My question is similar to this one, but I don't necessarily have a powered off device.

How can I enter Android' safe mode (or make it boot into safe mode the next time) from within my recovery image?

I suppose it is possible to mimic the actions the actual Android system would do when you select safe mode from the reboot menu. However, I don't even know what selecting safe mode actually causes Android to do with the system.


1 Answer 1


Note: The solution is tested on Android 4.2.1, 5.0.2 and 5.1.1.

The value for the system property persist.sys.safemode determines whether the phone should boot into safe mode or in normal mode.

When booted into Android OS, provided root access, the value can be changed as

adb shell su -c 'setprop persist.sys.safemode 1'
adb shell su -c 'echo "1" > /data/property/persist.sys.safemode' #alternative 

When booted into a custom , given the data and optionally, system partition are mounted, do

adb shell busybox printf "1" > /data/property/persist.sys.safemode         #works if recovery has Busybox. If Android OS has busybox then system/xbin/busybox would work
adb shell echo "1" > /data/property/persist.sys.safemode                   #alternative
adb shell chmod 600 /data/property/persist.sys.safemode                    #required; changes the permission of file to rw-------, identical to rest of the files under /data/property

It is to be noted that, if you've never booted into safe mode since last factory reset, the file persist.sys.safemode wouldn't be found.

Android resets the content of said file at every reboot, so you need not to worry about getting stuck at safe mode. However, for the purpose of fail-safe requirement, change the value to 0 or empty the file (NULL), should you ever get stuck.

In a nutshell, the property that you set is stored in a file, hence it remains persistent when you shutdown the device. You can see your value inside the file from recovery mode, provided that you've not booted into Android again after editing the property. Now, once you begin to boot into Android OS, Android et al reads the file, and based on the content, prepares the safe/ordinary mode for you. After reading the file, it resets the content of the file, so the next time you reboot, it would always be in ordinary mode.

I, in my experiments, noticed that Android would boot into safe mode even if the value is any positive or negative integer or even a decimal value.

I got a good hint from source code of ShutdownThread.java that safe mode requires a system property to be set. However, I reached the final conclusion using a comment by pylerSM and a post from ZiT777.

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    You can test this on your own. Set the prop, reboot the device but pull out the battery at OEM logo. Boot into recovery and check the file's content. Now boot into Android normally but run adb shell getprop | grep persist.sys.safemode or adb shell su -c echo /data/property/persist.sys.safemode continuously during boot animation. You would see that the value changes from 1 to nothing (NULL). // In fact, full restart is not needed to boot into safe mode. Once the prop is set, even a soft reset would boot into safe mode.
    – Firelord
    Dec 10, 2015 at 20:06
  • The Name changed from Android 6+ maybe to persist.sys.sm_mode ?
    – Marv
    Oct 28, 2017 at 0:29

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