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How to Install and Use Windows XP Recovery Console

written by: Dianna Monda Dill•edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/13/2009

The Windows Recovery Console is a powerful utility that you can use to fix booting problems such as the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. This Windows tutorial walks you through the steps to install and use Windows Recovery Console.

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    The Windows XP Recovery Console offers an alternative method for booting up Windows XP, typically to troubleshoot problems that may prevent your computer from booting up normally. Viruses, corrupted files and improper shutdown, for example, can damage your system. The Recovery Console enables you to format drives, access files, or alter certain services - all without having to load the Windows XP operating system.

    The Recovery Console is one of the most useful methods for solving booting problems. However, it should be used as a last resort. You should first try other methods for booting, such as safe mode, before you resort to repairing your PC using the Recovery Console. Microsoft recommends that only advanced, savvy users use the Recovery Console.

    Ideally, you should install the Windows XP Recovery Console to your hard drive before the need to use it actually arises. This way, you can easily access this versatile utility in the event that you need it, particularly in emergencies as when the Windows XP disk is not fully accessible. This tutorial will walk you through installing and using the Windows XP Recovery Console to fix booting problems.

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    Installing Windows XP Recovery Console to Your Hard Drive

    Step #1

    Insert your Windows XP installation CD into your CD-ROM drive. Click the on the START button at the bottom left-hand corner of your desktop. Click on RUN.

    Step #2

    In the text field, type in this command path : D:\i386\winnnt32.exe /cmdcons (Where “D” stands for the drive letter of your CD-ROM drive, so change it if necessary.)

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    Run a Command Prompt

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    Step #3

    Click OK. This will open the setup window for the Windows Recovery Console, prompting you to indicate whether you want to install the Windows XP Recovery Console. Click YES.

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    Choose a Windows Installation

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    Step #4

    Let the setup process complete. XP will also use its Dynamic Update feature to download the latest file updates for the Windows Recovery Console. After the setup is done, press OK. Remove your Windows XP CD – and you are done!

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    How to Start the Windows XP Recovery Console From Your Hard Drive

    Step #1

    Restart your computer. A boot selection menu will be displayed prompting you to select whether to start up Windows XP or the Windows Recovery Console. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to select the Windows Recovery Console. Press Enter.

    Step #2

    Now you will be prompted to select the Windows installation to log on to. Type in the corresponding number for the installation you want to work with. If you have only one Windows installation, just press “1” on your keyboard. Press Enter.<< Windows Recovery - start choose>>

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    Boot to the Windows Recovery Console

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    Select a Windows installation

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    Step #3

    Type in your administrative password and press Enter. If you haven't defined a password, leave it blank and press Enter to move on.

    Step #4

    You will now come to the Recovery Console command prompt (C:\Windows>) where you can now enter commands to perform several tasks.

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    The Recovery Console Command Prompt

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    How to Start the Windows XP Recovery Console From an XP Installation Disk

    You can also access the Windows XP recovery Console directly from the Windows XP installation CD:


    Insert the XP installation CD into your CD-ROM drive. Restart the computer, booting from the CD.

    Step #2

    At the "Welcome to Setup" screen, type R to launch the Recovery Console. When prompted, select the Windows installation you want to log onto. Typically, you'll type "1" if you have only one Windows installation. For multiple installations, enter the corresponding number. Press Enter.

    Step #3

    Type in your administrator password, or leave this blank if you have yet to define one. Press Enter. This brings you to the Recovery Console command prompt, and you can now start using it.

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    How to Use the Windows Recovery Console

    You will use the Recovery Console by typing in commands at the Command prompt. Not all Windows commands will work: some standard commands will work, and some commands are specific to the Recovery console.

    You can get a complete list of valid Recovery Console commands by typing in: Help. To get more information on a specific command, type it in followed by "/?" (for example: fixboot /?). This will display more detailed information on that command.

    You can also use the listing of common commands in the section below as a guide for a few of the tasks you can perform with some of these commands.

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    Command-line Reference Guide For Windows XP Recovery Console

    BOOTCFG: To modify the Boot.ini file for configuration and recovery

    CHKDSK: To scan and check your hard drive for any problems or errors, and attempt to repair it.

    DIR: To list all files

    DISKPART: To manage hard drive partitions. Can be used to add or delete partitions.

    EXIT: To close the Recovery Console - then it reboots your computer

    EXPAND: To expand a compressed file

    FIXBOOT: To create a new startup sector on your hard drive

    FIXMBR: To repair the master boot record of your startup partition

    FORMAT: To format a disc. This command will completely erase everything from the specified disc for a fresh install.

    HELP: For Help

    MKDR: To create a new directory

    REN: To rename a file or directory