THE LOST ART
Welcome to a beginner’s tutorial on the basic Windows command prompt commands. Once upon a time in the dark ages of computing, there was no graphical user interface (GUI). When we boot up a computer, there is no wallpaper, no windows, no graphics. All we get were lines of “hacker stuff code”, and that is we call the command prompt today.
While many people will shy away from the command prompt, it actually does provide a lot of powerful “hacker” controls that are otherwise not available in the graphical interface. But we are not going there in this guide and will only start with the basics… Which will still make you look cool enough anyway. Read on!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Before we dive into the commands, here are sort of the prelude and how to launch the command prompt; This guide should be good for most of the modern Windows installations – Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10.
HOW TO LAUNCH THE COMMAND PROMPT
- Press the Windows button + R.
- Type in “cmd” and hit “OK”.
A NOTE ABOUT SECURITY
By default, when you launch the command prompt, it will be in “restricted access” mode. Meaning, it will not allow you to mess with the critical system stuff. If you want an unrestricted command prompt, here is how to do it:
- Hit the Windows button, search.
- Find “command prompt”.
- Right click on it, run as administrator.
But beware – This means that you can mess with the system files, and potentially cause irreversible damage. So avoid opening the command prompt with full administrator access unless you know what you are doing.
WHY USE THE COMMAND PROMPT?
As with the introduction, the command prompt will allow you to do several “hacker stuff” with Windows. It allows you to possibly fix a broken copy of Windows in safe mode (with some ninja skills), plus it totally makes you look like a legit hacker.
BASIC COMMANDS 101
Now that you have launched the command line and have it staring at your face, here is “how to use it” and some of the basic commands.
1) CHANGING THE CURRENT DRIVE
When you start the command prompt, there is this
C:\Users\NAME staring at you. Just what the heck does it mean? This is your “current location”, which will default to your own user folder. To change the drive, just enter the drive letter.
Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.17134.471] (c) 2018 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. C:\Users\W.S. Toh>d: D:\>e: E:\>
2) LIST THE CONTENTS OF A DIRECTORY/FOLDER
To list the contents of the current location/folder, use the
D:\>dir Volume in drive D is DATA Volume Serial Number is CATE-DOGE Directory of D:\ 11/02/2018 03:42 PM <DIR> hMailServer 12/13/2018 10:06 PM <DIR> http 12/15/2018 09:11 PM <DIR> NetBeans 8.2 06/17/2017 08:53 PM <DIR> obs-studio 06/17/2017 02:18 PM <DIR> Rainmeter 05/28/2018 01:58 PM <DIR> xampp 0 File(s) 0 bytes 6 Dir(s) 46,296,956,928 bytes free
3) CHANGE DIRECTORY/FOLDER
If you want to “go into” a folder, use the
D:\>cd http D:\http>cd temp D:\http\temp>
The easy way is not to type the full folder name in, but to type part of the name and press tab to auto-complete/cycle in between. For example, if I type
cd h on my PC and press tab, it will cycle in between the
hMailServer folders. You can also use the tab key to help you complete folder names in the other commands.
To return to the previous folder (up one level), you can use
CD.. or to return directly to the base of the drive, use
D:\http\temp>cd.. D:\http> D:\http\temp>cd/ D:\>
4) CLEAR SCREEN
When the screen gets too messy, you can use the
cls command to clear the screen.
5) LAUNCHING APPLICATIONS
From the command line, you can also launch any application,
Finally when you are done with the command line session, use the
exit command to close the session.
7) COPYING FILES
To copy, simply specify the source file and destination –
copy SOURCE DESTINATION.
d:\http\test>copy README.txt d:\http\temp 1 file(s) copied.
To copy all the files in the folder, you can use
d:\http\test>copy *.* d:\http\temp ALT-dummy.php ALT-retrieve.php ALT-stats.php ALT-store.php JSON-retrieve.php JSON-store.php README.txt sql-fav-color.sql sql-people.sql 9 file(s) copied.
8) X-COPYING FILES
Now, the problem with
copy is that it only copies files, but not the folders within. So if you want to copy everything, including the folders within, use the slightly more advanced
d:\http\test>xcopy *.* d:\http\temp /e D:ALT-dummy.php D:ALT-retrieve.php D:ALT-stats.php D:ALT-store.php D:JSON-retrieve.php D:JSON-store.php D:README.txt D:sql-fav-color.sql D:sql-people.sql 9 File(s) copied
9) MOVING FILES
To move the files, you guessed it – Use the
move command instead.
d:\http\test>move README.txt d:\http\temp 1 file(s) moved. d:\http\test>move *.* d:\http\temp d:\http\test\ALT-dummy.php d:\http\test\ALT-retrieve.php d:\http\test\ALT-stats.php d:\http\test\ALT-store.php d:\http\test\JSON-retrieve.php d:\http\test\JSON-store.php d:\http\test\sql-fav-color.sql d:\http\test\sql-people.sql 8 dir(s) moved.
