Tutorial Windows: Basic Guide for the Windows Command Prompt

Before all the stylish types of program interfaces came to power, most computer management operations were done through terminals, such as the Command Prompt. Although most might consider it difficult or even obsolete, it’s still found in Windows 10 for that old-school feel.

Sure enough, it can take some time and patience to get to know the Command Prompt, especially now with all the available applications that can perform almost any kind of operations with just a few mouse clicks. However, there are some default Windows operations that can’t be done otherwise, or the process requires a lot more effort than working with a set of commands.

About a month ago, we had a look at how the Command Prompt can be visually tweaked, or greatly enhanced with various third-party alternatives, in case visuals were holding you back from using the Command Prompt more often. If this is the case, take the time to make it suit your style, because we’re going to go through a few basic commands and how they can be used to your advantage.

Overview of the Command Prompt functions

The fastest way to launch the command prompt is right-clicking on the Start Menu/Screen button, and choosing to launch it from there, with or without administrator privileges. However, writing down cmd in the Run utility, or simply holding down Shift while pressing right-click in an empty desktop space or folder, also provides quick access.

In case you already have a Command Prompt window active and want to know whether it’s elevated, look at the title bar to see if it states Administrator: Command Prompt, or just the name. Additionally, the default path of an elevated instance is in C:WindowsSystem32> unlike C:UsersYour_User> for a normal one.

Navigation

Needless to say that you might not want to work in the directory you’re taken to by default, with simple commands to go forward and back. This is done through the CD (change directory) command, and works this way:

> CD full_folder_path – takes you to that specific folder.
> CD.. – brings you up one level to the parent directory.
> CD folder_name – opens the folder with that name, given it’s in the location you’re in.

Moving to a different drive, for instance, only requires you to write down the corresponding letter.

C:UsersSoftpediaDesktop>

C:UsersSoftpediaDesktop> D:

D:>

If you’re unsure of the content of the directory you’re in, just type DIR to have all files and folders enlisted, thus helping you choose the next destination or file easier. It’s also possible to use the TREE command to have all files in all subfolders of the target directory enlisted.

Switches

What the extra /P after the DIR command does in the video example, is to force the Command Prompt to stop after every screenfull of information, not showing the rest of content until you press a key, thus giving you time to analyze.

The /P acts like a switch, with the possibility to add more than one to a command. However, each command comes with its own set of switches. Just type /? after the command if you’re unsure how it’s used, and what switches it supports.

File and folder management

If using the DIR command made you stumble upon some directories or files you don’t want there, you might want to know it’s possible to more, or even delete them on the spot.

Let’s say we have a folder from which a file needs to be saved, but we can remove the whole directory after moving the file to a new location. First, a new folder needs to be created to save that specific file.

MKDIR C:Backup

This creates a new folder called Backup in the C drive.

The MKDIR command is used to create a folder in your current location, with the basic form being MKDIR your_folder. Note that your_folder must consist of a single word, or between quotation marks ( ” “ ) for more. However, the command can also be used to create a directory anywhere, regardless of your location. You simply need to write down the full path. For example:

C:userssoftpedia> MKDIR D:existing_foldersub_foldernewdirnewsubdir

This creates a new folder called newdir, with a subfolder called newsubdir in the specified location. Any item in the path that doesn’t exist is automatically created. For instance, if existing_folder is not found on the D drive, the whole path is going to be created.

After this is done, we need to go to the folder with the file of interest, in this case Softpedia Transfer. Now, the new.mp4 file needs to be moved to the Backup folder, with the MOVE command (MOVE [option] [“target”]), which, in this example, goes something like this:

C:> MOVE C:Softpedia Transfernew.mp4 “C:Backupnew.mp4”

Note:

— If the file name consists of more words, use quotation marks ( “ ” ) for each command parameter.

— The target needs to be written between quotation marks ( “ ” ).

— Writing another name for the file in the target automatically renames it.

Just to make sure this is the file we want to move, we’re just going to run it. This is done simply by writing down the file name and executable, then pressing Enter. Note that you have to be in the source directory for this to work.

After applying the MOVE command, it’s time to delete the Softpedia Transfer folder. Note that using the DEL command only removes the content of the directory, while RMDIR also gets rid of the folder.

Drivers and processes

Another useful command is DRIVERQUERY and enlists all current drivers on your system. Sure enough, it’s not going to group them according to hardware components, but rather shows them all. Switches like /FO Table, /FO List, and /FO CSV can be used to display drivers in those particular output types.

If you’re only interested in general system info, there’s also a command for that. The command is SYSTEMINFO and can also be used with the /FO switches mentioned above.

In addition, both DRIVERQUERY and SYSTEMINFO can save all data to file. All you have to do is add > C:custom_pathfile_name.txt at the end, just like this:

C:Program Files> SYSTEMINFO /FO Table > C:BackupSysinfo.txt

Some of what the Task Manager can to is also found in a command here. Writing down TASKLIST shows all running processes, while using the /SVC switch also displays corresponding services for each task.

However, the functionality of the Command Line utility doesn’t end here, and there are even external tools to enhance the basic functionality. Find some here, with the chance to actually stumble upon something useful.

