XP Recovery Console: Installing it as boot option makes sense

Installing the Windows XP Recovery Console locally, on one's hard drive, as a boot option is faster than booting the CD, and can get you out of many a tight spot. Here's how to do it.

The Recovery Console in Windows XP has saved my bacon countless times. At the very least, it's given me a perspective

on a problem that I couldn't have solved without the tedium of an entire separate installation of Windows.

One trick I often recommend is to install the Recovery Console locally, on one's hard drive, as a boot option. It's faster than booting the CD (and providing drivers by hand), and can get you out of many a tight spot.

To install the Recovery Console locally, you'll need the Windows XP installation media—the CD-ROM or network repository where the install files are located. To install it, go to the \i386 directory on the install media and type winnt32.exe /cmdcons.

A Windows Setup dialog will appear, and after you click to confirm this is what you want to do, Setup will copy the Recovery Console files and drivers to the /cmdcons directory, and then add a new option to your boot menu labeled "Microsoft Windows Recovery Console." Now you should be able to get into the Recovery Console simply by selecting that option from the boot menu.

However, you may not be able to install the Recovery Console locally if your installed copy of Windows XP is of a newer Service Pack level than the install media (e.g., your CD is Windows XP SP1, and you're now running Windows XP SP2).

If that's the case, you may get this error: Setup cannot continue because the version of Windows on your computer is newer than the version on the CD. There are three ways to get around this issue:

  1. Use a genuine Windows XP SP2 CD to perform the Recovery Console installation. It's also possible to slipstream Service Pack 2 into an existing CD and use that to generate the Recovery Console installation, although this requires a fair amount of work.
  2. Install the Recovery Console before you install Windows XP SP2. Once the Recovery Console is in, you can then patch the system with SP2.
  3. Install the Recovery Console from SP2 itself. This is the most elegant solution, since you're using SP2's own files to do the setup, and is something of an analog to step 1.

To do this, copy the contents of the \i386 folder on the CD to a directory on the hard drive (such as WINXP), and then unpack the network installation version of SP2 into that folder using the /integrate:c:\ command-line option (where <directory_name> is the directory you copied the \i386 folder into).

Once you've done that, run winnt32.exe /cmdcons from the \i386 folder on the hard drive to set up the Recovery Console.

I'll explore some other not-so-obvious problems that can plague installations of the Recovery Console in future tips.

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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