The Windows Recovery Console
By Stephen Bucaro
Early versions of Windows (Windows 3.1) were not really "operating systems", they were
actually DOS programs. One advantage of that was when Windows wouldn't start, you could
troubleshoot the system by booting to DOS and using DOS commands. The Recovery Console,
introduced with Windows 2000, provides an interface that allows you to use DOS commands
to troubleshoot and repair Windows.
Use the Recovery Console when Windows will not start even in "Safe" mode. Safe mode
starts Windows with a minimum configuration, skipping most entries in the registry and
other configuration files. It presents Windows Graphical User Interface using a default
VGA driver. The Recovery Console runs with even fewer parts of Windows, presenting only
a text mode interface.
With the Recovery Console you can use a number of DOS commands to access FAT or NTFS file
systems and repair a system file, the registry, or a damaged file system. Unless the
registry is so corrupted that the Recovery Console can't read the system Administrator's
password, you'll need to enter the password to access an NTFS volume.
• Windows XP Home edition sets up the user that installed it as the Administrator,
and unless you set a password for the Administrator account in Control Panel, no password is
required to use the Recovery Console.
The Recovery Console is located on the Windows installation CD. Many OEM recovery CD's
don't contain the Recovery Console, probably because any user who knows how to use the
Recovery Console is already smarter than 90 percent of their technical support personnel.
• To install the Recovery Console on your system, insert your Windows
installation CD, select Start | Run and in the Run dialog box that appears (assuming
your CD drive is d:) type:
The Recovery Console will then appear as an option in your startup menu.
Although you can install the Recovery Console on your system, an installed Recovery Console
will not work if the boot loader or boot sector of the disk is damaged. The best way to use
the Recovery Console is to launch it from Windows installation CD. The system's BIOS must
be configured with the CD drive as the first boot device.
• If your system's
BIOS does not provide the option to boot from CD, you'll need to create a set of startup
floppy disks. The \Bootdisk folder on the Windows 2000 installation CD contains the
makeboot utility, which is used to create a set of boot floppies.
Start the system with the Windows installation in the CD drive. The Setup menu will appear
with three options: to setup Windows, to repair Windows, or to quit without doing anything.
Press the "R" key to select to repair Windows, the Repair Options screen will appear. This
screen lists all the versions of Windows installed on the system. Press the number next to
the version you want to repair, then enter the Administrator password if requested.
Next the versions Repair Options screen will appear. Press the "C" key to select to repair
Windows using the Recovery Console. If you inadvertently press the "R" key at this point,
it will restore the registry to what it was when your system was first installed. You DO
NOT want to do that - except as a last resort if you can't repair the system with the Recovery Console.