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Q.  Having trouble starting up my Windows XP system. A friend told me to run the Recovery Console from the bootup screen, and then enter some commands. But I don't see a Recovery Console option when I turn on the computer. I'm not even sure what the bootup screen is help!"

A.  Sometimes viruses, spyware etc will attack your computer, leaving you unable to even start Windows. In many cases, the Windows XP Recovery Console can help you fix the problem. But starting the Recovery Console is a bit mysterious, if you've never done it before.

There are two ways to start the Recovery Console. Your friend who told you to do it by selecting an option during startup has apparently installed Recovery Console on his hard drive, which makes that option appear at boot time. We'll cover that later on in this article, but for now, restart your computer with the Windows XP Setup disk in the CDROM drive. (Don't have a Windows Setup disk? Skip this section and look below.) If you are prompted to press a key to start the computer from CDROM, do so quickly. Otherwise it may try to boot from the hard drive. After a few minutes, you'll see a prompt to press the R key to start the Recovery Console. Next, you'll see a prompt to enter a number corresponding to the Windows XP installation that you need to repair. Enter "1" and then supply your Administrator password.

What you'll see next is not very exciting -- just a black and white screen, similar to the DOS prompt of years gone by. But it has powers far beyond.

Can You Handle This Much Power?  Yes You Can! 

Microsoft recommends that you use the Recovery Console only if you are an advanced user, but I'll give you a quick rundown on some of the more common commands available here, and hopefully you'll be able to fix whatever is ailing your computer. 

CHKDSK /R - Scans your hard drive and attempts to repair any problems found. 

DISKPART - Displays a table of all hard drive partitions. You can also add or delete partitions, but this is the stuff of wizardry.

FIXMBR - Replaces the Master Boot Record on the hard drive, if you are having trouble booting. 

FIXBOOT - Creates a new startup sector on the hard drive, if you are having trouble booting. 

FORMAT - Format formats a disk. Format will WIPE EVERYTHING from the specified disk, and prepare it for a fresh install.  

MKDIR - Make a new directory. 

RMDIR - Remove a directory.  

EXIT - Close the Recovery Console and restart your computer. 

Use the HELP command to get a full list of Recovery Console commands, or detailed help on a specific command. 

Install the Recovery Console on Your Hard Drive 

As I discussed earlier, you can start the Recovery Console from your Windows XP Setup disk, but you may find it more convenient to install on your hard drive and have it available as startup option. To install the Recovery Console on your hard drive, restart your computer with the Windows XP Setup disk in the CDROM drive. Click Start, then click Run. Enter the command D:\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons (Assumes D is the drive letter for the CDROM drive.) Click Yes to confirm that you want to install Recovery Console, and remove the CDROM from the drive. When you restart your computer, "Microsoft Windows Recovery Console" will appear as an option on the startup menu. If you get an error message when trying to install the Recovery Console on a Windows XP SP2 system, see http://support.microsoft.com/kb/898594 for more assistance. 

Don't have a Windows Setup CDROM? You can run the Recovery Console installation from your hard drive. If your computer didn't come with a Windows Setup disk, the vendor should have copied an image of it to your hard drive instead. Look for a folder named I386 which contains the WINNT32.EXE file. It might be stored elsewhere on your hard drive, but let's assume you found this file in the C:\WINDOWS\I386 folder. Click Start, then click Run. Enter the command C:\WINDOWS\I386\WINNT32.EXE /cmdcons. Click Yes to confirm that you want to install Recovery Console. The same caveats apply if you have a Windows XP SP2 system.

It is important to note that there is never one fix for a question.  What may work for one person might not for the next.  Depending on the problem and the way it is described by the Computer Owner there may be Six different approaches to a positive outcome.  If the first answer I give you to your question doesn’t work let me know and I will send you another.  Just give me details.

Let me know if you need anything else.

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