If You Aren't Using the Windows XP Recovery Console, It's Time to Take a Look

Every now and then I get an abrupt reminder that some IT specialists have been at this Windows game a lot longer than others, and what's obvious to veteran IT specialists isn't quite so obvious to newcomers. In addition, sometimes those newcomers have experience with Windows but not with the Windows NT-derived Windows platform.

A case in point is a conversation I had last week with a client-support IT specialist from a Fortune 1000 company who had asked me questions about Windows XP before his corporatewide XP rollout. He called again to say that the rollout had gone painlessly, thanks to all the groundwork his company did, but he wondered whether I knew of a diagnostic utility he could install on mobile users' XP notebooks.

When I asked what he wanted from the utility, he answered that he'd already had several hardware-related failures with older notebooks, and he missed Windows 98 Second Edition's (Win98SE's) ability to boot to a DOS prompt and walk the user through some basic tests. I suggested he install the XP Recovery Console directly on the notebooks and was a bit surprised when he asked, "What's the Recovery Console?" Microsoft introduced the Recovery Console with Windows 2000. But I realized that with his focus on end-user problems and the fact that he moved directly from Win98SE to XP, he had never been exposed to the Recovery Console.

The Recovery Console lets you access XP or Win2K drives that won't boot from the normal startup or from any safe-mode option. If you're comfortable using the available command-line tools, you should install the Recovery Console on any computer that you think is critical enough to have the console immediately available. You can run the console from the XP installation CD-ROM, but in the client-support specialist's case, he wanted this basic ability immediately available on notebook computers, making a local installation appropriate.

Installing the Recovery Console is an easy process. Simply complete the following steps:

  1. From the XP installation CD-ROM or from a network share that contains the XP installation files, run the application \i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons. For example, if the CD-ROM is in the D drive, click Start, Run and enter
  2. D:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons
  3. To confirm a local installation, click Yes when prompted.
  4. When the installation finishes, reboot the computer.
  5. Check the boot menu for the new Microsoft Windows Recovery Console entry.

You'll find complete instructions for installing and using the XP Recovery Console at the URL below. If you've already used the console in Win2K, you'll find few changes in the XP process. Remember that the Recovery Console has only a limited subset of the available command-line utilities. Users should become familiar with what they can and can't do from the console command line.

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