There are a lot of administrators who risk security on Windows NT servers by configuring their system partitions with FAT. Why? Although they keep their data on NTFS partitions, the FAT partition gives them a DOS prompt that lets them copy or delete files, update DLLs manually, and even copy Emergency Repair Disk (ERD) information to the appropriate directory to fix NT problems. These administrators will be glad to know that Windows 2000 (Win2K) eliminates the need to maintain a FAT partition. They can now tackle most of the chores they accomplished at the DOS prompt with the Win2K Recovery Console on domain controllers. In fact, administrators can now perform some tasks at the Recovery Console that they couldn’t do at the DOS prompt without third-party tools or Windows NT Server 4.0 Resource Kit utilities.

The Recovery Console offers a command-line console that lets administrators perform various administrative tasks. You can read or write files to FAT or NTFS partitions, format local hard disk drives, fix master boot records, and stop or start services.

You must install the Recovery Console on your system manually after you install Win2K. Go to the location of your Win2K source files and, at the command prompt, type winnt32.exe /cmdcons. You can also start the Recovery Console from your Win2K setup disks or CD-ROM. Running the /cmdcons switch takes you through a process that seems similar to installing Win2K on your computer, but actually ends quickly after copying certain files to your system. You are prompted to continue installation, as Screen 1 shows. After the files copy over, which requires about 7MB of disk space, you will see a completion notice (see Screen 2). Restart your system to finish the installation and get to the Recovery Console.

After the restart, select Windows 2000 Recovery Console from the Win2K boot menu option screen and select an installation number. If you have multiple Win2K installations on the same system, you can choose to repair different instances of Win2K. If you have only one, type 1 to select the only available option. Next, you have to supply an Administrator password, as Screen 3 shows, which is the Directory Services Restore Mode Administrator Password you entered when you installed Active Directory (AD) and made your machine a domain controller. At this point, you’re ready to use the console. The sidebar "Recovery Console Commands" provides a listing of all available commands, which you can access by typing HELP in the console. To get help for a specific command, use the syntax "HELP command name" (e.g., HELP FIXBOOT) or "command name /?" (e.g., LISTSVC /?).

There are some limitations to what you can do with the Recovery Console. The information in this column pertains to the latest Win2K release (RC2 build 2128). Based on the tests I performed, you can copy files from a floppy disk to a hard disk, but not the other way around. You can create directories only in the systemroot directory (e.g., \WINNT) and not at the root level (e.g., C:\). Also, you can copy files only to the systemroot directory and the root directory. The copy command doesn’t support the wildcard characters, so you can copy only one file at a time.

To remove the Recovery Console from your system (not something you typically want to do), you need to reveal protected OS files by clicking My Computer, Tools, Folder Options, View, Show hidden files and folders. You also need to delete the cmdcons folder at the root directory, delete cmldr file, and delete the reference to the Recovery Console in the boot.ini file.

The Recovery Console is a great tool for administrators. I’m sure most of us will want it to do more, and future service packs might give us additional commands. Perhaps we’ll get a GUI some day—naah!