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.
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.
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.
- Provides Help information for Windows commands.
- Displays the Windows version.
- Clears the screen.
- Displays or sets the date.
- Displays a list of files and subdirectories in a directory.
- Quits the CMD.EXE program (command interpreter).
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.”