How to use the Windows Recovery Console

Updated: 03/05/2023 by Computer Hope
Microsoft Windows

The Windows Recovery Console is a utility included with Microsoft Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003. It helps you recover from serious system problems.


Newer versions of Windows use the Windows Recovery Environment.


If you are using a legacy Windows 2000, XP, or Server 2003 system, and you must access the Recovery Console, make sure you meet the following requirements.

  1. You must have your original Microsoft Windows CD (compact disc), which should be provided with your computer.
  2. You must know the Microsoft Windows administrator password. Without the administrator password, you cannot use the Recovery Console.
  3. The Recovery Console uses a command-line interface. If you are not familiar with how to use the Windows command line, take a moment to review our guide.


Before using the Recovery Console, be aware of the following limitations.

  • You can only access the root directory and the Microsoft Windows or WinNT directory. If this applies to you, you likely cannot open any other directory.
  • Access is limited to reading from the floppy disk drive, CD-ROM (compact disc read-only memory) drive, or other disc drives. As a result, you cannot copy information from the hard drive to another drive for backup. However, you can copy information from the CD-ROM or floppy disk drive to the hard drive.

Using the Recovery Console

Place your original Windows disc in your computer. Boot your computer from the disc.


If you do not have a CD-ROM drive on your computer, you can create a Recovery Console bootable USB drive. For more information, see: How to create a copy of the Windows XP Recovery Console.

Once in the Microsoft Windows Setup screen, choose one of the options below, depending on the version of Microsoft Windows you are using.

Windows XP users

To repair a Windows XP installation using Recovery Console, press R to enter the Recovery Console.

After getting to the Microsoft Windows Recovery Console, select the Windows installation you want to log onto. Press the number 1 key to edit the primary Windows installation.

After selecting the installation, enter the administrator password exactly as you would in Windows. If you do not know the Windows administrator password, you cannot enter the recovery mode.

  • Typing help at the prompt gives a complete list of all commands available through the prompt.
  • Additional information about many of the commands available in MS-DOS and in the recovery mode is on our MS-DOS page.

Windows 2000 users choose

Once you have entered the Recovery Console, press R and then C.