A few last words

A visual interface provides a lot more practicality in any domain of activity. However, there’s a reason it hasn’t been kicked out of the default Windows set of features, letting you perform advanced operations that aren’t normally possible through any visual interface elements.

Check out the full list of supported commands below.

Note: All commands marked with • are internal commands, and can only be run from a Command Prompt instance.

A

COMMAND RESULT
ADDUSERS Add or list users to/from a CSV file
ADmodcmd Active Directory Bulk Modify
ARP Address Resolution Protocol
ASSOC Change file extension associations•
ASSOCIAT One step file association
AT Schedule a command to run at a specific time
ATTRIB Change file attributes

B

BCDBOOT Create or repair a system partition
BCDEDIT Manage Boot Configuration Data
BITSADMIN Background Intelligent Transfer Service
BOOTCFG Edit Windows boot settings
BROWSTAT Get domain, browser and PDC info

C

CACLS Change file permissions
CALL Call one batch program from another•
CERTREQ Request certificate from a certification authority
CERTUTIL Utility for certification authority (CA) files and services
CD Change Directory – move to a specific Folder•
CHANGE Change Terminal Server Session properties
CHKDSK Check Disk – check and repair disk problems
CHKNTFS Check the NTFS file system
CHOICE Accept keyboard input to a batch file
CIPHER Encrypt or Decrypt files/folders
CleanMgr Automated cleanup of Temp files, recycle bin
CLIP  Copy STDIN to the Windows clipboard
CLS   Clear the screen•
CMD  Start a new CMD shell
CMDKEY Manage stored usernames/passwords
COLOR Change colors of the CMD window•
COMP  Compare the contents of two files or sets of files
COMPACT Compress files or folders on an NTFS partition
COMPRESS Compress one or more files
CONVERT Convert a FAT drive to NTFS
COPY Copy one or more files to another location•
Coreinfo Show the mapping between logical & physical processors
CSCcmd Client-side caching (Offline Files)
CSVDE  Import or Export Active Directory data

D

DATE Display or set the date•
DEFRAG  Defragment hard drive
DEL  Delete one or more files•
DELPROF Delete user profiles
DELTREE Delete a folder and all subfolders
DevCon Device Manager Command Line Utility
DIR  Display a list of files and folders•
DIRQUOTA File Server Resource Manager Disk quotas
DIRUSE Display disk usage
DISKPART Disk Administration
DISKSHADOW Volume Shadow Copy Service
DISKUSE Show the space used in folders
DOSKEY  Edit command line, recall commands, and create macros
DriverQuery Display installed device drivers
DSACLs Active Directory ACLs
DSAdd  Add items to active directory
DSGet View items in active directory
DSQuery Search for items in active directory
DSMod  Modify items in active directory
DSMove Move an Active directory Object
DSRM Remove items from Active Directory

E

ECHO Display message on screen•
ENDLOCAL End localization of environment changes in a batch file•
ERASE  Delete one or more files•
EVENTCREATE Add a message to the Windows event log
EXIT   Quit the current script/routine and set an errorlevel•
EXPAND Uncompress CAB files
EXTRACT Uncompress CAB files

F

FC Compare two files
FIND  Search for a text string in a file
FINDSTR Search for strings in files
FOR /F Loop command: against a set of files•
FOR /F Loop command: against the results of another command•
FOR   Loop command: all options Files, Directory, List•
FORFILES Batch process multiple files
FORMAT  Format a disk
FREEDISK Check free disk space
FSUTIL  File and Volume utilities
FTP   File Transfer Protocol
FTYPE File extension file type associations•

G

GETMAC Display the Media Access Control (MAC) address
GOTO  Direct a batch program to jump to a labelled line•
GPRESULT Display Resultant Set of Policy information
GPUPDATE Update Group Policy settings

H

HELP Online Help
HOSTNAME Display the host name of the computer

I

iCACLS Change file and folder permissions
IEXPRESS Create a self extracting ZIP file archive
IF Conditionally perform a command•
IFMEMBER Is the current user a member of a group
IPCONFIG Configure IP
INUSE Replace files that are in use by the OS

L

LABEL Edit a disk label
LODCTR  Load PerfMon performance counters
LOGMAN Manage Performance Monitor logs
LOGOFF  Log a user off
LOGTIME Log the date and time in a file

M

MAKECAB Create .CAB files
MAPISEND Send email from the command line
MBSAcli Baseline Security Analyzer
MEM   Display memory usage
MD Create new folders•
MKLINK Create a symbolic link (linkd) •
MODE Configure a system device COM/LPT/CON
MORE  Display output, one screen at a time
MOUNTVOL Manage a volume mount point
MOVE Move files from one folder to another•
MOVEUSER Move a user from one domain to another
MSG   Send a message
MSIEXEC Microsoft Windows Installer
MSINFO32 System Information
MSTSC Terminal Server Connection (Remote Desktop Protocol)

