Beware installing XP Recovery Console from OEM restore disc

Installing the Recovery Console from an OEM restore disc may not always work as intended. If the disc has been configured to provide third-party hardware drivers during the first stage of setup, those drivers may be enumerated by the Recovery Console boot loader, but not copied over by the installation system.

Many PCs are shipped with an OEM restore CD, a disc designed to rebuild the operating system installation on the computer if the OS preinstall gets damaged.

Restore CDs come in several varieties. One type many people (myself included) have come to despise is the disc that, when booted, simply recreates an image of the original OS installation on the target computer. This is annoying because if you need to selectively install something from the CD, you can't. . .unless the image also contains a local repository of install files (i.e., the equivalent of the \i386 directory).

Another type of restore CD is simply a copy of the Windows XP installation disc that the OEM has modified to work with its specific PCs. It may contain mass storage or device drivers that are automatically installed at setup time, so you don't have to punch F6 when you first boot the CD and provide those drivers on a floppy. These CDs are more useful than image discs, since they can be used as regular XP installation discs in all respects, as well as to install a local copy of the Recovery Console (always a good idea).

However, installing the Recovery Console from an OEM restore disc may not always work as intended. If the OEM disc has been configured to provide third-party hardware drivers during the first stage of setup, those drivers may be enumerated by the Recovery Console boot loader, but not copied over by the RC installation system.

As a result, if you set up the Recovery Console locally, then try to boot it, you'll get an error indicating that some mass storage driver or other isn't present. You can work around this by copying the missing drivers by hand to the hidden \cmdcons directory (where the Recovery Console is launched from).

If your system requires a certain mass storage driver to boot that isn't enumerated by the OEM disc (i.e., something you do have to put on a floppy and punch F6 to provide), you won't be able to just copy the missing driver to the \cmdcons directory and expect it to work. Microsoft used to have an article in the Knowledge Base that detailed how to add third-party/OEM mass storage drivers to the Recovery Console (KB article 817616), but it has been deleted for some reason. (I suspect the technique in question wasn't that reliable, and may not have worked consistently for all third-party drivers.)

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter, which is devoted to hints, tips, tricks, news and goodies for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP users and administrators. He has more than 10 years of Windows experience under his belt, and contributes regularly to SearchWinComputing.com and SearchSQLServer.com.

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This was first published in August 2006

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