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Recovery Console (XP & 2K)

Last reviewed: March 2004

The Recovery Console is used to repair a damaged system.

While of limited general usage, the Console has some specific functions that may be required at any time. Using Fixboot is obligatory when creating many dual-boots.

Of prime importance to dual-booting are:

FIXBOOT (write a new XP boot-sector on specified partition)
FIXMBR (repairs the master boot record of the specified disk)
BOOTCFG (boot file configuration and recovery)
DISKPART (add/delete hard disk partitions)
MAP (list drive letters, file system types, partition sizes, & mappings)
EXPAND (extracts a file from Cabs)
COPY (copies a single file to another location)

This page concentrates on the above commands.

Always backup Boot.ini, and Create this Rescue Boot Disk, before editing Boot.ini.


Use the Recovery Console if the boot up fails or is faulty.

If you have already installed the Recovery Console, you can use that option on boot up and can skip to Using the Console. This is a lot faster than using the CD or Setup Boot disks.

Accessing the Console with the XP/2K CD or Setup Boot disks:

1. If using the installation CD, make sure BIOS/CMOS is set to boot from CD-ROM.
2. Boot with the CD or Setup Boot disk 1. The "Welcome to Setup" screen appears.
    (some XP Recovery CD's don't start SETUP - use XP Setup Boot Disks).
3. For 2K: Press R to "Repair a Windows 2000 installation",
    and then press C to enter the Recovery Console.
    For XP: Press R to "Repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console".

Using the Console:

4. When asked "Which Windows XP/2000 installation would you like to log onto",
    enter the number for the problem Windows (enter 1 if there's just one installation).
    You must enter a number, or the computer restarts and begins the process again!
5. Enter the local Administrator password, or just press [Enter] if no ******* is shown.
6. You are now at the Console's command prompt (usually C:\Windows>).
    Type the appropriate commands to diagnose and repair your Windows XP/2K installation.
    Type HELP for a list of available commands.
    Type FIXBOOT /? for information about this specific command.
    Type DIR C: to show contents of the C: drive.
7. You type EXIT to restart the system when finished with the Console.

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Commands are different

Using the Recovery Console will, initially, feel like using true MS-DOS. However, the Console has its own Command Interpreter. This means its commands can only be used from the Console. Also, these commands, like Copy, are not executed in the same manner as true MS-DOS commands.

Access is limited:
You will have access to
  - the root directory of all disks
  - the %SystemRoot% directory (usually \Windows or \WINNT), and all its sub-directories
  - removable disks (floppy disk and CD-ROM drives).

You do not have access to any other directories! However, you can use Set to display, or set, the default environment variables (usage is =FALSE or =TRUE).

You can copy files from Floppy disk to the directories on disk to which you have access.
You can not copy files from hard disk to a Floppy!

Attrib changes attributes on one file or subdirectory (like attrib -h c:\boot.ini).

Spaces are important:
Here each space has been replaced with a _ (underscore): attrib_-h_c:\boot.ini

Protect your system:
Always backup boot.ini before altering it. Make your own backup, or use Bootcfg /copy
Always have a Rescue Boot Disk that boots your system even if there's a boot problem.

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Fixboot writes a new OS Boot Sector onto the system partition,
or onto a partition nominated by you.

If there's a problem with the XP/2K/NT Boot Sector, you can use Fixboot to write a new OS Boot Sector. This is sometimes necessary when creating a dual-boot. Also, the OS Boot Sector may be damaged and require repairing.

FIXBOOT [drive]

This writes a new partition OS Boot Sector to the system partition.

This writes a new OS Boot Sector to the D: partition (drive). This replaces the default drive, which is the system partition you are logged on to.

The boot files for all Windows must be on the root of the system partition.

A Windows 9x expects the system partition to be the first primary partition on the Primary Master hard disk.

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Fixmbr repairs the boot partition's Master Boot Record (MBR).

The MBR contains the Partition Table of the disk, and a little code that locates the Active partition.
If there's a problem with the MBR (virus damage, perhaps), Fixmbr will write a new MBR.

FIXMBR [device_name]
The variable device is an optional name that specifies the device that needs a new MBR. The name can be obtained from the output of the Map command. Omit this variable when the target is the boot device.

This repairs the MBR of the boot disk - that's the drive on which your primary system is loaded.

C:\>FIXMBR \Device\HardDisk0
This writes a new MBR to the device specified.
Its name was obtained with the Map command.

If Fixmbr detects a faulty or non-standard partition table, it prompts you before rewriting the MBR. If you are not having problems accessing your drives, you should not continue. Writing a new MBR to your system partition might damage your Partition Table and make your partitions inaccessible.

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Bootcfg is used to manipulate Boot.ini for boot configuration and recovery.

Bootcfg can scan your hard disk(s) for Windows XP, 2000, and NT installations, and then add them to an existing Boot.ini file or rebuild a new Boot.ini file, if one does not exist. It also enables additional Boot.ini file parameters to be added to existing or new entries.

