Sometimes a crash can be so severe that even Safe Mode is unusable. This is particularly true in situations in which the data on the hard disk has been corrupted, or when core operating system files are missing or damaged. If your system is damaged so badly that you can’t boot into Safe Mode, all is not lost. There is still one more method you can use to try to resurrect your ailing system: Recovery Console.
Recovery Console in a nutshell
The Recovery Console is a Windows 2000 mechanism that allows you to boot Windows 2000 to a command prompt, where you can repair lower-level system files. It’s different from booting to the Safe Mode With Command Prompt option because the Recovery Console relies on fewer system files than the Safe Mode alternative. In addition, the Recovery Console contains a supplemental set of commands that are specifically designed to get you through tough system problems. To top it all off, if your system happens to be damaged so badly that it’s impossible to load the Recovery Console, you can load the Recovery Console from a set of floppy disks and gain full access to the damaged hard drive partitions.
Since you’re able to boot to the Recovery Console for the purpose of modifying low-level system files, you may be wondering about security risks. The Recovery Console actually presents minimal risks to security because before you use the Recovery Console, you’ll be prompted to enter the Administrator’s password. Of course, if the system is damaged so badly that the Recovery Console can’t locate the Administrator’s password, you may have to use the last resort technique of reloading Windows.
Installing the Recovery Console
Windows 2000 doesn’t install the Recovery Console as a part of the default configuration because it consumes what Microsoft considers a hefty 7 MB of hard disk space. The optimal choice is to install the Recovery Console to the hard disk. However, to use the hard disk option, you have to install the Recovery Console before a crash occurs, and you must have adequate free hard disk space. The other alternative is to create a set of floppy disks that contain the Recovery Console.
The process of installing the Recovery Console onto a functioning system’s hard drive is actually quite simple. Insert your Windows 2000 installation CD and open a command prompt window by selecting Programs | Accessories | Command Prompt from the Start menu. Next, enter the following commands at the command prompt. For the purpose of this example, I’m assuming that your CD-ROM drive letter is D:
At this point, you’ll see the Windows 2000 Setup dialog box appear. This dialog box informs you that Windows is about to install the Recovery Console and that 7 MB of hard disk space will be required. Click the Yes button to begin the installation process. You’ll see a message indicating that the installation is complete and that you can access the Recovery Console from the Startup menu.
Now, suppose that you have a system that has already failed, and need to access the Recovery Console from a floppy. To do so, you’ll need access to a functioning PC or a DOS boot disk that allows you to access the failed PC’s CD-ROM drive. Whichever method you use, insert your Windows 2000 installation CD and enter the following commands at the command prompt (assuming again that your CD-ROM drive letter is D:):
At this point, Windows 2000 will run the program to create a set of boot disks. The process will require you to provide the system with four, blank, formatted, high-density 3.5-inch disks. Insert the first disk and enter the drive letter that you’ll be using. Windows will prompt you to insert a disk and press a key when you’re ready. Windows will create the disk and then prompt you to insert the remaining disks. When the process completes, you’ll see a message indicating that the set of disks has been created successfully.
Accessing the Recovery Console
If you run the Recovery Console from the hard disk, accessing the Recovery Console is as simple as using the boot menu. When you power up the system, select the Microsoft Windows 2000 Recovery Console option from the boot menu and your system will boot into the Recovery Console.
The first screen that you’ll see when the Recovery Console begins will display each copy of Windows 2000 that’s installed on the system. Select the copy you need to work with and press [Enter]. After a brief delay, the Recovery Console will prompt you for the Administrator’s password. Enter the password and you’ll have full access to the hard drive via a command prompt.
If you’re planning to use a set of floppies to access the Recovery Console, you’ll have to do things a bit differently. Begin the process by booting from the first disk in the series of boot disks that you made. After the system reads disk four, you’ll see a Welcome To Setup screen. Press R to begin the Repair process. The next screen will tell you that you can begin the repair process by either using the Recovery Console or by using the standard emergency repair process. Press C to use the Recovery Console. Just as with the hard disk method, the Recovery Console will prompt you for the copy of Windows that you want to work with and for the Administrator’s password.
If all else fails
If you’re not able to boot the system through the Recovery Console, your last resort is to try to reinstall Windows 2000. Initially, I recommend installing over the existing version. Unless the existing version is badly damaged, Setup should give you the option to do an upgrade or repair. Whichever method you decide to try, make sure you have a copy of the latest service pack available.
If Setup doesn’t give you the option to upgrade or repair the existing copy of Windows, don’t proceed with the installation or you’ll ruin any and all chances of ever recovering the system. About the only other thing that you can try is using a third-party recovery utility. I recommend using the Administrator’s Pack from Winternals Software. This suite of utilities has the capability of repairing problems that would otherwise be unrecoverable. It also has the ability to recover data from a severely damaged hard drive, even if Windows can’t be repaired.