Recovery Console

by Marcin Policht

Limitations of Recovery Console and ways to overcome them Limitations of Recovery Console (and ways of overcoming them)

Let's start with the basics. The Recovery Console gives you functionality painfully missing from recovery scenarios in Windows NT 4.0 realm, where in order to get access to systems registry or NTFS formatted drive you had to perform a parallel installation or use third party products, typically with limited capabilities. With Windows 2000, being able to access malfunctioning installation is much simpler. If you find yourself in a situation where your computer generates BSOD prior to you being able to log on and attempt a repair from within the operating system, you can do one of the following:
- Boot from Windows 2000 Installation CD and select the Repair option.
- Boot from Windows 2000 Setup floppies and select the Repair option.
- If you were prudent enough and installed the console files to your local drive, simply select it from the boot menu. 
The last option is the easiest one to use, but obviously it requires some extra work. In order to install the Recovery Console, you have to run winnt32.exe /cmdcons from the i386 folder on the installation CD. This copies about 7MB worth of files to Cmdcons folder on your system disk (these are basically 4 setup floppies put together), copies the content of the boot sector of Windows 2000 system partition to Cmdcons\bootsect.dat file, puts its own replacement in a form of cmdldr in the root of the system partition, and modifies Boot.ini by creating the following entry 
C:\cmdcons\bootsect.dat="Microsoft Windows 2000 Recovery Console" /cmdcons

If your system is using software disk mirroring on system disk, you want be able to perform the Recovery Console installation (unless you break the mirror and then reestablish it).

You still will have a problem booting in case not only your registry, but also your boot sector or ntldr gets corrupted, but if this is the case, you can simply create a regular Windows 2000 boot floppy, which would contain boot.ini with the reference to C:\cmdcons\bootsect.dat

There are certain limitations which you should keep in mind when considering your recovery options.

By defaut your access is limited to the cmdcons folder, the root folders of all drives, all removable drives, and %systemroot% of the Windows 2000 installation you decided to pick from the initial menu of Recovery Console. You can not however access any other folders or copy files to removable drives. To enable it, you have to use either Group Policies (if you want to apply it to more than a single computer at a time) or Local Security Policy (on non-domain controllers). The policy settings you can change are located under Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Local Policies\Security Options:
Recovery Console: Allow automatic administrative logon
Recovery Console: Allow floppy copy and access to all drives and folders
Once you enable the second one, Recovery Console will allow you to use Set command, which has four options:
- allowwildcards - allows using wild cards
- allowpaths - this allows using cd command with all folders and drives
- allowremovablemedia - allows file copy to any removable media
- nocopyprompt - eliminates prompt when overwriting existing file during copy.
using the syntax set optionname = TRUE(FALSE). Be careful, you need a space before and after "=" sign.
You can speed up the refresh of the effective security policy by running secedit /refreshpolicy machine_policy 

Keep in mind that Recovery Console files are not updated during SP1 installation. You will have to run winn32 /cmdcons using the slipstreamed installation of Windows 2000 with SP1.

Recovery Console might also not display accurate information relating to sizes and volumes stored on dynamic disks. Any volume operations (reformatting or deleting existing ones using FORMAT and DISKPART commands) are not recommended since they can affect the data on remaining volumes.

Remember that running Recovery Console on domain controllers requires password provided during promotion, not the password for domain administrative account (since the account information is looked up in local SAM rather than in Active Directory, which is not available in the Recovery Console environment).

This article was originally published on Nov 20, 2000
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