Update: You can also use the free tool SafeMSI for installing in Safe Mode.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

I've never really understood why uninstalling programs in Safe Mode isn't officially supported in Windows. The main purpose of Safe Mode is to troubleshoot Windows, and what usually causes the trouble? Right, misbehaving programs. This may not even be the fault of the program itself. Windows is a very complex system and sometimes unforeseeable things happen. If an application has been somehow damaged, it might not even be possible to uninstall it. For example, its service could hang immediately after the system boots, or other programs could interfere.

In Safe Mode, Windows has reduced functionality, because only the core components have been loaded. In such an environment it is much easier to get rid of an application that has gone mad. Windows Safe Mode can be entered by pressing the F8 key before Windows boots up.

In order to uninstall a program in Windows, the Windows Installer Service has to be running. If you try to uninstall software in Safe Mode, Windows will just inform you that: "The Windows Installer Service could not be started." Trying to start the service manually will only get you: "Error 1084: This service cannot be started in Safe Mode."

The good thing is that it is not really difficult to outsmart Windows Safe Mode. All of the services that are allowed to start in Safe Mode are stored in the registry folder HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Minimal\

All you have to do is to add a REG_SZ key with the service name (not the display name) and the value data "Service" (without quotes). The service name of the Windows Installer Service is MSIServer. As such, the REG file that adds the correct key looks like this:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Minimal\MSIServer]
@="Service"

Copy this to a text file, with the extension .reg, and drop the file into your tool box. Anytime you want to uninstall a program in Safe Mode, you just click on the REG file. You have to remove the key manually if you want to disable this feature. However, I think it usually won't do any harm.

Please note that it is not always possible to uninstall software in Safe Mode because the corresponding installer program requires certain services to be running. In such a case you might just enable these services as well in Safe Mode by adding their service names to the Registry. The Service Name can be found in the service's properties in the Services snap-in.

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40 Comments
  1. Chuck 9 years ago

    Thanks for the help guys. This worked.

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  2. SKondris 9 years ago

    I used safeMSI.exe in windows 7 32 bit just now in safe mode with networking, and it worked great. thanks!

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  3. Tony G 8 years ago

    THANK YOU!!!!!!
    This saved me so much time!
    After useless Restore didn't work I was ready to re-install windows.
    How stupid is safe mode if you can't uninstall a program (and its files)that caused the problem in the first place?!

    Thanks again. I used safeMSI on Windows 7 64bit.

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  4. Adde 8 years ago

    Dude tnx!!!!!!

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  5. Patman 8 years ago

    Yet another heartfelt thanks to this author. My wife has an old Dell Vostro running XP Pro and this was the only way I could un-install Sony PMB, which I had installed yesterday and though might be preventing me from booting any other way than in SAFE mode. Alas, that was not the problem, but this tip is still excellent!

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  6. Brendan 8 years ago

    TYPO Alert! Michael, you mis-named the Service in the following line of text "The service name of the Windows Installer Service is MSIService. As such, the REG file that adds the correct key looks like this:"

    It should read MSIServer instead of MSIService....

    Cheers,

    Brendan

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  7. Michael Pietroforte 8 years ago

    Brendan, thanks! I corrected it.

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  8. Danielle 7 years ago

    I'm having a horrible time with my Acer and I'm in safe mode with networking. None of the stuff above works in networking mode for me and I don't know how to edit my registry manually, so I think I need to use SafeMSI. I installed SafeMSI. If I go out of safe mode with networking into regular safe mode will the download still be there and work?

    Thank you!

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  9. Allan 7 years ago

    Thank! Here's another tip. I needed to install a Microsoft HotFix but I could only install my Windows Server 2008 R1 SP1 machine in safe mode which of course wouldn't install the HotFit (ironic catch 22...). So those HotFixs use the Mcirosoft Update service (they are .msu files). Do the exact same thing as above but with the "Wuauserv" service and then start that service. Was able to get my updates working.

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  10. Zahu 6 years ago

    Thank you Paul.. You saved me from a heap of trouble..

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  11. Mike Pena 6 years ago

    I went into safe mode and tried uninstalling a program, clicked on Programs and features. It showes the list of software in box. But when highliting the program to uninstall, there was no uninstall tab on top. Puzzled.

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  12. demandeto 3 years ago

    How do I do this? I have issue with my nvidia latest installation which was not completed then the computer shut down and I cannot boot up to windows. I am not tech savvy and hope someone can provide the steps by steps or exact steps to uninstall this program on safe mode.

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  13. Jay Patel 2 years ago

    Thank you Paul,

    Been spending all day on removing this and I have finally got this removed from your notes

    Jay

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  14. Nick 2 years ago

    Brilliant thanks for the help 🙂

    Nick

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