N

NET Manage network resources
NETDOM Domain Manager
NETSH  Configure Network Interfaces, Windows Firewall & Remote access
NBTSTAT Display networking statistics (NetBIOS over TCP/IP)
NETSTAT Display networking statistics (TCP/IP)
NLSINFO Display locale information (reskit)
NLTEST Network Location Test (AD)
NOW Display the current Date and Time
NSLOOKUP Name server lookup
NTBACKUP Backup folders to tape
NTDSUtil Active Directory Domain Services management
NTRIGHTS Edit user account rights
NVSPBIND Modify network bindings

O

OPENFILES Query or display open files

P

PATH     Display or set a search path for executable files•
PATHPING Trace route plus network latency and packet loss
PAUSE Suspend processing of a batch file and display a message•
PERMS  Show permissions for a user
PERFMON Performance Monitor
PING   Test a network connection
POPD Return to a previous directory saved by PUSHD•
PORTQRY Display the status of ports and services
POWERCFG Configure power settings
PRINT Print a text file
PRINTBRM Print queue Backup/Recovery
PRNCNFG Configure or rename a printer
PRNMNGR Add, delete, list printers and printer connections
ProcDump Monitor an application for CPU spikes
PROMPT Change the command prompt•
PsExec  Execute process remotely
PsFile  Show files opened remotely
PsGetSid  Display the SID of a computer or a user
PsInfo  List information about a system
PsKill Kill processes by name or process ID
PsList List detailed information about processes
PsLoggedOn Who’s logged on (locally or via resource sharing)
PsLogList Event log records
PsPasswd Change account password
PsPing  Measure network performance
PsService View and control services
PsShutdown Shutdown or reboot a computer
PsSuspend Suspend processes
PUSHD  Save and then change the current directory•

Q

QGREP  Search file(s) for lines that match a given pattern
Query Process / QPROCESS Display processes
Query Session / QWinsta  Display all sessions (TS/Remote Desktop)
Query TermServer /QAppSrv List all servers (TS/Remote Desktop)
Query User    / QUSER   Display user sessions (TS/Remote Desktop)

R

RASDIAL Manage RAS connections
RASPHONE Manage RAS connections
RECOVER Recover a damaged file from a defective disk
REGEDIT Import or export registry settings
REGSVR32 Register or unregister a DLL
REGINI Change Registry Permissions
REM   Record comments (remarks) in a batch file•
REN  Rename a file or files•
REPLACE Replace or update one file with another
Reset Session Delete a Remote Desktop Session
RD   Delete folder(s)•
RMTSHARE Share a folder or a printer
ROBOCOPY Robust File and Folder Copy
ROUTE  Manipulate network routing tables
RUN Start | RUN commands
RUNAS  Execute a program under a different user account
RUNDLL32 Run a DLL command (add/remove print connections)
REG Registry: Read, Set, Export, Delete keys and values

S

SC  Service Control
SCHTASKS Schedule a command to run at a specific time
SET Display, set, or remove session environment variables•
SETLOCAL Control the visibility of environment variables•
SetSPN Edit Service Principal Names
SETX  Set environment variables
SFC System File Checker
SHARE List or edit a file share or print share
ShellRunAs Run a command under a different user account
SHIFT Shift the position of batch file parameters•
SHORTCUT Create a windows shortcut (.LNK file)
SHUTDOWN Shutdown the computer
SLEEP Wait for x seconds
SLMGR  Software Licensing Management (Vista/2008)
SORT  Sort input
START Start a program, command or batch file•
STRINGS Search for ANSI and UNICODE strings in binary files
SUBINACL Edit file and folder Permissions, Ownership and Domain
SUBST Associate a path with a drive letter
SYSMON Monitor and log system activity to the Windows event log
SYSTEMINFO List system configuration

T

TAKEOWN Take ownership of a file
TASKLIST List running applications and services
TASKKILL End a running process
TELNET Communicate with another host using the TELNET protocol
TIME  Display or set the system time•
TIMEOUT Delay processing of a batch file
TITLE  Set the window title for a CMD.EXE session•
TLIST  Task list with full path
TOUCH Change file timestamps 
TRACERT Trace route to a remote host
TREE  Graphical display of folder structure
TSDISCON Disconnect a Remote Desktop Session
TSKILL End a running process
TSSHUTDN Remotely shut down or reboot a terminal server
TYPE  Display the contents of a text file•
TypePerf Write performance data to a log file
TZUTIL Time Zone Utility

V

VER Display version information•
VERIFY Verify that files have been saved•
VOL  Display a disk label•

W

W32TM  Time Service
WAITFOR Wait for or send a signal
WEVTUTIL Clear event logs, enable/disable/query logs
WHERE  Locate and display files in a directory tree
WHOAMI Output the current UserName and domain
WINDIFF Compare the contents of two files or sets of files
WINRM  Windows Remote Management
WINRS Windows Remote Shell
WMIC WMI Commands
WUAUCLT Windows Update

X

XCACLS Change file and folder permissions
XCOPY Copy files and folders
:: Comment / Remark•

Wagiman Wiryosukiro

Petani Sistem Informasi, tukang las plugin & themes Wordpress. Co-Founder SistemInformasi.biz. Saat ini aktif sebagai Developer & kontributor di OpenMandriva Linux.

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