Bootcfg recognises only the XP, 2K, and NT operating systems.

bootcfg /default sets the default OS option in the Boot menu.
bootcfg /add allows you to add a Windows installation to the Boot menu.
bootcfg /rebuild scans for OSs, displays the results, or rebuild a new Boot.ini file.
bootcfg /scan scans the hard disks for OS installations, and displays the results.
bootcfg /list displays details of entries already in the boot.ini file.
bootcfg /redirect enables redirection in the boot loader - port and baudrate.
bootcfg /disableredirect disables redirection in the boot loader - port and baudrate.

Backup Boot.ini:
You should always use bootcfg /copy to make a backup copy of the current boot.ini file before using bootcfg /rebuild to rebuild Boot.ini - or make your own backup.

Fuller Explanations:
Read Bootcfg Command for a full explanation of the above Bootcfg command switches.

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Diskpart manages partitions on hard disk volumes.
You can use Diskpart to add, or delete, hard disk partitions.

DISKPART shows the current partitions.
DISKPART /ADD creates a new partition.
DISKPART /DELETE deletes an existing partition.

DISKPART [/ADD | /DELETE] [device_name | drive_name | partition_name] [size]

The device_name (such as \device\harddisk0) can be obtained by using the Map command.
The drive_name (such as D:) is the partition you want to delete - used only with /delete.
The partition_name (such as \device\harddisk0\partition1) is partition you want to delete - used only with /delete. It can be used in place of the drive_name.
The size is the size, in megabytes, of a new partition.

diskpart /delete \Device\HardDisk0\Partition3 deletes that partition.
diskpart /delete F: deletes that partition.

diskpart /add \Device\HardDisk0 20 adds a 20 MB partition to your hard drive

Use DISKPART /? for further details.

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Map displays currently active device mappings.

Device mappings are essential when you run the fixboot and fixmbr commands.
Boot.ini uses ARC (Advanced RISC Computing) device names instead of Windows device names.

For example, if the Windows device name is
the ARC equivalent name, used in Boot.ini, is
  multi(0) refers to the IDE channel number (it's scsi(0) for a SCSI drive)
  disk(0) identifies which disk on an SCSI controller contains the OS files
  rdisk(0) is the disk number on that channel (HardDisk0)
  partition(1) is the partition number on that hard disk, Primaries first (Partition1).


MAP displays Windows device paths. Also displays file system type and disk size (MBs).

MAP /ARC displays ARC device paths (as is seen in Boot.ini).

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Expands (lists) a Cab file for viewing, or extracts a specific file from a Cab file.

You cannot use wildcard characters by default.
You cannot specify removable media as the destination (Floppy disk or CD-ROM).
If the destination is not specified, the file is copied to the current directory.

EXPAND source [/F:filespec}] [destination] [/d] [/y]

source is the file that you want to expand.
/f:filespec If the source contains more than one file, this specifies the name of the file you want to extract. Wildcards for files to be extracted ARE permitted.
destination is the directory for the new file (must not be Read-only; use Attrib).
/d Lists the files contained in the cabinet file without expanding it or extracting from it.
/y Suppresses the overwrite prompt when expanding or extracting files.

Example: extract Myfile.drv on a Setup CD and copy it to D:\Windows\System\Drivers:
    expand E:\i386\ /f:myfile.drv D:\Windows\system\drivers
Example: expand & extract the compressed file Access.cp_:
    expand E:\i386\access.cp_ D:\Windows\system32\access.cpl
Example: list all the files in the Drivers Cab file on the Setup CD:
    expand /d E:\i386\
Some Cabs, like Drivers, contain too many files to be copied to hard disk.
Concentrate on extracting specific files.

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Copy copies one file to a target location.

There are some restrictions on the use of Copy in the Console.

You cannot use wildcard characters.

The source can be
- any directory within the system directories of the current Windows installation,
- the root of any drive,
- the local installation sources,
- or the Cmdcons directory.
You can NOT specify removable media as the DESTINATION (Floppy disk or CD-ROM).
You CAN specify removable media as the SOURCE (Floppy disk or CD-ROM).
If the destination is not specified, the file is copied to the current directory.

Copying a compressed file from the Setup CD-ROM automatically decompresses the file.

Example of copying NTLDR and from installation CD: to C:\
  COPY E:\i386\NTLDR C:\
(where E: is the CD/DVD drive letter - change the E: to fit your own setup).

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For a detailed explanation of these Console commands, read Q314058 at Microsoft.

