How-To Geek

Install Recovery Console as a Boot Menu Option on Windows XP

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 =)

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 03/11/08

Comments (14)

  1. thebodz99

    Can we do this with Vista ?

  2. Noel

    great article. If you wrote this a month earlier, it would have saved me a format of my hdd. bookmarking this for keepsake.

  3. The Geek


    I’m still researching the Vista angle… I’m not actually sure, but it would be interesting.

  4. Don

    You do great work. I really like the articles. Clear, consice and useful

    Thanks for being a GeeK !

  5. Brett

    any update using this with dual booting xpsp3 and vistasp1?

  6. AGtheKiLLER

    thanks ! great tool

  7. Todd

    If using XP64 change i386 to AMD64

  8. Logik

    Gr8 arttilce….. but main question is….how to use the recovery console…..or simply how can i repair meh XP with this in case any problems in XP

  9. Homer

    I moved my data from a failing HD w/MaxBlast and somehow lost the Recovery Console..I have SP2 disk but am unable to find cmdcons on it….How can I get my RC back.? thanks…hh


    Great info. thanks.

  11. Maf

    Hats off ……….

  12. airmanchairman

    Good tutorial…
    When I tried this to re-enter my XP SP2 computer that had locked me out due to a Trojan virus infestation, the recovery console installed OK, but on reboot when I selected it, I got:

    A disk read error occurred
    Press Control+Alt+Delete to restart

    I got this no matter how many times I rebooted…

  13. Mike S

    I have an XP SP2 CD, my old hard drive died so I installed XP on a new hard drive and then installed all of the updates, including SP3. I recently ran into a problem where I couldn’t boot because of a corrupt or missing isapnp.sys file, and I had to use the Recovery Console from the CD to fix it. I thought it would be nice to have the Recovery Console on the hard drive because it wold be so much faster. When I ran winnt32.exe /cmdcons I see a dialog window that informs me:

    “Setup cannot continue because the version of Windows on your computer is newer than the version of the CD.

    Warning: If you decide to delete the newer version of Windows that is currently istalled on your computer, the files and settings cannot be recovered.”

    It’s strange that I can run the Recovery Console from the CD but Windows reports this when I try to copy it to the hard drive.

    Any suggestions?


  14. terry

    I tried – e: \i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons with XP SP1, SP2, and SP3 cd’s. All I got was the contents of each CD.
    Should there be a space between e: \, or e:\, without a space ?
    Thanks in advance for any pointers.

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