Cool Tools: The Windows 2000 Recovery Console

Thomas Shinder

It was about 11 PM when I heard the all too familiar groaning of the hard drive. "Clunk, clunk, clunk" and then the sound of the disk powering up and down, and finally the friendly "blue screen" telling me that something was wrong.

It was about 11 PM when I heard the all too familiar groaning of the hard drive. 'Clunk, clunk, clunk' and then the sound of the disk powering up and down, and finally the friendly 'blue screen' telling me that something was wrong.

Of course, the nightly backup wasn't for another 30 minutes, so the 12 articles that I wrote that day were at risk. I certainly didn't want to spend another 14 hours recreating the stuff again. No problem, I'll just restart the computer, backup the stuff, and maybe put in a new hard disk.

Why Does Bread Land on the Jelly Side?

What is it that when you drop a piece of bread on the floor, it always lands on the Jelly side? And why is it when you've got a tight deadline, that your boot and system volumes are on the drive that's failing?

Click Here to Learn About the Paradox of the Jelly and the Cat

I restarted the computer. During the Startup process I got the word:


The Windows 2000 Recovery Console to the Rescue

If I were running Windows NT, I would have few options, including reinstalling the operating system and trying to recovery any files on the dying disk. Or, I might try a tool from the good folks at www.winternals.com. The first option is time consuming and wastes disk space, and the second option requires me to pull out a credit card.

Fortunately, I didn't have to make that decision. I was running Windows 2000 and I could use the Recovery Console to fix the problem.

The Windows 2000 Recovery Console allows you to boot into a "mini" version of Windows 2000 and provides a command console environment in which you can perform many tasks that may allow you to save your data, or even get the operating system to boot again. The best part of the Recovery Console is that it comes with Windows 2000. No extra charges or 3rd party products required.

"What Can I Do with the Recovery Console?"

Some of the things you can do with the Recovery Console include:

  • Repair the Boot Sector
  • Repair the Master Boot Record
  • Replace whacked out driver files that you can't access while the full OS is running
  • Copy critical files to another drive or removable disk
  • Prevent freaked-out services from starting up on the next boot-up
  • Run a disk scan (chkdsk) and possible revive corrupted files

...and lot's more!

You must log on with the Administrator account for the local machine. If your SAM is fried, and then you won't be able to start the Recovery Console because you won't be able to be authenticated.

"What Can't I Do with the Recovery Console?"

Well, there are a lot of things you can't do with the Recovery Console, but here are a few things of which you should be aware:

  • You can only enter the %systemroot% folder tree and the Cmdcons folder. You can't go messing around in other folders.
  • You can't copy files to a floppy disk

Keep these things in mind, especially if you are trying to use the recovery console to retrieve data not located in the %systemroot% folder tree or if you thought you could get away with copying data to a floppy.

"How Do I Install and Start the Thing?"

The Recovery Console is not installed by default. In order to get it installed, open the Run command and type:

<path>\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

Where the <path> is the path to your i386 folder on CD or installation share point.

After you complete the installation a new folder named Cmdcons will appear on your system partition. The executables required to run the Command Console are located in this folder. It will not place any icons in the Start menu or anywhere else. However, when you restart your computer, you'll notice that they boot menu contains a new entry for the Command Console.

When you chose the Command Console option in the Boot Menu, the system will start up and you'll see a dark screen with white dots moving across (sort of like how the Windows NT 4.0 boot process looked if you weren't booting with the /sos switch included in the boot.ini file). After the dots are done, you will be asked to chose an installation of Windows 2000. If you only have a single installation, you get one choice. Otherwise, it will list all installation of Windows 2000 on your system.

After you select the installation of Windows 2000, you will need to enter your username and password for the local Administrator account. After you are authenticated, you are dumped to a command prompt with the focus in the systemroot folder. Type Help at the command prompt to see the commands available to you.

For More Information

For more information on the Recovery Console in general, try HERE

For more information on how to repair your operating system after an errant program or driver has whacked it, try HERE.

For more information on how to delete a corrupt or otherwise unwanted, but invisible page file, try HERE.

This article was originally published on Sep 18, 2000
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