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Four Ways to Get Into Windows Recovery Console

Access Windows XP Recovery ConsoleGetting Into Windows XP Recovery Console

Several of my articles on the site talk about using the Recovery Console so I thought I should at least show you how to do that.

In case you’re not familiar with this, the recovery console is a command line utility that looks much like a DOS prompt or Windows Command Prompt with a limited set of commands that can be used when troubleshooting and hopefully fixing Windows startup problems.

Windows XP startup errors such as NTLDR is missing, Windows Setup: Setup did not find any hard disk drives…, NTLDR is compressed. Press CTRL+ALT+DEL to restart, Invalid Boot.ini or Missing Windows/System32/Hal.dll, Missing Operating System or Operating System Not Found can all be fixed using the recovery console.

As far as I’m aware, there are four ways to access the recovery console.

If you don’t get a boot menu like the one pictured above when you’re starting your PC and you cannot boot into Windows desktop then it’s not installed and you must go with either of the CD options or the USB option.

If you can boot into Windows desktop and would like to install the recovery console as a boot menu option then follow this article:  How To Install The Recovery Console

Below, I will discuss the four methods to access the recovery console:

Option 1: Windows XP Boot Menu

As mentioned above, to access the console using the boot menu,  you must have the Recovery Console installed first.

  • If you don’t have it installed and you can boot into Windows then click here for instructions on installing the console.
  • If you already have it installed then simply restart your computer and select the option Microsoft Windows Recovery Console from the boot menu and press Enter.

Option 2: Using Windows XP Installation CD

  1. Insert your Windows XP CD and restart the computer
  2. You will need to boot from the CD so on most PC’s you’ll see a message requesting you to press a key to boot from CD.  If you don’t see this message you may have to go into the BIOS (sometimes called the Setup Utility and other numerous terms) and configure your startup devices.
  3. When the Windows XP Setup welcome screen appears (as shown below) press the R key on your keyboard.
    Windows XP Professional Setup Welcome Screen
  4. When the console appears you should see a screen like below.  If you have more than one Windows installation installed then it will show them all listed here.  Type the number of the Windows installation you would like to work on and press Enter.
    Windows XP Recovery Console Welcome Screen
  5. When prompted for the Administrator password, enter it and press Enter.  (There might not be a password set for the Administrator account.  In this case, just press Enter.)
  6. You should be placed at a command prompt, ready to enter commands.

Option 3: Create A Custom Recovery Console Boot CD

The third way to access the recovery console is to create your own bootable CD.  A very convenient downloadable package with al the files you need and instructions has been created by a chap called Dean Adams.

You can download the zip file and read the instructions in the article: Download Windows Recovery Console

Option 4: Create A Bootable Recovery Console USB Stick/Flash/Thumb Drive

The fourth way to access the recovery console is to create a bootable USB stick.  This was highly requested so I created a dedicated article which you can read here:  How To Create A Bootable USB Thumb Drive From ISO Image File


Wow, 27 Comments! We've got a conversation going now. Join the discussion below!

  1. Robert says:

    Hi Rosco, I downloaded the xp recovery console and created the disc all i need to know is what command do I put in to get back to the home screen?

  2. Rosco says:

    What ‘home screen’ are you referring to Robert?

    1. Robert says:

      Its basically back to the start-up screen to know that the disc has worked, I press the installation i like, (1) then enter for the admin password. All i need is a command for the disc to start the system recovery, or repair

      1. Rosco says:

        The Recovery Console is essentially just a command prompt where you can issue a restricted set of commands in order to ‘repair’ or ‘recover’ your system.

        There is no command that starts a ‘system recovery’ like you thought.

        What exactly is the problem you are having? in other words, why do you need to recover your system?


        1. Robert says:

          I had a problem with the NTLDR being compressed and I couldn’t get any further than that. I was hoping the disc I created would solve that problem, and possibly set the system restore to start up a few days before my friend started having problems. I’m ok with doing this on my own laptop because its compaq and visa (so its easier to do system restore) I’m just unsure with XP and advent laptops 🙁

          1. Robert says:

            I think I might have got it, I’ll message you if I fail 😛

          2. Rosco says:

            OK, so to fix NTLDR is compressed error just type the following commands:

            cd \

            attrib -c c:\ntldr


            Solution is documented in this article: http://www.proposedsolution.com/solutions/ntldr-is-compressed-press-ctrlaltdel-to-restart/

            1. Anonymous says:

              I have the same problem..after i have keyed in 1 then enter it doesnt give me an option to write password..it says”the command is not recognised,type help for a list of supported commands

  3. BKW says:

    Hi I am having the same issue but the Key word is VUFEI is compressed and it says to press ctrl alt del. But when I do this it comes back to this screen. It does not give the the option to to type in anything. I cannot do a system recovery or get to a prompt for ant thing. Can you help me?

