Getting started with cmd

Opening a Command Prompt

The command prompt comes pre-installed on all Windows NT, Windows CE, OS/2 and eComStation operating systems, and exists as cmd.exe, typically located in C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe

On Windows 7 the fastest ways to open the command prompt are:

  • Press enter image description here, type “cmd” and then press Enter.

  • Press enter image description here+R, type “cmd” then then press Enter.

It can also be opened by navigating to the executable and double-clicking on it.

In some cases you might need to run cmd with elevated permissions, in this case right click and select “Run as administrator”. This can also be achieved by pressing Control+ Shift+Enter instead of Enter.

Commands in CMD

The available commands will be displayed, including a brief description, in tabular format.
In Windows 10 the following commands are listed:

Command Description
ASSOC Displays or modifies file extension associations.
ATTRIB Displays or changes file attributes.
BREAK Sets or clears extended CTRL+C checking.
BCDEDIT Sets properties in boot database to control boot loading.
CACLS Displays or modifies access control lists (ACLs) of files.
CALL Calls one batch program from another.
CD Displays the name of or changes the current directory.
CHCP Displays or sets the active code page number.
CHDIR Displays the name of or changes the current directory.
CHKDSK Checks a disk and displays a status report.
CHKNTFS Displays or modifies the checking of disk at boot time.
CLS Clears the screen.
CMD Starts a new instance of the Windows command interpreter.
COLOR Sets the default console foreground and background colors.
COMP Compares the contents of two files or sets of files.
COMPACT Displays or alters the compression of files on NTFS partitions.
CONVERT Converts FAT volumes to NTFS. You cannot convert the
current drive.
COPY Copies one or more files to another location.
DATE Displays or sets the date.
DEL Deletes one or more files.
DIR Displays a list of files and subdirectories in a directory.
DISKPART Displays or configures Disk Partition properties.
DOSKEY Edits command lines, recalls Windows commands, and
creates macros.
DRIVERQUERY Displays current device driver status and properties.
ECHO Displays messages, or turns command echoing on or off.
ENDLOCAL Ends localization of environment changes in a batch file.
ERASE Deletes one or more files.
EXIT Quits the CMD.EXE program (command interpreter).
FC Compares two files or sets of files, and displays the
differences between them.
FIND Searches for a text string in a file or files.
FINDSTR Searches for strings in files.
FOR Runs a specified command for each file in a set of files.
FORMAT Formats a disk for use with Windows.
FSUTIL Displays or configures the file system properties.
FTYPE Displays or modifies file types used in file extension
GOTO Directs the Windows command interpreter to a labeled line in
a batch program.
GPRESULT Displays Group Policy information for machine or user.
GRAFTABL Enables Windows to display an extended character set in
graphics mode.
HELP Provides Help information for Windows commands.
ICACLS Display, modify, backup, or restore ACLs for files and
IF Performs conditional processing in batch programs.
LABEL Creates, changes, or deletes the volume label of a disk.
MD Creates a directory.
MKDIR Creates a directory.
MKLINK Creates Symbolic Links and Hard Links
MODE Configures a system device.
MORE Displays output one screen at a time.
MOVE Moves one or more files from one directory to another
OPENFILES Displays files opened by remote users for a file share.
PATH Displays or sets a search path for executable files.
PAUSE Suspends processing of a batch file and displays a message.
POPD Restores the previous value of the current directory saved by
PRINT Prints a text file.
PROMPT Changes the Windows command prompt.
PUSHD Saves the current directory then changes it.
RD Removes a directory.
RECOVER Recovers readable information from a bad or defective disk.
REM Records comments (remarks) in batch files or CONFIG.SYS.
REN Renames a file or files.
RENAME Renames a file or files.
REPLACE Replaces files.
RMDIR Removes a directory.
ROBOCOPY Advanced utility to copy files and directory trees
SET Displays, sets, or removes Windows environment variables.
SETLOCAL Begins localization of environment changes in a batch file.
SC Displays or configures services (background processes).
SCHTASKS Schedules commands and programs to run on a computer.
SHIFT Shifts the position of replaceable parameters in batch files.
SHUTDOWN Allows proper local or remote shutdown of machine.
SORT Sorts input.
START Starts a separate window to run a specified program or command.
SUBST Associates a path with a drive letter.
SYSTEMINFO Displays machine specific properties and configuration.
TASKLIST Displays all currently running tasks including services.
TASKKILL Kill or stop a running process or application.
TIME Displays or sets the system time.
TITLE Sets the window title for a CMD.EXE session.
TREE Graphically displays the directory structure of a drive or
TYPE Displays the contents of a text file.
VER Displays the Windows version.
VERIFY Tells Windows whether to verify that your files are written
correctly to a disk.
VOL Displays a disk volume label and serial number.
XCOPY Copies files and directory trees.
WMIC Displays WMI information inside interactive command shell.

To get more insight about a specific command use the /? option, e.g. the tree command gives:

tree /?

Graphically displays the folder structure of a drive or path.

TREE [drive:][path] [/F] [/A]
   /F   Display the names of the files in each folder.
   /A   Use ASCII instead of extended characters.

One of the most common things you’ll need to do in the command prompt is navigate your file system. To do this, we’ll utilize the cd and dir keywords. Start by opening up a command prompt using one of the methods mentioned [here]( a Command Prompt). You most likely see something similar to what’s below, where UserName is your user.


