log-in during the next reboot.

But on Windows 10 the F8 key will not work.  There are plenty of ways of getting Windows 10 to reboot in Safe Mode, but they all require you to be logged in at the time.  Do you sense a Catch-22 here?

The Solution

Some of it is ugly but there is a way to get Windows 10 to start in Safe Mode.  Here’s the technique.

  1. Start the computer booting and click the Welcome screen as you normally would.  This is when the sign-in box should appear but doesn’t.  If you have these logos at the bottom right click the rightmost one:

    Click the logo indicated and a box will appear with several options, once of which is RestartHold the Shift key down and click Restart.  The computer will reboot.  If you get the screen in step 6 then proceed from there.  If not continue with the next step.  This is where it gets ugly.
  2. Shutdown the computer by clicking the icon above and selecting Shut down.
  3. Once powered off power it back on.
  4. When you see the Windows Logo in mid-screen, immediately press and hold the PC’s power button until it powers off (it might take several seconds).
  5. Repeat steps 3 & 4
  6. Start the computer again allowing it to proceed.  It will shows messages about diagnosing issues and then give you this screen:
  7. Select Troubleshooting and you will see this screen:
  8. Select Advanced Options and you will see:
  9. Select Startup Settings and this dialog will display:

    This screen is just informational and shows a number of startup settings that will be available when you restart, so all that is needed here is to click Restart.
  10. The computer will reboot and show this screen:
  11. Press the 4 or the F4 key and Windows will start in Safe Mode.
  12. You can then run MSCONFIG from the “Run” option in the “Start Menu” as you did before and undo the change you made by selecting “Normal startup” then clicking “OK” and rebooting.
  13. Normal Windows 10 log-in availability should be the end result.

As with all operations like the above, we take no responsibility for the end result of following them, good or bad .  Always have a current backup before embarking on any risky venture.