System Restore from Recovery Console


Sometimes we screwed up our machine so bad, that it could not boot into windows anymore, not even safe mode. So i looked around for ages and eventually found out how to do it in the recovery console. For anyone who is new to windows, the recovery console can be found by booting up your machine with the XP CD in the drive, and booting off of that CD. Then it will ask you if you want to go to the recovery console, and select that option. The recovery console is basically a MS DOS command prompt, with a little more functionality.

That being said, if you need to run System Restore to revert the system to an earlier version of the SYSTEM or SOFTWARE Registry hive, because of a corrupted Registry, it is possible to do this manually. This method is far from perfect and doesn’t take into account any of the other changes that System Restore might track (such as changed .DLLs or other system components), but it will allow you to recover copies of the Registry in the event of a failure—provided they’ve been saved with System Restore and are available. Follow the below steps

Step 1: Boot the Recovery Console from the Windows XP installation CD.

Step 2: When you’re at the Recovery Console command prompt, change into the root directory of the system drive with the cd command (i.e., cd \).

Step 3: Change into the System Volume Information directory by typing cd system~1 on most machines, or cd “System Volume Information.”

Step 4: The System Volume Information directory contains a folder name _restore followed by a GUID in curly braces. Change into it by typing cd _resto~1; if that doesn’t work you’ll have to type cd “_restore{GUID_STRING}”, with the full GUID string in place of GUID_STRING.

Step 5: In the _restore directory are a group of subdirectories starting with the letters RP and followed by a number. These are the different restore points available for that volume.

Step 6: Check the date on each directory and look for one that corresponds to a date before you began experiencing problems.

Step 7: Change into the appropriate directory. If the directory is named RP74, for instance, change into it by typing RP74.

Step 8: Inside that directory will be a subdirectory named snapshot; change into that directory as well (cd snapshot)

Step 9: The snapshot directory holds backup copies of the SOFTWARE and SYSTEM Registry hives, named _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE and _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM, respectively.

Step 10: The target directory for these files is \Windows\System32\Config, and the hives there are named SOFTWARE and SYSTEM. Rather than overwrite those files entirely, you can rename them to something else. Typing ren \windows\system32\config\software \windows\system32\config\software.bak and ren \windows\system32\config\system \windows\system32\config\system.bak will rename them to software.bak and system.bak, respectively.

Step 11: Copy in the backup hives: copy _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SOFTWARE \windows\system32\config\software and copy _REGISTRY_MACHINE_SYSTEM \windows\system32\config\system.

Step 12: Type exit to leave the Recovery Console and restart the computer.


~ by ramanathan on December 21, 2007.

22 Responses to “System Restore from Recovery Console”

  1. Thanks for this one! It works great for me… the best step by step guide I’ve come across yet.

  2. Thank you so much. This is very helpful.


  3. I found these instructions on another website. They also said that if you has a Linux Live CD (and/or access to another system to burn one) it’s quite a bit easier to do this if you’re struggling with the commands.
    Thanks to these instructions I fixed my issue that no one else seemed to have. Mine was further screwed by following some instructions on the Microsoft website, of all places.
    I used a Linux Live CD (Slax, as it has a GUI option and is good for the brand newie to Linux to understand) and a copy of these instructions and everything is fine now 🙂

    When in doubt Google your question or problem and chances are someone has written about it, or something very similar that can help. Don’t always just opt for the easy way out – reformat. Most things are fixable with a bit Googling.


  4. Thank you VERY much. I had worked on this computer for 2 days and your instructions fixed a corrupted registry, so bad I couldn’t even get into Safe Mode.
    I can sleep tonight.

  5. There is no snapshot directory. Here it is:
    The system cannot find the file or directory specified.

    Now what?

  6. Did you literally type “GUID?” If you did, you didn’t follow the directions. The GUID is a very long, cryptic alphanumeric character set that will probably take you 3 or 4 tries to type correctly. It took me 5 grrrrr….

  7. Thank you very much! Very useful article!
    I was able to restore the corrupted registry using the Recovery Console by following your instructions.

  8. Well, I driled down to the RP folder I wanted to go back to, looked for “snapshot” or something similar and could not find it. Is there another place to look???

  9. Awesome, I thought I was looking at a reinstall, instead I’m up and running within a few minutes… I’ve printed this out and put it into my “emergency” folder – thanks heaps.

  10. Can someone help me? I did not do a typo, but by the time I’m typing the long set of command with the registries, every time after that I press enter, it says that it cannot find it!!!

  11. Thanks a lot for putting this information on the web. It was very helpful

  12. Man this article is amazing, saved me hours of reinstalling. You are a hero!

  13. Ramnathan, thank you SO much for this guide. I was really despairing about my machine since I couldn’t get into safe mode to do a system restore… I really appreciate your taking the time to write up these step by step instructions. Thank you thank you thank you!

  14. Worked for me. Thanks a lot!

  15. i have tried different ways by reading different articles to restore my system, but nothing helped me.This article is worked for me!! Thank you very much.

  16. when i try to go to c:system~1 directory
    system said
    Access denied
    can u help us?

  17. this is the BEST OF THE BEST OF THE BEST! THANK YOU!!!!

  18. What do I enter for the GUID? Plese help.

  19. Unbelievable, this is exactly what I was shooting for! You just saved me alot of work

    I’ll make sure to put this in good use!

  20. this is very helpful, thanks

  21. One of the best guides to correct a broken XP system. Thanks so much for posting it with very clear directions.

    I used an “Ultimate Boot CD 4 Windows” disk to get into a GUI and ran the commands from in there. This was so easy and saved my afternoon.

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