How to use Microsoft Office Safe Mode

Safe Mode is a great way to troubleshoot crashes, bugs and slow performance in Microsoft (MS) Office programs on a Windows computer. Outlook, Word, Excel and Power Point from 2003 and later all support Safe Mode. 


So what is Safe Mode?

Safe Mode is an alternative way to launch an MS program. You may recall that if Word, Outlook or any other MS product crashes while being used, it will display an option to relaunch the program in Safe Mode. Unfortunately, they don’t make it obvious what this does or why you should do it! 

By enabling Safe Mode, MS programs will run with:

-          Any add-ins or extensions disabled

-          Default toolbar settings, no customisations

-          Recovered documents not opened by default

-          Limited saving capabilities and other restrictions


One of the most common issues that requires Safe Mode, is when the MS program will crash every time it is launched. This is often the fault of add-ins, which can be disabled via Safe Mode. If you are experiencing crashes upon program launches, try the following to resolve the issue:


Using Safe Mode to Disable an Add-In

Manually launching Safe Mode can be done at any point on a Windows PC:

-          Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog

-          Type “outlook /safe” into the text field (without quotations, but remember the space inbetween)

-          Hit Enter and the MS program will launch in safe mode

If you want to launch a program other than outlook, use:

-          “winword /safe” for Word

-          “excel /safe” for Excel

-          “powerpnt /safe” for Powerpoint

To check if you are in Safe Mode, look at the top of the program window, where you should see the program name then (Safe Mode):

ss (2014-02-18 at 11.11.14).png

If the program now launches in Safe Mode, but crashes in normal mode, it is a good indication of what can be wrong. The best place to look is in the Add-Ins section, so go to:

-          File -> Options

-          Select Add-ins from the menu

-          Next to “Manage: COM Add-ins” Click Go…


This will provide you with a list of add-ins available to the program. Add-ins with a ticked box run automatically, Add-ins without a tick will not run. Look for any add-ins that appear to be 3rd party or not useful for you. One of the common culprits is ABBYY FineReader, which can cause all MS Office 2013 programs to crash upon launch. If you are unsure whether an add-in should be enabled or not, you can always disable it now, and enable it later if you find yourself needing it.

Once you have unchecked the add-in causing problems, click OK then close the MS program. Open it again normally (this time not in safe mode) and it should launch without any issues!

While this is only one of the uses for Safe Mode, in our experience it is one of the most common issues.


We hope this short guide helps, and if you have any issues or questions feel free to contact us for personalised support.