    1. Rosco says:

      Hi BKW,

      I’m currently working with Steve on the same issue over on this thread http://www.proposedsolution.com/solutions/ntldr-is-compressed-press-ctrlaltdel-to-restart/#comments

      It’s something we haven’t seen before. Do you have a Windows CD/DVD that you can boot from? If not, I’d suggest you create a Windows 7 Repair Disc from this article: http://www.proposedsolution.com/downloads/download-windows-7-vista-bootable-disc-cd-dvd-iso-image/

      You’re going to need it I’d say.


  4. jem says:

    I have a password to get onto my computer it then tells me ntldr missing press any key nothing happens. I have a toshiba satellite A10 laptiop with windows xp pro, about 10 years old, put extra memory in it. Tried installing the toshiba product recovery disks of which there are three, because this is all I could find and nothing came on the screen except the error msg ntldr missing. Tried my friends windows xp pro disc 2002, still nothing. Computer wont respond to anything. Please help Im moving house tomorrow and thats more than enough to be dealing with. I have a cd on my laptop. Many thanks

    1. Rosco says:

      I see from your other comments that you’re download the recovery cd image. Give this a go and see how you get on.


      1. jem says:

        Hi Rosco I waited over one and a half hours and the disk still didnt download. Im working a six day week and its difficult to wait around for that amount of time. Is there another site you could recommend? Someone has kindly agreed to take a look at it for me tomorrow so pls advise asap. In the meanti,e Ill print off your instructions

        1. Rosco says:

          Hi jem, Please send a link to the file you are downloading.



          1. jem says:

            Hi Rosco
            I used another installation disc and lost everything on my computer+ I didn’t realise at the time, the Windows Recovery Discs were in French. It was never resolved.

  5. Tim Barry says:

    I created the Bootable USB thumb drive as described in the 4th option, following the directions right up to where it says to reboot. I created the thumb drive on a working computer and then took the thumb drive to my SICK computer that says: NTLDR is compressed, etc. Now I’m trying to use the thumb drive on the sick computer. I don’t see an option that says use my “K” USB port (the inserted thumb drive) for start up. What am I missing? Thanks for any answers.

    1. Tim Barry says:

      I even burned a start up CD to try, but I still have the same problem that the computer doesn’t SEE either the USB post (with inserted thumb-drive, and start up files) or the inserted CD, with the start up files. I have two different methods (of the four) but the computer doesn’t even TRY to boot, from either of these two options.

      1. Rosco says:

        OK, first up please try creating the bootable CD/DVD with a new piece of software that I’m trying out to replace the Unetbootin software.

        It seems several people are having trouble with it so will you try to download and create your bootable USB flash with Passscape ISO Burner (available here: http://www.easy-share.com/1917464076/pib.zip)

        1. Unpack the zip file.
        2. Launch ISO Burner .exe
        3. On the first screen choose burn ISO to CD/DVD
        4. Select the ISO image file by browsing to it
        5. Insert a blank CD/DVD and select the drive you’d like to burn the ISO to
        6. Click Burn/Create button.

        Also, what ISO file are you using? Is it one of the Windows Recovery Console ISO’s available on this website?

        When the CD/DVD has been created try booting your dead PC with it.

        If this doesn’t work, try the USB Flash option using the above method.

  6. Rusty Bucket says:

    Ok Roscoe, I’m on option 2 and did #6 “ready to enter commands”…would those be the commands in step 2 from http://www.proposedsolution.com/solutions/ntldr-is-missing-press-ctrl-alt-del-to-restart-2/ or is there something different? I’m stuck. Thanks in advance.

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  8. lynne says:

    I’m almost there!

    I am FINALLY able to get a blue screen! However, after I press “R” I get the error:

    Setup did not find any hard disk drives installed in your computer.

    Make sure any hard disk drives are powered on and properly connected to your computer, and that nay disk-related hardware configuration is correct. This may involve running a manufacturer-supplied diagnostic or setup program.

    Setup cannot continue. To quit Setup, press F3.

    Any suggestions about what to do next??

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