Recovery Console

Category: Windows

I'm having trouble starting up my Windows XP system. A friend told me to run the Recovery Console from the bootup screen, and then enter some commands. But I don't see a Recovery Console option when I turn on the computer. I'm not even sure what the bootup screen is... help!

Using the Windows Recovery Console

Sometimes viruses, spyware or random cosmic rays will attack your computer, leaving you unable to even start Windows. In many cases, the Windows XP Recovery Console can help you fix the problem. But starting the Recovery Console is a bit mysterious, if you've never done it before.

There are two ways to start the Recovery Console. Your friend who told you to do it by selecting an option during startup has apparently installed Recovery Console on his hard drive, which makes that option appear at boot time. We'll cover that later on in this article, but for now, restart your computer with the Windows XP Setup disk in the CDROM drive. (Don't have a Windows Setup disk? Skip this section and look below.) If you are prompted to press a key to start the computer from CDROM, do so quickly. Otherwise it may try to boot from the hard drive. After a few minutes, you'll see a prompt to press the R key to start the Recovery Console. Next, you'll see a prompt to enter a number corresponding to the Windows XP installation that you need to repair. Enter "1" and then supply your Administrator password.
recovery console

What you'll see next is not very exciting -- just a black and white screen, similar to the DOS prompt of years gone by. But it has powers far beyond those of mortal men. Faster than a speeding virus, more powerful than a trojan horse, and able to leap tall partitions in a single bound, it's... the Recovery Console!

Can You Handle This Much Power?

Microsoft recommends that you use the Recovery Console only if you are an advanced user, but I'll give you a quick rundown on some of the more common commands available here, and hopefully you'll be able to fix whatever is ailing your computer.

  • CHKDSK /R - Scans your hard drive and attempts to repair any problems found.
  • DISKPART - Displays a table of all hard drive partitions. You can also add or delete partitions, but this is the stuff of wizardry.
  • FIXMBR - Replaces the Master Boot Record on the hard drive, if you are having trouble booting. (See Repairing a Damaged MBR).
  • FIXBOOT - Creates a new startup sector on the hard drive, if you are having trouble booting.
  • FORMAT - Format formats a disk. Format will WIPE EVERYTHING from the specified disk, and prepare it for a fresh install.
  • MKDIR - Make a new directory.
  • RMDIR - Remove a directory.
  • EXIT - Close the Recovery Console and restart your computer.

Use the HELP command to get a full list of Recovery Console commands, or detailed help on a specific command.

Install the Recovery Console on Your Hard Drive

As we discussed earlier, you can start the Recovery Console from your Windows XP Setup disk, but you may find it more convenient to install on your hard drive and have it available as startup option. To install the Recovery Console on your hard drive, restart your computer with the Windows XP Setup disk in the CDROM drive. Click Start, then click Run. Enter the command D:\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons (Assumes D is the drive letter for the CDROM drive.) Click Yes to confirm that you want to install Recovery Console, and remove the CDROM from the drive. When you restart your computer, "Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" will appear as an option on the startup menu. If you get an error message when trying to install the Recovery Console on a Windows XP SP2 system, see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/898594 for more assistance.

Don't have a Windows Setup CDROM? You can run the Recovery Console installation from your hard drive. If your computer didn't come with a Windows Setup disk, the vendor should have copied an image of it to your hard drive instead. Look for a folder named I386 which contains the WINNT32.EXE file. It might be stored elsewhere on your hard drive, but let's assume you found this file in the C:\WINDOWS\I386 folder. Click Start, then click Run. Enter the command C:\WINDOWS\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons. Click Yes to confirm that you want to install Recovery Console. The same caveats apply if you have a Windows XP SP2 system.

Got any words of wisdom concerning the Recovery Console? Post your comments below...

 
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Posted by on 12 Jun 2006


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Most recent comments on "Recovery Console"

(See all 40 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Chris
12 Aug 2007

I tried the suggestion that you gave me about running CHKDSK, but I am still getting the 2 options when Windows starts. Also, I tried to run Recovery Console and it won't let me. A blue screen comes up and tells me that my computer will be shut down to prevent damage.


Posted by:

Josh
02 Sep 2007

im having the same problem as JIM, it doesn't ask me to log in, it just goes to a c prompt and it says access denied when i try to do something.


Posted by:

null
12 Sep 2007

I had the same problem - rec console kept asking me for admin password.. after researching I finally figured out that because I have xp Pro with SP2 instsalled... I could not use the old XP Pro CD to boot from, because it is older than service pack 2. I followed instructions to integrate SP2 with the old XP cd I had, but did not work.. I ended up getting a CD with XP Pro SP 2 files integrated into it and that eliminated the 'need admin password' problem.


Posted by:

Ravi Kiran
06 Oct 2007

I am not able to configure recovery console using drive:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons after updating service pack2 of Windows 2003 server.

Whenever I typed the above command it is showing the message that "set up cannot continue because the version of windows on your computer is newer than the version on the CD".. Its very urgent.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm not sure that process works for W2003. Might be only a WinXP thing.


Posted by:

nexus
06 Nov 2007

i boot windows xp sp2 cd, repair command, which windows would you like to log onto, type administrator password ....my pass is empty. i press enter and say password is not valid

EDITOR'S NOTE: This may help: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;308402


Posted by:

Crenom
12 Dec 2007

I have the XP install cd, everything looks good but then the Welcome to Setup page that I expected doesn't show. It goes to the Partitioned Hard Drive page as if I clicked the Install Windows XP option. Help please, I saw that there's an 8mb partition so that may be the Recovery Console files installed previously. It doesn't give me the option to run Recovery Console though.


