Install/Uninstall within Windows Safe Mode

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: Download SafeMSI.exe

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.

(Thanks to Martin Herbener for pointing out a problem with the registry key which was fixed in the article on 3/1/2010; Sometime after the article was published JSI, which hosted SafeMSI.exe was folded into the WindowITPro family, and the link was updated on 3/27/2010. In 2014 WindowsITPro folded, the link has been updated to a verion hosted an CNET — while they are generally a reputable source, it is presumed to be correct but has not been tested, use at your own risk.)