Installing and Using the Windows Recovery Console

Windows XP systems can experience problem during the boot process or fail to boot for a variety of different reasons. Some of the files required by the boot process might be corrupted or missing, drivers or services might fail to load, or a virus may have infected your system’s master boot record (MBR). Under normal circumstances, your first courses of action should be to try to boot a system into Safe Mode, try the Last Known Good Configuration option, or even attempt to repair the system using the Automated System Recovery (ASR) feature. Although each of these options will often help to get you back up running again, sometimes they’re not enough. For this reason, Microsoft provides an advanced command line environment to help you attempt to repair or recover an XP system manually. Known as the Recovery Console, this is one tool you’ll want to know more about before you need to use it!

Provided with both the Home and Professional versions of Windows XP, the Recovery Console software is not installed by default. To install the software (which requires only 7 MB of free disk space), pop in your Windows XP installation CD and issue the WINNT32 /cmdcons switch from the Run command. This will walk you through the Recovery Console installation process, and add an option to boot into the Recovery Console from the operating system selection menu provided when XP boots.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.