Safe mode - Why not use safe mode?Safe Mode
is a troubleshooting mode designed to start Windows with minimal drivers
and running processes
to diagnose problems with your computer. This means some of the programs that normally start when Windows starts will not run.Why use safe mode
? The Windows operating system protects files
when they are being accessed by an application or a program. Malware writers create programs that can insert itself and hide in these protected areas
when the files are being used. Using safe mode reduces the number of modules requesting files to only essentials which make your computer functional. This in turn reduces the number of hiding places for malware
, making it easier to find and delete the offending files when performing scans with anti-virus and anti-malware tools. In many cases, performing your scans in safe mode speeds up the scanning process. Scanning in safe mode was a recommended course of action years ago before
malware writers began to employ more sophisticated techniques to counter removal efforts in that mode.Why not use safe mode
? Some security tools like anti-rootkit scanners (ARKs) and programs with anti-rootkit technology use special drivers which are required
for the scanning and removal process. These tools are designed to work in normal mode because the drivers will not load in safe mode which lessens the scan's effectiveness. Other security tools are optimized to run from normal mode
where they are most effective. For example, scanning with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware in safe or normal mode will work but removal functions are not as powerful in safe mode
. Malwarebytes is designed to be at full power when malware is running
so safe mode is not necessary when using it. In fact, Malwarebytes loses some effectiveness for detection and removal when used in safe mode
because the program includes a special driver which does not work in safe mode. For optimal removal, normal mode is recommended
so it does not limit the abilities of such tools.
Further, scanning in safe mode prevents some types of malware from running so it may be missed during the detection process. If the malware is not related to a running process (i.e. malicious .dll) it probably will not make a difference performing a scan in normal or safe mode. A hidden piece of malware
such as a rootkit
which protects other malicious files and registry keys from deletion may not be detected in either mode without the use of special tools. Additionally, if the scanner you're using does not include definitions for the malware, then they may not detect or remove it regardless of what mode is used. If you're dealing with zero-day malware
it's unlikely the anti-virus is going to detect anything. Also keep in mind that there are various types of malware infections which target the safeboot keyset so booting into safe mode is not always possible.
Generally I recommend performing a scan in normal mode
unless that mode does not work or the tool is specifically intended for use in safe mode.