Windows Tip Sheet

Taking Command of Safe Mode

Enable Windows Installer in Safe Mode to troubleshoot with these tricks.

Ever have to start Windows in Safe Mode and install some software to troubleshoot or correct the problem? Or uninstall the application that was causing the problem? Good luck: Safe Mode disables Windows Installer. Sigh. Try and you’ll get a “This service cannot be started in Safe Mode” error. But what if you really want to? Trick Windows.

Trick number one: Tell Windows that Windows Installer is a “safe” service. Get into the command line and run REG ADD “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\
Minimal\MSIServer” /VE /T REG_SZ /D “Service” net start msiserver
. Long, I know, but it’ll list the Windows Installer Service as legitimate for Safe Mode. You can actually do this trick for any service, but don’t overdo it: Safe Mode is supposed to be minimal to make sure Windows can start.

Trick number two: Run SafeMSI.exe (link included below). It’ll start the service in Safe Mode. Wow, that was easy. Bravo to Harry Bates, its author, and thanks to the folks at JSI FAQ for hosting it.

I like the second trick better because it leaves the Windows Installer service disabled normally, but it lets you run it if you absolutely need to do so in order to uninstall something from within Safe Mode. In the event that Windows Installer was causing the problem that forced you into Safe Mode to begin with (unlikely, but that’s why the service isn’t on the safe list by default), the second trick will still allow Safe Mode to get you going in a minimal configuration.

More Resources:

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is an Author/Evangelist for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of PowerShell.org, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at Facebook.com/ConcentratedDon.

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