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Recovery Console

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Windows 2000 Recovery Console selection, login, and command prompts.
The Windows 2000 Recovery Console selection, login, and command prompts.

The Recovery Console is a feature of the Windows 2000 and Windows XP operating systems. It provides the means for administrators to perform a limited range of tasks using a textual user interface. As its name suggests, its primary function is to enable administrators to recover from situations where Windows does not boot as far as presenting its graphical user interface.

How to invoke the recovery console

The recovery console may be entered in one of two ways:

  • From the operating system installation CD-ROM
  • Via the boot-time menu presented by NTLDR

Invoking the recovery console from the installation CD-ROM

The recovery console is always available from the operating system installation CD-ROM. To invoke it, an administrator simply boots the computer from the CD-ROM. From the operating system setup utility, Windows 2000 users have to select two menu options ("To repair a Windows 2000 installation, press R." and then "To repair a Windows 2000 installation by using the recovery console, press C.") whereas Windows XP users have to select just one ("To repair a Windows XP installation using recovery console, press R.")

Invoking the recovery console from the NTLDR menu

The recovery console can also be configured as an option on the boot-time menu that is presented by NTLDR. This is not included by default when the operating system is first installed. Instead, administrators have to run the winnt32 utility with the /cmdcons switch, which adds the recovery console to the NTLDR menu, ready for when the machine is next bootstrapped.

This requires that the system is not damaged to the extent that the Windows NT Startup Process cannot even reach the point of running NTLDR.

Tasks that can be performed via the recovery console

The recovery console has a simple command line interface. Many of the available commands closely resemble the command line commands that are normally available on Windows, namely attrib, copy, del, and so forth. (However, they are not identical. The normal Windows commands are Win32 programs, which are incapable of running in the environment that the Recovery Console executes in, where no Win32 subsystem is present.)

From the recovery console an administrator can:

  • create and remove directories, and copy, erase, display, and rename files
  • enable and disable services (which modifies the service control database in the registry, to take effect when the system is next bootstrapped)
  • write a new Master Boot Record to a disc, using the fixmbr command
  • write a new Volume Boot Record to a volume, using the fixboot command
  • format volumes
  • expand files from the compressed format in which they are stored on the installation CD-ROM
  • perform a full CHKDSK scan to repair corrupted disks and files, especially if the computer cannot be started properly

Filesystem access on the recovery console is by default severely limited. An administrator using the recovery console has only read-only access to all volumes except for the boot volume, and even on the boot volume only access to the root directory and to the Windows system directory (e.g. \WINNT). This can be changed by changing Security Policies.


  • Microsoft. Description of the Windows XP Recovery Console. KnowledgeBase.
  • Microsoft. Description of the Windows 2000 Recovery Console. KnowledgeBase.
  • Computer Hope. How to use the Windows recovery console..
  • Computer Hope. Recovery console.
  • Guide to Entering Recovery Console in Windows XP (with screen shots).
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