Recovery Console: What It Is & a List of Commands

This special Windows XP mode is helpful to solve problems

The Recovery Console is a command line based, advanced diagnostic feature available in some early versions of the Windows operating system.

Used to help resolve a number of major system problems, Recovery Console is particularly useful for repairing or replacing important operating system files.

When these files aren't working as they should, Windows will sometimes not start up at all. In these cases, you must start this tool to restore the files.

Older desktop computer at a workstation in an office
 Chris Fortuna / Getty Images

Recovery Console Availability

The Recovery Console feature is available in Windows XP, Windows 2000, and Windows Server 2003.

This means it's not available in Windows 11, Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista. Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP were the last Microsoft operating systems that contained Recovery Console.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista replaced it with a collection of recovery tools referred to as System Recovery Options.

In Windows 11/10/8, neither of those older tools are available. Instead, Microsoft created the arguably more powerful Advanced Startup Options as a central place to diagnose and repair Windows problems from outside the running operating system.

How to Access & Use Recovery Console

The usual way to access the Recovery Console is via booting from a Windows installation CD. It can also sometimes be accessed from the boot menu, but only if it has been pre-installed on your system.

A number of commands, unsurprisingly called Recovery Console commands (all listed below), are available from within Recovery Console. Using these commands in specific ways can help solve specific problems.

Here are some examples where executing a particular command using this feature is necessary to fix a serious Windows issue:

Recovery Console Commands

As mentioned above, several commands are available within Recovery Console, quite a few of them exclusive to the tool. When used, they can do things as simple as copying a file from one place to another, or as complicated as repairing the master boot record after a major virus attack.

Recovery Console commands are similar to Command Prompt commands and DOS commands, but are completely different tools with different options and abilities.

Below is a complete list of these commands, along with links to more detailed information about how to use each one:

Command Purpose
Attrib Changes or displays the file attributes of a file or folder
Batch Used to create a script to run other Recovery Console commands
Bootcfg Used to build or modify the boot.ini file
Chdir Changes or displays the drive letter and folder you're working from
Chkdsk Identifies, and often corrects, certain hard drive errors (aka check disk)
Cls Clears the screen of all previously entered commands and other text
Copy Copies a single file from one location to another
Delete Deletes a single file
Dir Displays a list of files and folders contained inside the folder you're working from
Disable Disables a system service or device driver
Diskpart Creates or deletes hard drive partitions
Enable Enables a system service or device driver
Exit Ends the current Recovery Console session and then restarts the computer
Expand Extracts a single file or group of files from a compressed file
Fixboot Writes a new partition boot sector to the system partition that you specify
Fixmbr Writes a new master boot record to the hard drive you specify
Format Formats a drive in the file system you specify
Help Provides more detailed information on any of the other Recovery Console commands
Listsvc Lists the services and drivers available in your Windows installation
Logon Used to gain access to the Windows installation you specify
Map Displays the partition and hard drive that each drive letter is assigned to
Mkdir Creates a new folder
More Used to display information inside a text file (same as type command)
Net use [included in Recovery Console but is not usable]
Rename Changes the name of the file you specify
Rmdir Used to delete an existing and completely empty folder
Set Enables or disables certain options in Recovery Console
Systemroot Sets the %systemroot% environment variable as the folder you're working from
Type Used to display information inside a text file (same as more command)
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