Attrib: Changes the attributes of a file or directory.
Batch: Executes the commands specified in the text file.
ChDir (Cd): Displays the name of the current directory or changes the current directory.
Chkdsk: Checks a disk and displays a status report.
Cls: Clears the screen.
Delete (Del): Deletes one or more files.
Dir: Displays a list of files and subdirectories in a directory.
Disable : Disables a system service or a device driver.
Enable: Starts or enables a system service or a device driver.
Exit: Exits the Recovery Console and restarts your computer.
Format: Formats a disk.
Help: Displays a list of the commands you can use in the Recovery Console.
Listsvc: Lists the services and drivers available on the computer.
Logon: Logs on to a Windows installation.
Mkdir (Md): Creates a directory.
More: Displays a text file.
Net Use: Connects a network share to a drive letter.
Rename (Ren): Renames a single file.
Rmdir (Rd): Deletes a directory.
Set: Displays and sets environment variables.
Systemroot: Sets the current directory to %SystemRoot% folder of the logged-on installation.
Type: Displays a text file.

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Accessing the Recovery Console (7 MB) on boot up is much faster than using the CD.

You will have access to the Recovery Console from the boot menu without to have to insert the Windows XP/2K CD each time you need the Console.

1. Backup Boot.ini from root of system partition, or/and Create this Rescue Boot Disk
2. Insert the Windows XP/2K CD into the CD-ROM drive.
3. Click Start > Run
4. In the Open box, type
    where [CD] is the drive letter for the CD-ROM drive.
5. Click Yes to start the installation procedure.
6. Optionally allow Microsoft to update the Console install files (but read below).

Restart the computer.
The Recovery Console option has been automatically added to the boot menu.

7. Create a NEW Rescue Boot Disk

There have been some suggestions that the original MS update did not always function satisfactorily. This has not been confirmed. If this information was correct, it's likely to have been corrected by now (June, 2003).

If in doubt, do not get the update. If a repair does not work as expected from the installed Console, use the Console from the CD (read Run Console, above).

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To totally and permanently remove the Recovery Console:

It is recommended that you change the attribute for the Boot.ini file back to a Read-only state after you complete this procedure.

First remove Boot.ini's Read-only Attribute:
1. Click Start > My Computer
2. Double-click the hard disk on which you installed the Recovery Console.
3. On the Tools menu, click Folder Options > View tab > check Show all files.
4. Uncheck (clear) Hide protected operating system files check box. Click OK.
5. Right-click the Boot.ini file on the root folder, and click Properties.
6. Uncheck the Read-only check box, and then click OK.

Now remove the Console line from Boot.ini, and delete the Console files:
1. Backup Boot.ini from root of system partition, or/and Create this Rescue Boot Disk
2. Open the Boot.ini file in Notepad
3. Remove the entry for the Recovery Console. It looks similar to this:
    C:\cmdcons\bootsect.dat="Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" /cmdcons
4. Save the file, and close it.
5. Delete the Cmdcons folder and the Cmldr file on the root folder.

6. Return the Read-only Attribute to Boot.ini
7. Optionally, uncheck Show all files, and check Hide protected ....

8. Create a NEW Rescue Boot Disk when all is satisfactory.

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NEVER dual-boot without your personal safety net - a BOOT DISK for XP/2K/NT.
If stuck, use a Win9x Startup Disk (CD support), and run WINNT.EXE from I386 folder on CD.

RESCUE BOOT DISK for when XP, 2K, NT will not boot - ESSENTIAL, 1 floppy
   Create a bootable floppy to get XP/2K/NT running even if the boot record,
   or boot files, are ever a problem. Write-protect and keep it safe.
      Format a floppy with that XP, 2K, or NT. It must be a full XP/2K/NT format.
      Alter file Attributes (Attrib -r -s -h) of these files in root of C: (system partition)
      Boot.ini, NTLDR,, and Bootsect.dos & Ntbootdd.sys (if present)
      (plus Arcldr.exe & Arcsetup.exe - for Windows 2K) and copy them to the floppy.
      Write-protect the floppy. Then restore original Attributes to the files on C:.
      Read the Rescue Boot Disk page for fuller details, plus a much improved Rescue disk.
Use the CD: If you have a Bootable installation CD you should check if your BIOS
   supports booting from it. This is hugely convenient, but still make the floppy.
ERD XP, 2K, NT: Emergency Repair Disk - repair key Registry entries and partition geometry
2K/NT Setup Boot Disks: (4 floppies for 2K, or 3 for NT)
   Use WINNT32 and MAKEBT32 from 2K/NT (Boot disk folder on CD).
   Use WINNT and MAKEBOOT from a non-2K/NT system (such as Win9x).
XP Setup Boot Disks: (6 floppies)
   Read the Microsoft page How to obtain Windows XP Setup boot disks.
   It provides free downloads that create setup boot floppies for all versions of Windows XP.
   Each download is specific to each XP version (Home/Pro; original/SP1/SP2).
Win9x/Me Startup Disk:
   (95+) From a Windows: Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Startup Disk tab.
   (98+) From true MS-DOS: Go to the Command folder in Windows, and type Bootdisk.
   Windows 95 Startup Disks do not have CD support (add your CD-ROM driver).
   You can download free Win9x/Me boot disks from (IDE CDrom Drivers Included).

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Please remember that you alone are responsible for the consequences of any changes you make to your computer hardware or software.

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