New in W2K: W2K Recovery console

New in W2K: W2K Recovery console

February 4, 2001

Bart Teunis


I think we all can remember the problems we had when a NT server or workstation wouldn't go through the boot process. Most of the times there where several causes for a hang, most of the times it was related to hardware, a service which didn't come up properly or a missing file. Most of the times I tried to boot up the system several times, used the standard tricks to get it up, but when that didn't give the result I liked, it was a dead system to me and was installed over again. W2K gives you an opportunity that wasn't there before called the recovery console.

What it is:

The Recovery Console is an extra feature which is added to the boot menu and gives when chosen the following possibilities:

  • start and stop services
  • copy data from a floppy or a CD
  • read or write data on the local hard drive
  • format a disk drive
  • repair the boot sector or boot record

This all looks very nice but there are some limitations to the recovery console. You cannot copy files from the hard drive to a floppy, which is pretty handy because otherwise a so called "pizza delivery" hack was very easy. Put on a cap, buy a pizza and go into the office building with the message that you have a pizza delivery for Mr. X. Reboot the system, put in a floppy and copy the SAM from the hard disk to the floppy and the first intrusion is a fact. You also need to identify yourself as the administrator, very clever.

How does it look:

When I first ran my system in the recovery console mode it looked like the old DOS environment. There are a lot of commands, which are pretty much the same like the old-DOS commands, so it was a pretty comfortable environment to me. The recovery console gives a you command prompt in the %systemroot%, usually the C:\winnt. In the recovery console mode are the following commands available:

  • Disable; to stop a indicated service
  • Enable; to start a indicated service
  • Diskpart; adds and deletes a disk partition
  • Fixboot; replaces a W2K boot sector in the system partition or indicated drive
  • Fixmbr; repairs the masterboot record
  • Listsvc; lists all the service and there state
  • Map; lists all the installed drives
  • Systemroot; sets the current directory as the systemroot

So the console recovery mode gives you good tools to recover a system which wouldn't boot properly.

How is it installed:

The recovery console is no default feature, but you have to install this as an extra. It is installed from the installation CD. You can install the recovery console with the command: CD:\i386\winnt32 /cmdcons The installation wizard creates all the files necessary and modifies the boot.ini to provide an additional boot menu item that will allow you to select the recovery console while starting the system.

In my opinion is this a very powerful tool to maintain your w2k systems. I wish that this available in the NT 4.0 system, it would took away a lot of frustration.