...I always understood Safe mode scans were effective because a lot of malware wont run in that mode and so can be picked up even if it cant in normal 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 with many security scanners. This was before
malware writers began to employ more sophisticated techniques to counter removal efforts in that mode and before
we had programs like Malwarebytes which work effectively in normal mode.Why not use safe mode
? Some security tools like anti-rootkit scanners (ARKs) and scanning 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.
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 your anti-virus is going to detect anything. However, programs like Malwarebytes can detect zero-day malware and is one reason they are recommended to supplement your anti-virus software. 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.