When you have a problem with your Windows computer, you’ll usually be told to insert the Windows cdrom and then start the Recovery Console in order to fix the issue. So where did you put that XP disc anyway? Why can’t we just install the recovery console to the hard drive?

As it turns out, you can indeed install the recovery console as a boot menu option. This won’t help if your computer doesn’t boot at all, but in many cases you’ll find it useful.

Note: If you have a dual-boot setup with Windows Vista, there’s a chance that installing this would screw up booting into Vista, so don’t use this until I can confirm otherwise.

Installing Recovery Console to the Hard Drive

First you’ll need to insert your Windows XP cdrom into the drive. It’s important to note that your cdrom version of XP has to match the version of XP that you have installed. So if you have SP2 installed but your cd is for SP1, you’ll need to read this Microsoft KB article.

Open up the Start \ Run dialog, and then type in the following command, adjusting the drive letter to match your cdrom drive:

d:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons

You’ll be prompted with a really wide dialog box to confirm that you really want to do this.

The installation will think for a minute…

And then you’ll get a prompt that the installation was successful (hopefully).

If you have problems installing this, you’ll want to check out this Microsoft KB article.

Accessing the Recovery Console

Once you have the recovery console installed, you can restart your computer and you should see it in the list of boot option choices:

Once the console loads up, it will ask you which installation you’d like to logon to. You’ll have to type the number, in this case you would type “1”, and then be prompted for the administrator password.

Type HELP at the command prompt to see a list of all the commands.

I won’t go into detail about how to use the console, as that’s really a separate article altogether.

Change the Boot Menu Timeout

After you install this, you’ll suddenly notice that your computer waits at the boot menu for 30 seconds. To change this timeout, either right-click on My Computer and choose Properties or use the Win+Break shortcut key.

Select the Advanced tab, and then the Settings button under Startup and Recovery:

Now you can change the timeout value down to something more reasonable, like 5 seconds or so.

If you click on the Edit button you’ll see the boot.ini file, where you can see the new line for the recovery console.

If you don’t know what you are doing, don’t edit this file… or you’d actually need the install cd to fix it =)

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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