10) REPLACING FILES AND FOLDERS
By default, copy and move will ask you if you want to replace the existing files. So if you do want to be bugged everything, use
replace SOURCE TARGET instead.
D:\http\test>replace READLATER.txt d:\http\temp Replacing D:\http\temp\READLATER.txt
11) RENAMING FILES AND FOLDERS
ren SOURCE TARGET.
d:\http\test>ren README.txt READLATER.txt
12) CREATING A NEW FOLDER
13) DELETING FILES
To delete a single file:
To delete all the files in the folder:
14) REMOVING DIRECTORIES/FOLDERS
Please take note that
del will only delete files, but will not remove the folder. To remove a folder, you need to use the
rmdir command instead. You can also add a
/S option to automatically remove everything inside the folder.
D:\http\temp>rmdir dogewonderland /S dogewonderland, Are you sure (Y/N)? y
15) FILE COMPARE
Finally, this is a not-so-useful command that compares 2 files and shows you the differences between them.
D:\http\test>comp doge.txt cate.txt /A Comparing doge.txt and cate.txt... Compare error at OFFSET A file1 = D file2 = C Compare error at OFFSET B file1 = o file2 = a Compare error at OFFSET C file1 = g file2 = t Compare error at OFFSET 10 file1 = G file2 = E Compare error at OFFSET 11 file1 = o file2 = v Compare error at OFFSET 12 file1 = o file2 = i Compare error at OFFSET 13 file1 = d file2 = l Compare more files (Y/N) ? n
16) REPEAT COMMANDS
Made a typo mistake on your command? You can easily press the up and down arrow keys to scroll through your previous commands – No need to retype everything.
The default black-and-white color scheme too boring for you? You can change the colors with the
It takes 2 alphanumeric characters from 0 to F. The first one is the background color, and the second one is the text color.
This is the more “swag way” to shutting down your computer:
/s option will do a full shutdown, and use
/r to do a reset instead.
19) GETTING HELP
Need more help with the specific commands and options? Simply append a
/? at the end of the function.
d:\http\test>replace /? Replaces files. REPLACE [drive1:][path1]filename [drive2:][path2] [/A] [/P] [/R] [/W] REPLACE [drive1:][path1]filename [drive2:][path2] [/P] [/R] [/S] [/W] [/U]
Or you can use the
help command to get a full list of available commands.
d:\http\test>help For more information on a specific command, type HELP command-name 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.
SUMMARY & LINKS
That’s all for the examples, and here is the summary/cheat sheet of all the basic commands plus some links that may be useful to you.
ALL THE COMMANDS
|c: d: e:||Change the current drive.|
|dir||Display the contents of the current directory/folder.|
|cd||Change the current directory/folder.|
|cls||Clear the screen.|
|exit||Closes the current session.|
|copy||Copy files from one place to another.|
|xcopy||The slightly more advanced version of copy.|
|move||Move files from one place to another.|
|replace||Copy and automatically replace target file(s).|
|ren||Rename a file or folder.|
|mkdir||Creates a new directory/folder.|
|del||Delete a file or files.|
|rmdir||Remove a directory/folder|
|compare||Compares 2 files.|
|Up and down arrow keys||Scrolls through your previous commands.|
|Tab key||Helps you to “autocomplete” the file/folder name, cycles between the files and folders.|
|color||Changes the color scheme of the command line.|
|shutdown||Shutdown the computer.|
|help||Gets a whole list of available commands, or more details on the options of a specific command.|
LINKS & REFERENCES
- 15 Windows CMD Commands You Must Know – Make Use Of
- Windows Commands – Microsoft
- 21 CMD Commands All Windows Users Should Know – Help Desk Geek
Thank you for reading, and we have come to the end of this guide. I hope this has helped you to better understand the command line and make you look a little more like a legit hacker. If you have anything to share with this guide, please feel free to comment below. Good luck and happy computing. May the cyber force be with you.
W.S. Toh is a senior web developer and SEO practitioner with over 10 years of experience in building websites. When he is not secretly being an evil tech ninja, he enjoys doing photography and working on DIY projects.