Regardless of where in your file structure you are, if your system is like most, we can start with this command:

cd C:\

This will change your current directory to the C:\ drive. Notice how the screen now looks like this


Next, run a dir so we can see anything in the C:\ drive


This will show you a list of files and folders with some information about them, similar to this:

dir command

There’s lots of good info here, but for basic navigation, we just care about the right-most column. Notice how we have a Users folder. That means we can run this

cd Users

Now if you run dir again, you’ll see all the files and folders in your C:\Users directory. Now, we didn’t find what we wanted here, so let’s go back to the parent folder. Rather than type the path to it, we can use .. to go up one folder like so

cd ..

Now we are back in C:\. If you want to go up multiple folders at once, you can put a backslash and another set of periods like so: cd ..\.., but we only needed one folder.

Now we want to look in that Program Files folder. To avoid confusing the system, it’s a good idea to put quotes around the directories, especially when there are spaces in the name. So this time, we’ll use this command

C:\>cd "Program Files"

Now you are in C:\Program Files> and a dir command now will tell you anything that’s in here.

So, say we get tired of wandering around to find the folder and looked up exactly where we were needing to go. Turns out it’s C:\Windows\Logs Rather than do a .. to Windows to Logs, we can just put the full path like so:

cd "C:\Windows\Logs"

And that’s the basics of navigating the command prompt. You can now move through all your folders so you can run your other commands in the proper places.


Microsoft Command Prompt is a command-line interpreter (CLI) for the Windows operating systems.

A CLI is program intended primarily to read operating system instructions typed on a keyboard by the user. It is therefore addressed also as a command-line interface, to contrast it with graphical interfaces.

As these interfaces (whether textual or graphical) shield the user from directly accessing to the operating system kernel, they are also said shells.

Given the name of the Command Prompt executable file, cmd.exe, the Command Prompt is friendly named cmd. Given its OS piloting role, it is also said the console.

Like other shells, cmd can read batch of instructions from a file. In this case the cmd shell acts as a language interpreter and the file content can be regarded as an actual program. When executing these batch programs, there is no intermediate compilation phase. They are typically read, interpreted and executed line by line. Since there is no compilation, there is no production of a separated executable file. For this reason the programs are denoted batch scripts or shell scripts.

Note that the instructions entered interactively might have a slightly different syntax from those submitted as a script, but the general principle is that what can be entered from the command line can be also put in a file for later reuse.

Hello World

Command Prompt batch scripts have extension .cmd or .bat, the latter for compatibility reasons.

To create a hello-word-script, you first need a place where to type it. For simple scripts, also the Windows Notepad will do. If you are serious about shell scripting, you need more effective tools. There are anyway several free alternatives, such as Notepad++.

In your designated editor type:

echo Hello World

Save it as hello.cmd

If you are using “Notepad” as an editor, you should pay much attention to the saved name, as Notepad tends to add always a .txt extension to your files, which means that the actual name of your file might be hello.cmd.txt. To avoid this, in the save dialog box:

  1. In the File name field enter the name in double quotes, e.g. "hello.cmd"
  2. In the Save as type field select All Files, instead of the default Text Document option.

If the file has been saved properly, its icon should be similar to (Windows Vista):

cmd icon

You may also consider to disable the option “Hide extension for known file types” in File Explorer folder view options. In this case, file names are always displayed with their extensions.

To execute hello.cmd there are two possibilities. If you are using the Windows graphical shell, just double click on its icon.

If you want to use the Command Prompt itself, you must first identify the directory where you saved hello.cmd. In this regard, if you open File Explorer with +E. In the windows listing files, you normally read the name of the directory path containing them. You can therefore identify the directory of hello.cmd. Windows directory names tend to be quite long and typing them is error prone. It is better if you select and copy the directory path in the clipboard for later pasting.

Start the Command Prompt. You read a line similar to this.

Microsoft Windows [Version ...]
(c) ... Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The version/year of Windows of course depends on yours. In the the final line, before >, you read the path of the directory which is current. You should make current the directory where your script is. For this reason enter the change directory command cd, using a line similar to the following:

cd <dirpath>

Instead of <dirpath>, paste the name of the directory you previously copied.
To paste the directory path, in Windows 10, you just need to type Ctrl-C, as you would in an editor. For older systems you should be able to do this by right clicking in the cmd window.
After entering the command, note that current path, before >, changes accordingly.

You can now run your hello script by simply entering:



The script prints an output similar to:

C:\Users\...>echo Hello World
Hello World

Press any key to continue . . .

The lines hosting the symbol > restate the script instructions as if you had entered interactively. This can be disabled writing:

@echo off

as the first line of your script. This might reduce the clutter, but you have less hints on what is going on, with respect to those script commands that do not give visible outputs.

The last command, pause, prompts you to hit any key. When you do, you exit hello.
If you run hello from the console, you don’t really need it, because, when hello terminates its execution, cmd.exe remains open and you can to read hello output. When double-clicking in Explorer, you start cmd.exe for the time necessary to execute hello. When hello terminates, cmd.exe does the same and you have no possibility to read hello output. pause command prevents hellofrom exiting until you hit a key, which gives also the possibility to read the output.

Finally, despite the name of the script is hello.cmd, it is not necessary to type the whole name, its hello stem is sufficient. This mechanism works for executables too, with extension .exe. What if there is a script hello.cmd and an executable hello.exe in the same directory? The former has priority in the Command Prompt, so hello.cmd will be executed.