All about Safe mode in Microsoft Office

Safe Mode is a special way for Office apps to run when things aren’t working properly.  Here’s how to use Safe Mode, if Office doesn’t offer it automatically, and what Safe Mode does differently.

Safe Mode is useful in situations where you cannot open files in normal mode because the app is crashing, or you might want to verify if an add-in or extension might be causing a problem during start-up.

When you start an app in safe mode, it’ll load in disabling add-ins or extensions, and won’t include toolbar / ribbon customisations.   More on that below.

Automatic Safe Mode

Most likely, you’ll first see Safe Mode when it’s offered automatically.  Office detects when one of the apps closes in an unusual way and when next started, it’ll offer Save Mode,

Microsoft Word
Word couldn’t start last time. Safe mode could help you troubleshoot the problem, but some features might not be available in this mode.
Do you want to start in safe mode?

Sometimes Safe Mode is helpful but other times it’s not necessary.  Office can’t detect why an app closed abnormally.  It might be a problem with the Office app or it could be something totally unrelated such as Windows crashing or another program causing trouble.

All that means, don’t panic, if you see the Safe Mode suggestion. It might not mean there’s any problem with Office programs at all.

Is Safe Mode running?

Safe Mode is always clearly shown on the top title bar.

Forcing Safe Mode

There are two ways to force your Office apps into Safe Mode.  That’s useful if Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc aren’t behaving correctly.  Starting in Safe Mode can help isolate if the problem is with some addin or customization because Safe Mode blocks many of the extras that can load with Office.

Ctrl Key

First, you’ll need to find the shortcut icon for your Office app, that can be on the Start Menu or elsewhere.

Press and hold down the CTRL key and double click on the application shortcut.

A dialogue box will appear confirming to open the app in safe mode, click Yes.

Run box

Another way is to start the run app, start it by using Windows Key + R.

Next, type the following depending on which app you want to open in Safe Mode, then press OK.

  • For Excel: Type excel /safe
  • For Outlook: Type outlook /safe
  • For Word: Type winword /safe
  • For PowerPoint: Type powerpnt /safe
  • For Publisher: Type mspub /safe
  • For Visio: Type visio /safe

Leaving Safe Mode

Want to leave Safe Mode? Just close the Office application, then restart it.

What Safe Mode does

Here’s a few of the typical restrictions you might find to launching your app in safe mode, note that it may not apply across all Office applications.

  • No templates can be saved.
  • Toolbar or command bar customizations are not loaded, and customizations cannot be saved.
  • The AutoCorrect list is not loaded, and changes are not saved.
  • Recovered documents are not automatically opened.
  • All command-line options are ignored except /a and /n.
  • Files cannot be saved to the Alternate Startup Directory.
  • Preferences cannot be saved.
  • Additional features and programs are not automatically loaded.
  • Documents with restricted permission cannot be created or opened.

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