BOOT CAMP 337 (03/08/04)




Over the past three weeks we’ve looked at some of the tools included with Windows XP Home and Pro that can help you to restore an ailing PC. System Restore, msconfig and Repair Install (Boot Camps 344, 345 & 346) are all reasonably simple and safe to use and can fix many common problems, however, the subject of this week’s Boot Camp is in an entirely different league.


Recovery Console is a powerful utility used by experts to revive a totally unresponsive XP computer by replacing or repairing damaged system files, disc partitions and so on. This sort of advanced Windows brain surgery and is definitely not for novices but it does have one rather useful facility that’s worth getting to know. In an emergency you can use it to copy an important file or document from a dead PC’s hard drive to a floppy. This feature is included in XP Pro but is not enabled by default but we’ll come to that in a moment. I must stress that Recovery Console is a last resort when all else has failed, so use it at your own risk! Consider yourselves warned!


The way Recovery Console works is broadly similar to the Startup disc used to boot a fatally crashed Windows 9x computer into DOS mode. Unfortunately a 9x Startup disc won’t work on an XP PCs as it uses a completely different filing system. Nevertheless, those used to DOS will feel immediately at home with it as it looks very similar and uses many of the same command-line instructions to manipulate files.


There are several ways to get into Recovery Console using the Windows XP CD-ROM or a set of floppy discs (see Tip of the Week) but the quickest method is to install it on your PC whilst it is working normally, so that you can access it directly if ever Windows XP absolutely refuses to boot. This will take up around 7Mb of disc space and once loaded the option to use it appears briefly during XP start up.


To install the Recovery Console load your XP CD-ROM disc and click Exit if it runs automatically. If your PC didn’t come with a XP disc you may be able to install it from the Recovery Discs or the XP files on your PC, consult your dealer or manufacturer, see also Tip of the Week. Next go to Run on the Start menu and type:


d:\i386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons’


Do not include the quotes, don’t forget the space between .exe and /, and ‘d’ is the drive letter for your CD-ROM drive.


A dialogue box appears, click Yes to confirm installation. Restart the PC and you will see the Recovery Console listed below Windows XP then after a few seconds Windows will start. You can reduce this delay by going to System in Control Panel, select the Advanced tab then under Startup and Recovery click the Settings button and change ‘Time to display operating Systems’ to 5 seconds, say.


This next step switches on the feature that allows files to be copied from the hard drive to a floppy or removable drive. Go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘mmc’ (without the quotes) and on the dialogue box that appears go to the File menu select Add/Remove Snap-in. In the next dialogue click the Add button and on the list select Group Policy then Add. Yet another box appears, select Finish then Close and OK to get back to the first Console box. Now click the plus signs next to Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Windows Settings > Security Settings > Local Policies and double-click Security Options. In the right hand window scroll down the list and double-click ‘Recovery Console: Allow Floppy Copy...’, select Enabled then OK and it’s done. Phew!


Now you are ready to use Recovery Console in anger. In the following example we’ll show how to copy a word document called ‘bank.doc’ from a folder or sub folder called ‘Letters’ on your C: drive to a blank floppy in drive A.


Should the worst happen, you cannot boot Windows and you need to get at a file in a hurry select Recovery Console from the list when you first switch on. You will be asked to enter your Administrator password (if you haven’t set one just press Enter) then choose your Windows XP drive (1 for usually C:) and after a few moments you will see a DOS-like prompt displaying ‘C:\Windows >’. This next step is crucial, type the following three lines (pressing Return after each line):


set AllowAllPaths = TRUE

set AllRemovableMedia = TRUE

set AllowWildCards = TRUE


(N.B. there are spaces either side of the equals signs).


At the C:\Windows prompt in Recovery Console type the following line:


copy c:\letters\bank.doc a:\


(substituting the path, folder and file names for the data on your hard drive.), then hit Return. All being well you should see a message ‘1 file copied’.  To get out of Recovery Console type ‘exit’, for a full list of available commands type ‘help’.


That is just a very small taste of what Recovery Console can do. If you are an experienced Windows user or you would like to learn more then have a look at Microsoft Knowledgebase articles 307654 and 314058 at:





There’s also a useful feature on using it to restore a corrupt Registry at:



Next week – XP Event Log





A typed instruction, to tell a PC to do something, as opposed to clicking on a menu or icon



Disc Operating System, program responsible for controlling disc drives, organising data and memory resources.



Shorthand for pre XP versions of Windows i.e. Windows 95, 98, SE & ME




If you haven’t installed Recovery Console on your computer you can start it using your Windows XP installation disc, however you first have to change the PC’s ‘boot order’. To do that you need to enter the BIOS program (see your PC or motherboard manual) and set the PC to boot from your CD-ROM drive. Load the XP disc, restart the PC and after Windows Setup has finished you will see a menu screen. Choose the second option ‘To Repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console press R’. If you don’t have an XP disc you can download a set of XP start up files from Microsoft, which you copy on to 6 floppy discs. For more details go to:


Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.