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Fix Windows XP Safe Mode Disabled By Malware

The Windows Safe Mode Option Screen.

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by tim

One solution to delete malware is to boot into safe mode and remove the virus from there. But what if you can’t run safe mode? Some viruses will actually disable safe mode, preventing you from booting into safe mode where malware usually won’t run. So how do you enable safe mode again?

Registry Keys

Malware will actually delete the registry key: HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Safeboot to prevent safe mode from loading. You will still be able to see Windows Advanced Options Menu when you press F8 on boot, however there will be an error when you select “Safe Mode” preventing you from entering Safe Mode to delete the malware. 

Enable Safe Mode If You Have Access To Windows

You can restore Safe Mode by adding back in the registry keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot. You can’t do this yourself, so take a look at this guide https://blog.didierstevens.com/2007/02/19/restoring-safe-mode-with-a-reg-file/ to download clean Safe Mode Registry Keys. Extract the Zip file, and double-click on the SafeBoot-for-Windows-XP-SP3.reg file to merge into the registry. There are also .reg files for Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003. Safe Mode should now be enabled.

Enable Safe Mode If You Don’t Have Access To Windows

If malware is preventing you from entering Windows, your only option is to boot from a cd or usb flash drive. Run an anti-virus cleaning utility from there and clean the malware from your computer. Then boot into Windows and merge the Safe Boot keys into the registry as explained above to enable Safe Mode. One good Windows boot cd is Ultimate Boot CD for Windows. You can download the boot cd from https://www.ubcd4win.com/downloads.htm and https://www.ubcd4win.com/burn.htm has information on how to create the boot cd.

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