Windows 10 Command Line Introduction


There are times when you will need to use the Windows command line instead of the Graphical User Interface (GUI). In Windows 10 you can open a command prompt by right clicking on the Start button, clicking Run and entering cmd. You will see something similar to the interface shown below.

cmd

In this post there are just a few commands that are commonly used. On the Internet you can search for more commands as needed. You can change the look of the window by right clicking the icon in the top left corner and selecting Properties. You can change the size and type of the font, the colours of the background and text and the opacity, for example.

What is a Command Line Interface (CLI)? A utility (program) that you use to type commands rather than using a mouse and a GUI. On Windows we have the Command Prompt, in Linus we use Bash and in Mac we use Terminal. Also you can download other command line interfaces and use those if you want.

Getting Started

Here are a few commands to get you started if you have never worked with the command line before. These are all harmless, unless somehow you end up using data and change the date and cannot figure out how to change it back.

C:\>help

help
Provides Help information for Windows commands.
ver
Displays the Windows version.
cls
Clears the screen.
date
Displays or sets the date.
dir
Displays a list of files and subdirectories in a directory.
exit
Quits the CMD.EXE program (command interpreter).
cd
Changes the directory (folder). cd mystuff changes to the mystuff directory provided that it exists below the current location. To move up the hierarchy, type cd ..

Redirection

You can send the output of your command to a text file by redirecting it. At the command prompt type help > help.txt and then press enter. A text file called help.txt will be created in your current directory that will contain all of the output of the help command. I did that and it is shown below, although not well formatted for a web page, so I used HTML’s pre tag.

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.
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 
               associations.
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 
               directories.
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 
               directory.
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 
               PUSHD.
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 
               path.
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.

For more information on tools see the command-line reference in the online help.

Saving a Session

If you want to save all of the text in your command line session to a file it is easy and only takes a couple of steps. You can select, copy and paste. First, right-click the icon in the upper left corner of the session and choose Edit from the popup menu. Choose Select All. Press Ctrl+C to copy. The text of your command line session os now saved in the Windows Clipboard. You can now paste it with Ctrl+V or from the Paste menu of your favourite application.

The Windows Command Processor, Cmd.exe, is only superficially similar to its ancient forebear, MS-DOS. On a 64-bit Windows 10 system, Cmd.exe is a 64-bit native Windows process.

Systeminfo is a handy command As Ed Bott says in his book called Top 10 Tools, Windows 10 IT Pro Essentials “This handy command spits out a lengthy description of the current system, including the host name, the Windows version and original installation date, domain or workgroup membership, networking details, and much more. Follow the command with the > symbol, followed by the full path of a destination file, to save the results in a file that you can consult later.”

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