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Recovery Console in Windows XP

By , logo. Last updated: 2018-01-01

How to use Windows XP Recovery Console for repairing file system errors on hard disks and fixing boot problems

If you cannot start Windows even in Safe Mode, then most probably there are some errors on your hard disk that prevent Windows XP from starting correctly. Here's where Recovery Console comes in handy. You need your Windows XP installation CD that came with your computer or, if you bought Windows XP from a shop, then it should be in the Windows XP product box.

If you can't find your Windows XP CD, you can borrow one from your friends - any version of Windows XP should be able to boot into Recovery Console.

Steps to try before using Recovery Console

  • Last Known Good Configuration often solves booting and stability problems after installing software, drivers, or messing with Registry entries.
  • Always boot to Safe Mode at least once - this often repairs corrupted file system and essential system files.
  • If Windows starts or runs properly only in Safe Mode, turn on Clean Boot mode to see if a non-Microsoft software or driver is causing the problems.
  • If Windows is able to boot, use System File Checker and icacls.exe to repair corrupted system files.
  • While Windows is running, use free WhoCrashed for determining BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) causes.

Starting Recovery Console

If your computer does not boot from CD, check this article to change boot order.

Insert Windows XP CD to your computer's CD or DVD drive and restart the computer.
To put Windows XP installation media onto a bootable USB drive instead, see the Create bootable Windows installation media on a USB stick guide on my other site,

After your computer boots from the Windows XP CD, you'll see text "Press any key to boot from CD" for about 5 seconds. Press Y or Space on your keyboard, for example - but you can press really any other key.

After pressing some key on your keyboard, you will see blue screen and Windows XP setup program will load essential files and drivers from CD. It takes quite a while. Do not press any keys during that time.

After loading is complete, you will see a screen like this. Press R key on your keyboard to start Recovery Console.
Windows XP setup, Welcome to Setup. Press R to start Recovery Console.

After Recovery Console starts, there is a message at the bottom of the screen "To select non-default keyboard layout press ENTER now". This message is displayed for 5 seconds.
If you do have a standard US keyboard, wait until the message disappears.
Windows XP Recovery Console, press Enter to select non-default (non-US) keyboard layout. If you want US keyboard layout, do not press any keys within 5 seconds.

If you do not have a standard US keyboard layout, press Enter key and select your keyboard layout by using up and down arrow keys and confirm your selection by pressing Enter again:
Windows XP Recovery Console, selecting a non-default keyboard layout. Use arrow keys for moving in list and press Enter key to confirm. To still accept US keyboard layout, press Esc key.

After this, Recovery Console will ask which Windows installation you want to use. Most probably you have only one Windows XP installed so press 1 on your keyboard and then press Enter to confirm the selection. If you press Enter without pressing a number key first, your computer will restart immediately.
Windows XP Recovery Console, select your Windows installation by pressing the corresponding number key and then pressing Enter

Checking and repairing hard disk corruption in Recovery Console

The first thing to do is to find out which letters your computer has assigned to your hard disks and partitions on them. You will need drive letter or letters later on.

Type in the command map and press Enter to execute the command:
Windows XP Recovery Console, map command shows all drive letters

As you want to check your hard disks, look for rows containing \Device\Harddisk. In this example, I have only one hard disk mapped to drive letter C:, its file system type is NTFS, its total size is 20466 megabytes (or 20 gigabytes) and its address is \Device\Harddisk0\Partition1. The most important info is drive letter "C:".

The disk checking and repairing utility is called chkdsk, short for Check Disk.

To start checking and repairing, type in the following command: chkdsk c: /P
Then press Enter to execute the command.
Windows XP Recovery Console, chkdsk c: /P command checks for and repairs errors on Local Drive C. Press Enter to start checking and repairing.

This will check your hard drive. If you have more than one hard drive or partition, you must check these too by replacing the "c:" with "d:", "e:" or any other letter that your hard drive and partition has, see the map command above. For example, chkdsk d: /P or chkdsk e: /P.

Chkdsk will check your disk (this might take some time) and display a report after it finishes checking and repairing:
Windows XP Recovery Console, chkdsk found errors. Repeat the chkdsk c: /P command.

As you see from the row "CHKDSK found one or more errors on the volume", there were errors on the drive. It is very important to check the disk again when you see this message, because there might still be other errors on the disk.

So recall the last command by pressing arrow Up key on your keyboard once. Or you can also type the command chkdsk c: /P again. Press Enter to execute the command.
Repeat the checking and repairing process until you see report stating "CHKDSK has finished checking the volume". This means that the disk/partition is fine now.
Windows XP Recovery Console, chkdsk finished checking, everything is ok. Type exit and press Enter key to exit Recovery Console and restart your computer.

Please remember to check all other hard disks and partitions, if you have more than one.

Quit Recovery Console and restart your computer now by typing exit and pressing Enter on your keyboard.

Fixing booting problems in Recovery Console

Sometimes malware tries to overwrite or delete bootsectors on partitions and hard drives. Also, power failures or forced reboots/shutdowns can damage data in bootsectors.
If you encounter errors related to bootsector or MBR (Master Boot Record), there are two tools available in Windows XP Recovery Console for repairing these.
The following commands should be used only after chkdsk successfully completes and no more file system errors are present.

For bootsector errors, type fixboot and press Enter key. A message "Are you sure you want to write a new bootsector to the partition C: ?" appears. Press y key (for "Yes") and then use Enter again.
Windows XP Recovery Console, fixboot command. Type y and press Enter key to let fixboot create a new bootsector.

If the new bootsector was written successfully, type exit and press Enter on your keyboard. This will restart your computer.

In case Windows is still unable to boot, or you encounter errors related to MBR, enter fixmbr instead. You might see a warning about non-standard or invalid master boot record. Please note that this command really is the last resort and you might have to use other time-consuming methods described below after this command fails.
Press Y for "Yes" and then use Enter to write a new one.
Windows XP Recovery Console, fixmbr command. Type y and press Enter key to let fixmbr create a new master boot record.

If the new MBR was written successfully, type exit and press ENTER on your keyboard. This will restart your computer.

Hopefully these commands solved your Windows XP starting problem. Smile
If not, see the Non-destructive reinstall of Windows XP article or use Puppy Linux for recovering your files.

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