Prepare for the worst and have the Recovery Console installed BEFORE any serious setbacks.

By Jeffery Hicks

When you installed your latest Windows 2003 server, you probably neglected to go back and take care of one very important task: installing the Recovery Console. This is a terrific feature in Windows 2003 that has bailed me out of more than one nasty server problem. I don’t have space to go into the tool in detail, but it suffices to say that the Recovery Console gives you command line access to the server operating system in a very minimal way.

When you have a serious operating system problem, you can boot from the Windows 2003 CD and select Recovery Console. However, I prefer to install it ahead of time. If there is a problem, the last thing I want to be doing is searching for a CD. To install it locally, you need the install CD or a copy of the I386 directory. From a command prompt of the Run dialog box, type:

D:\I386\winnt32.exe /cmdcons /dudisable

Substitute your path accordingly. You’ll get prompted about installing the recovery console. It takes about 7MB of disk space. I include /dudisable to prevent Winnt32 from trying to contact Microsoft for updated install files (this usually just drags out the process and I’ve yet to see it accomplish anything). Installation only takes a few minutes and does not require a reboot.

The last item to check is your boot.ini. When you install the Recovery Console, it adds a new entry. Make sure your startup timer is set to at least 5. If you have it set to 0, it will be very difficult to select the Recovery Console option.

I strongly urge you to try out the Recovery Console on a test server and familiarize yourself with its commands. You don’t want to be seeing the Recovery Console for the first time while your boss is looming over your shoulder asking when the server is going to be back up!

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