Can’t boot into Safe Mode! – Virus Removal Guide

If you are pressing the F8 key while Windows is loading and nothing happens or even worse, you get a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), then your computer is most likely infected with malware.
There are a few legitimate reasons why you wouldn’t be able to load your computer in Safe Mode,however the most likely reason that a bootkit has infected your Master Boot Record.
The Master Boot Record (MBR) – it is stored on your hard drive but kept outside of Windows partitions and volumes. Crucially, the code in the MBR is run as your computer starts up (before Windows) which makes it a great place for a virus or rootkit to hide.
This infection method allows the malicious program to be executed before the operating system boots. As soon as BIOS (Basic Input Output System) selects the appropriate boot device (it can be a hard disk or a flash drive), the bootkit that resides in the MBR starts executing its code. Once the bootkit receives the control, it usually starts preparing itself (reads and decrypts its auxiliary files in its own file system that it has created somewhere in the unallocated disk space) and returns the control to the legitimate boot loader overseeing all stages of the boot process.
The main feature of a bootkit is that it cannot be detected by standard means of an operating system because all its components reside outside of the standard file systems.
As part of their self defense mechanism, some forms of malware will setup this bootkit to prevent you from loading Safe Mode with Networking.
If you suspect your computer might be infected, then we suggest that you backup all your personal files and folders and remove this infections as soon as possible.

Can’t boot into Safe Mode! – Virus Removal Guide

This page is a comprehensive guide, which will remove the Safe Mode infection from your your computer.

Please perform all the steps in the correct order. If you have any questions or doubt at any point STOP and ask for our assistance.
To remove this infection, we can use any of the below methods:
OPTION 1: Remove Safe Mode virus in Windows regular mode
OPTION 2: Remove Safe Mode virus with with HitmanPro Kickstart
OPTION 3: Remove Safe Mode virus with Kaspersky Rescue Disk

OPTION 1: Remove Safe Mode virus in Windows regular mode

If you are having problems while trying to download the below utilities, you can use a USB flash drive to transfer these tools on the infected computer.

STEP 1: Remove the ZeroAccess rootkit with Combofix

Trojan Sirefef may infect your Windows services, so we will need to run Combofix to replace these files.

  1. Download Combofix from any of the below links.
    COMBOFIX DOWNLOAD LINK #1 (This link will automatically download Combofix on your computer)
    COMBOFIX DOWNLOAD LINK #2 (This link will automatically download Combofix on your computer)
  2. Before running this utiltiy,please follow the below instructions:
    • Close any open browsers.
    • Close/disable all anti virus and anti malware programs so they do not interfere with the running of ComboFix.
      Temporarily disable your anti-virus, script blocking and any anti-malware real-time protection before performing a scan. They can interfere with ComboFix or remove some of its embedded files which may cause “unpredictable results”.
    • WARNING: Combofix will disconnect your machine from the Internet as soon as it starts
      Please do not attempt to re-connect your machine back to the Internet until Combofix has completely finished.
      If there is no internet connection after running Combofix, then restart your computer to restore back your connection.
  3. Start the Combofix scan:
    1. Double click on ComboFix.exe and then follow the prompts.
    2. Accept the disclaimer and allow to update if it asks.
    3. When finished, it shall produce a log for you.
    4. Restart your computer

    Additional Notes:

    • DO NOT mouse-click Combofix’s window while it is running. That may cause it to stall.
    • DO NOT “re-run” Combofix. If you have a problem, reply back for further instructions.
    • IF after the reboot you get errors about programs being marked for deletion then reboot, that will cure it.

STEP 2: Remove any malicious registry keys with RogueKiller

  1. You can download the latest official version of RogueKiller from the below link.
    ROGUEKILLER DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will automatically download RogueKiller on your computer)
  2. Double click on RogueKiller.exe to start this utility and then wait for the Prescan to complete.This should take only a few seconds, then click on the Scan button to perform a system scan.
    [Image: RogueKiller scaning for
  3. After the scan has completed, press the Delete button to remove the malicious registry keys or files.
    [Image: RogueKiller Detele button]

STEP 3: Remove the Safe Mode virus with Malwarebytes Anti-Malware FREE

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is a powerful on-demand scanner which will remove Safe Mode malicious files from your computer.

