Getting Into Windows XP Recovery Console
Several of my articles on the site talk about using the Recovery Console so I thought I should at least show you how to do that.
In case you’re not familiar with this, the recovery console is a command line utility that looks much like a DOS prompt or Windows Command Prompt with a limited set of commands that can be used when troubleshooting and hopefully fixing Windows startup problems.
Windows XP startup errors such as NTLDR is missing, Windows Setup: Setup did not find any hard disk drives…, NTLDR is compressed. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart, Invalid Boot.ini or Missing Windows/System32/Hal.dll, Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found can all be fixed using the recovery console.
As far as I’m aware, there are four ways to access the recovery console.
- Through the Windows Boot Menu (pictured above)
- Using the Windows XP Installation CD
- By creating a bootable CD using the method and downloadable files described in this article: Download Windows Recovery Console
- By creating a bootable USB flash drive as described in this article: How To Create A Bootable USB Thumb Drive From ISO Image File
If you don’t get a boot menu like the one pictured above when you’re starting your PC and you cannot boot into Windows desktop then it’s not installed and you must go with either of the CD options or the USB option.
If you can boot into Windows desktop and would like to install the recovery console as a boot menu option then follow this article: How To Install The Recovery Console
Below, I will discuss the four methods to access the recovery console:
Option 1: Windows XP Boot Menu
As mentioned above, to access the console using the boot menu, you must have the Recovery Console installed first.
- If you don’t have it installed and you can boot into Windows then click here for instructions on installing the console.
- If you already have it installed then simply restart your computer and select the option Microsoft Windows Recovery Console from the boot menu and press Enter.
Option 2: Using Windows XP Installation CD
- Insert your Windows XP CD and restart the computer
- You will need to boot from the CD so on most PC’s you’ll see a message requesting you to press a key to boot from CD. If you don’t see this message you may have to go into the BIOS (sometimes called the Setup Utility and other numerous terms) and configure your startup devices.
- When the Windows XP Setup welcome screen appears (as shown below) press the R key on your keyboard.
- When the console appears you should see a screen like below. If you have more than one Windows installation installed then it will show them all listed here. Type the number of the Windows installation you would like to work on and press Enter.
- When prompted for the Administrator password, enter it and press Enter. (There might not be a password set for the Administrator account. In this case, just press Enter.)
- You should be placed at a command prompt, ready to enter commands.
Option 3: Create A Custom Recovery Console Boot CD
The third way to access the recovery console is to create your own bootable CD. A very convenient downloadable package with al the files you need and instructions has been created by a chap called Dean Adams.
You can download the zip file and read the instructions in the article: Download Windows Recovery Console
Option 4: Create A Bootable Recovery Console USB Stick/Flash/Thumb Drive
The fourth way to access the recovery console is to create a bootable USB stick. This was highly requested so I created a dedicated article which you can read here: How To Create A Bootable USB Thumb Drive From ISO Image File