Posted by:

Don
12 Dec 2007

I am trying to fix a friends lap top. They get the "windows could not start because the following file is missing or corrupt : windows\system32\config\system" error. I have an XP disk and tried getting to the recovery console but it says no hard drive is detected. I checked the physical connection and it is fine. I was able to rescue their important files using a freeware program so I believe the harddisk is physically ok. Why won't the recovery console detect the harddrive?


Posted by:

David
12 Feb 2008

"Don't have a Windows Setup CDROM? You can run the Recovery Console installation from your hard drive. If your computer didn't come with a Windows Setup disk, the vendor should have copied an image of it to your hard drive instead. Look for a folder named I386 which contains the WINNT32.EXE file. It might be stored elsewhere on your hard drive, but let's assume you found this file in the C:\WINDOWS\I386 folder. Click Start, then click Run. Enter the command C:\WINDOWS\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons. Click Yes to confirm that you want to install Recovery Console. The same caveats apply if you have a Windows XP SP2 system."

How are we supposed to run that if our XP doesn't boot >_>

EDITOR'S NOTE: A Catch 22... you'll need to borrow a setup CD.


Posted by:

pradeep kumar pandey
21 Jun 2008

what is recovery console

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Recovery Console is.... Wait a minute, heh, you clever fellow! For a moment there I didn't realize that you were playing the online "Ask Bob Jeopardy" game. Nice one, you almost got me.


Posted by:

stephan
25 Jun 2008

hi bob, i have a problem. my windows xp pro sp2 won't boot. so i did a chksdk /r in the recovery console, still didn't work. then i did a windows recovery. now my pc won't do the normal windows installing procedure, it's giving me error readings. any suggestions?

EDITOR'S NOTE: What kind of errors? Are the errors appearing when you try to re-install from the setup CD? It's possible you have a damaged hard drive.


Posted by:

eddie2
11 May 2009

Hi Bob. This is about the recovery console. I've got a virus that stops me entering safe mode to delete it (i get a message that "changes to software or hardware may have prevented windows entering safe mode this time"). I tried to enter safe mode through a "safe boot" option on my antivirus software, but get the same result. HOWEVER, when I try to enter windows normally or the "last known good", the antivirus software automatically tries to complete it's task of entering safe mode again. I'm caught in a loop and can't enter the Windows interface. Can I use the recovery console to remove this scheduled task of starting in safe mode? I'm not very confident using the recovery console. Much obliged for any hints you can throw my way! Eddie


Posted by:

ashish
28 Jul 2009

hi bob ,

i am facing a problem my windows 2003 standard edition server was infected with viruses and after removal it stop responding i tried it to boot in safe mode but not booted. now i have tried to full repaire the windows but after coping of new files it started in safe mode and setup failed in safemode . how can i resolve this problem.


Posted by:

Bernard J
05 Aug 2009

NB: The MS "Help and Support site (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/900871/)
for this issue says:

"NOTE Integrating a service pack is supported only in Windows XP Home Edition and in Windows XP Professional Edition. Integrating a service pack is not supported in Windows Media Center Edition."

I have WinXP Media Edition 2005, so how would I fix the original problem this article is responding to?


Posted by:

Jake W
22 Nov 2009

How do I get into my console?


Posted by:

René Jongen
27 Jan 2010

hey Bob,can i do command D.\I386\WINNT32.exe without a setup disk because that is my problem. At the time the person who installed my xp pro which now is with sp2 only give me a 5 number key.
René.


Posted by:

danquah philip
10 Mar 2010

how can ido to get recovery console


Posted by:

jes
25 Jun 2010

hi bob
i have tried everything from start normally to using recory consule i get to pres the R button then the old bsod pops up registry error 051.
i even agreed to reinstall windows and when its searching for previous editions of windows the bsod will popup again.
windows xp sp2
pls help


Posted by:

Doug
23 Aug 2010

Hi Bob, hopefully you are still checking this site, I have tried doing everything you said on using my recovery cd for the recovery console but it just won't come up at all. It keeps going to the partition part of the hard drive. What sled can I do?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sounds like your BIOS is not including the CDROM drive in the boot order. If you open the BIOS settings when you start up the computer, you can change the boot order to put the CD ROM drive first. If you've already done that, and it's still booting from the hard drive, then I'd guess the CD is damaged or defective.


Posted by:

Phillip A. Nava
12 Dec 2010

Hi Mr. Rankin,

Here is my problem; I turn on my Dell computer which runs the operating system of Windows XP. It load as usual and then I come to a blue screen that reads "STOP: c0000218 {Registry File Failure}". I read on the internet for solutions and I find out that run the reboot console. So do all things necessary to get to that screen, but a can't get pass the admin. password. I know I never set one. I even looked at the set up screen to make sure. I totally stumped. I know if could get past that screen I could run "chsdk" and fix my computer. Please help me out.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you have no password, just press ENTER.


Posted by:

burgalez
28 Jun 2011

hi! sir bob..

this the error went out, windows did not detect any hard disk install during windows xp installation., it is very complicated because bios detected the hard disk/hard drive..

do you have any idea regarding this?

thanks!


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