If you've ever needed to find the solution to a system problem, you've probably used the TechNet information available on Microsoft's Web site. And you've probably noticed that the only times you've been able to get search results that accurately target your problem are when you almost know the answer, so that the search parameters you use severely limit the responses from the search engine.

This experience can be incredibly frustrating. I've even gone back to the Web site to search for a document that I've seen before and been unable to find it. I don't often remember the series of searches that previously uncovered the document, and searching in a different way on TechNet almost always returns a different set of results. So searching through TechNet often becomes a very hit-or-miss proposition; you end up guessing which search parameters will return results that will solve your problem.

To help alleviate this frustration, Microsoft has the Diagnostic Solution Guide for Windows 2000 and Windows NT. This Web site walks you through the diagnostic process for solving problems with the two OSs. A Web-based wizard lets you describe, define, and detail your problem, narrowing the search parameters at each step. Even if you use the guide only a few times, it'll give you a good idea of the effective way to search the TechNet resource.

This week's tip: How to Access the Windows 2000 Recovery Console (Hopefully, you'll never need to use this.)

You can boot Windows 2000 from either the installation disks or CD-ROM and run a Recovery Console that gives you limited access to the system, including

  • %systemroot% and its subfolders of the installation you actually log on to
  • the root folder
  • the CmdCons folder
  • removable media drives

The Recovery Console lets you boot an otherwise unbootable installation. To get to the Recovery Console, perform the following steps

  1. Boot from installation disks or CD-ROM.
  2. At the Welcome screen, press F10.
  3. Select Repair.
  4. Select Console.

If the SAM is intact, you need to log on to the system with an Administrator password. After the console is active, you can access a subset of the command prompt commands: ATTRIB, CD, CHDIR, CHKDSK, CLS, COPY, DEL, DELETE, DIR, DISABLE, DISKPART, ENABLE, EXIT, EXPAND, FIXBOOT, FIXMBR, FORMAT, HELP, LISTSVC, LOOGN, MAP, MD, MKDIR, MORE, RD, REN, RENAME, RMDIR, SYSTEMROOT, and TYPE.

From here, you should be able to recover the system or at least copy crucial data from a corrupted install to a removable media device.