Recovering Windows XP using the Recovery Console

by Johannes Helmig [Published on 21 April 2002 / Last Updated on 21 April 2002]

Most Windows NT installations used a system-drive ( C: ) with FAT-filesystem, to allow
access to the drive via a DOS-boot-floppy to be able to copy files (like : updated DLL's)
to the system.

These screen dumps have been made using :
"VMWARE Workstation 3.0" of VMWARE.
( more details on this very powerful program )

Windows 2000 and XP allow to use on the system-drive ( C: ) the NTFS-file-system,
maintaining data-security but allowing limited access to the disk via the

Recovery Console

to repair a damaged system (like to fix boot problems).

Insert your Windows 2000 / XP installation CD-ROM and boot from CD-ROM :
(note : some Windows XP Revovery CD-ROM's do not allow to start the Windows SETUP,
in such cases you can try to use to create Windows XP Boot Floppy disks and boot from floppy).

Windows 2000:
On the "Windows 2000 Professional Setup" menu, select "R" for repair :

as Repair option, select "C" to use the "Recovery Console" :

Windows XP:
On the "Windows XP Professional Setup" menu, select "R" for Recovery Console :

Windows 2000 / XP :
You will be prompted to select the Windows installation to repair :
(usually just "1" ) :

You will need to enter the Administrator password !

At the command-prompt, type any valid command.
To get an overview on the supported commands, type : HELP

To get more detailed information on any of these commands, type the commannd followed by "/?",
which will then display the specific Help-information.

You have access to :
- the root directory of all disks
- the Windows system directory (and all sub-directories), usually : C:\WINNT
- to removable disks (floppy disk and CD-ROM drives)

You have NO Access to any other directory !

You can copy files FROM Floppy disk to the directories on disk, to which you have access.
You can NOT copy files from disk to Floppy Disk !

type : EXIT to restart the system.

Recovering from Bootup problems :
When the system displays on booting a message of "missing" NTLDR or NTDETECT,
you can copy these files via Recovery Console from the CD-ROM :

make sure to be on the root of the C:-drive (please make : CD \ ).
In my example, the CD-ROM drive is Drive D: , allowing to make a copy of the files
NTLDR and NTDETECT.COM from the i386-directory to the C:\ - root directory.

If there is a problem with the Boot-sector on the C:-drive, you can use "fixboot" to write
a new boot-sector.
If there is a problem with the Master-Boot-Record of the disk (maybe damaged by a virus),
you can use "fixmbr" to write a new MBR :

Extract files from CAB-files using "expand" :

example: I have copied a CAB-file from CD-ROM, display the content of the CAB-file
using "expand xxx.CAB /d /f:*" and then extract the required files via : "expand xxx.CAB /f:yyy":

Partition problems :
You can use "diskpart" to manage disk partitions :

If called up without an option, you get a simple user-interface :

Services and Devices
Use "listsvc" to display a list of all devices and services :

You can use "enable" and "disable" to switch on/off :

The Recovery Console can be installed on the harddisk as an additional boot-up selection:
at a command-prompt: drive:\i386\Winnt32.exe /cmdcons,
where drive is either the CD-ROM or disk with the Windows XP installation files :

The Windows 2000 Recovert Console has been successfully installed.

To use the Windows 20000 Recovery Console, restart your computer and then select
Windows 2000 Recovery Console from the Startup Menu.

For a list of commands you can use with the Recovery Console, type HELP at the
Recovery Console command Prompt.

When starting up Windows 2000 / XP, there will be a boot-selection menu displayed,
where you can startup Windows or the Recovery Console :

If the default selection is to start the Recovery Console and you like to change it to start Windows,
or if you like to reduce the bootup-delay or if you like to remove the Recovery Console from
the boot-menu, you can change the default boot selection :

In the Control-Panel, select the
System icon:

(or right-click "My Computer" on the desktop
and select Properties)

Select the tab: "Advanced" and
then use in the section :
"Startup and Recovery"
the button :
"Startup and Recovery"

Select from the drop-down menu the system
to boot as default, and define a delay value
(5 sec is a good choice, allowing time to
change the default but not delaying the
boot too long ).

If you think that you do not need the
selection anymore, you can turn off the
display of the boot-menu by un-checking
"Display list of operating systems" :

If you have a Windows XP Recovery CD-ROM, then you may not have the option to select "Recovery Console".
For such cases, Microsoft have made the Windows XP setup process (to get to the Recovery Console) available as
a download via Q310994 in different languages (note: there are different downloads for the Home and Professional Edition).
You have to execute the download file, which will create 6 boot floppies. You then can boot from the first floppy :
You will get first the message : "Setup is inspecting your computer's hardware configuration..."

You will be prompted to insert the additional floppy disks :
Windows Setup

Please insert the disk labeled
Windows XP Professional Setup Disk #2
into Drive A:
Press ENTER when ready

See Also

The Author — Johannes Helmig

Dr.Johannes Helmig is working as Director, Technical Knowledge Management in the Belgium office of Gerber Technology where he is involved in Customer Service and internal training, with special interest in Networking.


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