  1. You can download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free from the below link, then double-click on the icon named mbam-setup.exe to install this program.
    MALWAREBYTES ANTI-MALWARE DOWNLOAD LINK(This link will open a download page in a new window from where you can download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free)
  2. When the installation begins, keep following the prompts in order to continue with the setup process, then at the last screen click on the Finish button.
    [Image: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware final installation screen]
  3. On the Scanner tab, select Perform quick scan, and then click on the Scan button to start searching for the Safe Mode malicious files.
    [Image: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Quick Scan]
  4. Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware will now start scanning your computer for Safe Mode virus as shown below.
    [Image: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware scanning for malware
  5. When the Malwarebytes Anti-Malware scan has finished, click on the Show Results button.
    [Image: Malwarebytes Anti-Malware scan results]
  6. You will now be presented with a screen showing you the computer infections that Malwarebytes Anti-Malware has detected. Make sure that everything is Checked (ticked), then click on the Remove Selected button.
    [Image: Malwarebytes Anti-Malwar removing
  7. Once your computer will restart, open Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and perform a Full System scan to verify that there are no remaining threats.

STEP 4: Remove Safe Mode infection with HitmanPro

HitmanPro is a cloud on-demand scanner, which will scan your computer with 5 antivirus engines for any possible infection.

  1. Download HitmanPro from the below link, then double-click on it to start this program.
    HITMANPRO DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will open a new web page from where you can download HitmanPro)
    IF you are experiencing problems while trying to start HitmanPro, you can use the Force Breach mode.To start HitmanPro in Force Breach mode, hold down the left CTRL-key when you start HitmanPro and all non-essential processes are terminated, including the malware process. (How to start HitmanPro in Force Breach mode – Video)
  2. HitmanPro will start and you’ll need to follow the prompts (by clicking on the Next button) to start a system scan with this program.
    HitmanPro scanner
    HitmanPro installation
  3. HitmanPro will start scanning your computer for malicious files as seen in the image below.
    HitmanPro scan for malware
  4. Once the scan is complete,you’ll see a screen which will display all the infected files that this utility has detected, and you’ll need to click on Next to remove this malicious files.
    HitmanPro scan results
  5. Click Activate free license to start the free 30 days trial and remove all the malicious files from your computer.
    HitmanPro 30 days activation button

STEP 5: Fix the Windows Defender with Service Repair by ESET

The ZeroAcess rootkit will corrupt the Windows Defender, Windows Update and Windows Firewall services. To restore these services to their initial configuration, we will run the Service Repair utility by ESET

  1. You can download Service Repair utility (from Eset) from the below link.
    ESET SERVICES REPAIR DOWNLOAD LINK (This page will automatically download on your computer ServicesRepair.exe utility from ESET)
  2. Double click on ServicesRepair.exe to start this utility, then click on Yes button and allow for your computer to be restarted.
    [Image: Eset Service Repair]

STEP 6: Remove Safe Mode adware from your computer with AdwCleaner.

The AdwCleaner utility will scan your computer and browsers for Safe Mode adware files and registry keys, that may have been installed on your computer without your knowledge.

  1. You can download AdwCleaner utility from the below link.
    ADWCLEANER DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will automatically download AdwCleaner on your computer)
  2. Before starting AdwCleaner, close all open programs and internet browsers, then double-click on the AdwCleaner icon.
    [Image: AdwCleaner Icon]
    If Windows prompts you as to whether or not you wish to run AdwCleaner, please allow it to run.
  3. When the AdwCleaner program will open, click on the Search button as shown below.
    [Image: AdwCleaner scanning for malware
    The program will now start to search for adware files that may be installed on your computer. When it has finished it will display a notepad screen that contains a log file of all the adware extensions, files, and registry keys that have been detected. Unless you see a program name that you know should not be removed, please close the Notepad window and continue with the next step.
  4. To remove the Safe Mode malicious files that were detected in the previous step, please click on the Delete button on the AdwCleaner screen.
    [Image: Adwcleaner removing adware]
    AdwCleaner will now prompt you to save any open files or data as the program will need to reboot the computer. Please do so and then click on the OK button.
  5. AdwCleaner will now delete all detected adware from your computer. When it is done it will display an alert that explains what PUPs (Potentially Unwanted Programs) and Adware are. Please read through this information and then press the OK button. You will now be presented with an alert that states AdwCleaner needs to reboot your computer.
    Please click on the OK button to let AdwCleaner reboot your computer.

OPTION 2: Remove Safe Mode virus with with HitmanPro Kickstart

In this step we will need to create a bootable USB drive that contains the HitmanPro Kickstart program.
We will then boot your computer using this bootable USB drive and use it to clean the infection so that you are able to access Windows normally again.
You will also need a USB drive, which will have all of its data erased and will then be formatted. Therefore, only use a USB drive that does not contain any important data.

