How to Get to Command Prompt on Blue Screen Failure
By Samuel Porter
The Blue Screen of Death can be one of the most frustrating symptoms of a Windows system with problems. Although it presents information that might be useful to an operating systems expert, it's not very helpful to most users. More importantly, it doesn't let you actually do anything to correct the problem--it just reports it. When you've got a system that blue screens--especially if it does so before booting up--it's important to know how to get to a command line so that you can try to fix it.
Shut down your computer. Sometimes, while the Blue Screen is up, Windows may indicate that it is saving a memory image to disk. You should not interrupt this process if you are planning to take your computer to a specialist for help, since the memory image may help him to diagnose your problem.
Insert the Windows installation media, and boot from it. Most computers will boot from it automatically. However, if your computer boots from the hard drive instead, you will need to change the boot priority settings in the BIOS. You may need to consult your system's reference manual for how to do this, since BIOS settings vary widely between manufacturers.
Wait for the Windows installer to load, and follow the instructions on screen to bring up the Recovery Console. On Windows XP, you can do this by pressing "R" on the second screen of the installer. On Windows Vista and later, you can select it using the mouse.
Wait for the Recovery Console to load. You will most likely need to enter your Administrator password to gain access to the system. You can use the Recovery Console to repair almost any damage to a Windows installation.
- If you find yourself using the Recovery Console frequently, it may be easier to install it as a boot option; this will allow you to access it by pressing F8 while booting up, without using installation media.
- The Recovery Console allows you to make serious changes to your Windows installation, which can sometimes make the problem worse. Make sure you read thoroughly about any Recovery Console commands before using them.
- When you have a failing system, always try to back it up before making any changes; if necessary, do this by connecting the hard drive to another computer. This will limit the damage that occurs if you are unable to fix the problem, or if the problem gets worse.
Samuel Porter has degrees in computer science and law. Before joining Demand Studios, he often wrote technical documents as a part of his software consulting work and contributed to community forums covering a wide variety of technical topics.