  1. Using a “clean” (non-infected) computer, please download HitmanPro Kickstart from the below link.
    HITMANPRO DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will open a download page in a new web page from where you can download HitmanPro Kickstart)
  2. Once HitmanPro has been downloaded, please insert the USB flash drive that you would like to erase and use for the installation of HitmanPro Kickstart. Then double-click on the file named HitmanPro.exe (for 32-bit versions of Windows) or HitmanPro_x64.exe (for 64-bit versions of Windows).
    To create a bootable HitmanPro USB drive, please follow the instructions from this video:
  3. Now, remove the HitmanPro Kickstart USB drive and insert it into the Safe Mode infected computer.
  4. Once you have inserted the HitmanPro Kickstart USB drive, turn off the infected computer and then turn it on. As soon as you power it on, look for text on the screen that tells you how to access the boot menu.
    [Image: Windows Boot Menu screens]
    The keys that are commonly associated with enabling the boot menu are F10, F11 or F12.
  5. Once you determine the proper key (usually the F11 key) that you need to press to access the Boot Menu, restart your computer again and start immediately tapping that key. Next, please perform a scan with HitmanPro Kickstart as shown in the video below.
  6. HitmanPro will now reboot your computer and Windows should start normally. Then please Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and HitmanPro, and scan your computer for any left over infections.

OPTION 3: Remove Safe Mode virus with Kaspersky Rescue Disk

If any of the above methods did not clean your infected computer, we can use a Kaspersky Rescue Disk Bootable to clean the Windows registry and to perform a system scan to remove the Safe Mode virus.
To create a bootable Kaspersky Rescue Disk, we will need the following items:

  • A clean (non-infected) computer with Internet access
  • A blank DVD or CD
  • A computer with a DVD or CD burner

STEP 1: Download and create a bootable Kaspersky Rescue Disk CD

  1. You can download Kaspersky Rescue Disk utility from link below:
    KASPERSKY RESCUE DISK DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will automatically download Kaspersky Rescue Disk (kav_rescue_10.iso) on your computer.)
  2. To create the bootable rescue disk, we will need to use the ImgBurn program. You can download ImgBurn from the below link, then install this program.
    IMGBURN DOWNLOAD LINK (This link will open a new page from where you can download the ImgBurn program)
  3. Insert your blank DVD or CD in your burner, then start ImgBurn and click on the Write image file to disc button.
  4. Under Source click on the Browse for file button, then navigate to the location where you previously saved the Kaspersky Rescue Disk utility (kav_rescue_10.iso), then click on the Write button.
    [Image: Bootable Kaspersky Rescue CD]
    That’s it, ImgBurn will now begin writing your bootable Kaspersky Rescue Disk.

STEP 2: Start your computer using the Kaspersky Rescue Disk

  1. Once you’ve got the Kasperky Rescue Disk in hand, insert it into the infected computer, and turn off and then turn it on again.
  2. As soon as you power it on, you will see a screen that tells you to press any key to enter the menu, so please tap any key to boot your machine from the Kaspersky Rescue Disk.
    [Image: Starting infected computer from Kaspersky Rescue Disk]
  3. In the next screen, you will need to chose a language, then you click on Kaspersky Rescue Disk. Graphic Mode and press ENTER, to start the Kaspersky Rescue Disk.[Image: Kaspersky Rescue Disk Graphic Mode screen]

STEP 3: Scan your system with Kaspersky Rescue Disk

  1. Within a few short seconds you should see the full working environment, with the Kaspersky Rescue Disk screen front and center as shown below.
    [Image: Kaspersky Rescue Disk scanner]
  2. Switch tabs over to the My Update Center, and then click the Start update button to load the latest anti-virus definitions. Please be patience while this process its completed.
    [Image: Updating Kaspersky Rescue Disk antivirus definitions]
  3. Switch back over to the Objects Scan tab, select the drives you want to scan, and then click the Start Objects Scan button.
    [Image: Kaspersky Rescue Disk scan]
  4. When Kaspersky Antivirus will detect the Safe Mode virus, you’ll be prompted to select an action. When this happens, please select Quarantine or Delete to remove this infection from your computer.
    [Image: Kaspersky Rescue Disk prompt]
  5. When the antivirus scan has completed, you can restart back into Windows regular mode, by clicking on the Kaspersky Start button [Image: Kaspersky Rescue Disk Restart button] (lower left corner), and selecting Restart.
    Once your computer will start in Windows regular more, download Malwarebytes Anti-Malware and HitmanPro, and scan your computer for any left over infections.

Your computer should now be free of the Safe Mode infection. If your current anti-virus solution let this infection through, you may want to consider purchasing the PRO version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to protect against these types of threats in the future.
If you are still experiencing problems while trying to remove malware from your machine, please start a new thread in our Malware Removal Assistance forum.

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THE 411 ON ME

FC Barcelona fan, Starbucks addicted and super geek.
I am the creator and owner of MalwareTips.com
My area of expertise includes malware removal and computer forensics. I'm active in the various online anti-malware communities where I do researches for new malware threats as they are released.
I live in Bucharest (Romania), where I run my own local computer repair shop.
I repair both hardware and other operating systems related issues, however most of my business is malware related problems.

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