Command Prompt – How to use the simple, basic commands

by Codrut Neagu published on 05/11/2016. digitalcitizen . life

Geeks and experts all love the Command Prompt because of the advanced tasks and commands you can run in it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s only useful for experts – after all, every expert was a novice in the beginning. And Command Prompt is not built only on advanced commands, but also on simple commands designed to perform basic operations. In this article we will show you how to execute commands like changing the working folder, viewing the contents of a directory, creating and renaming folders, copying, deleting files and folders, and launching any application from the Command Prompt. We will also see how to get help when using this tool.

NOTE: The information shared in this tutorial applies to Windows 10, Windows 8.1 and Windows 7. Note that, for simplicity, we will use screenshots taken only in Windows 10.

How to navigate between folders


The first command from the list is CD (Change Directory). This command enables you to change the current folder or, in other words, to navigate to another folder from your computer.

For instance, the command CD\ takes you to the top of the directory tree. To see how it works, after you open the Command Prompt, type cd\ and press Enter on your keyboard. You will see that the CD\ command takes you to the top of the directory tree (in this case to the “C:” drive).

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NOTE: Command Prompt is not case sensitive, meaning that commands can be typed with capital letters, lowercase or any combination of them. The commands CD, cd or Cd will all work in the same way.

Going back to the “CD\” command, now you are working on the root of the “C:” drive. If you need to go to a specific folder from this drive run the command “CD Folder”. The subfolders must be separated by a backslash character: “\”. For instance, when you need to access the System32 folder located in “C:\Windows”, type “cd windows\system32\” as shown below, and then press Enter on your keyboard.

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When you need to go to one folder up, use the “cd..” command. Let’s assume that you want to go back to the Windows folder. Type “cd..” and press Enter on your keyboard. You will notice that your current directory has changed to ”C:\Windows”.

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How to access a certain drive


To access another drive, type that drive’s letter, followed by “:”. For instance, if you wanted to change the drive from “C:” to “D:”, you should type “d:” and then press Enter on your keyboard.

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To change the drive and the directory at the same time, use the cd command, followed by the “/d” switch. The “/d” parameter is used to change the current drive to a specific folder from another disk volume. For instance, if you are now on the ”D:” drive and you want to go back to the Windows folder from the“C:” drive, you should type “cd /d C:\Windows” and press Enter on your keyboard, like in the following screenshot.

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NOTE: By typing the drive letter you automatically move to your most recent location in that drive. For instance, if you are on “D:” drive and type “cd c:\windows” nothing seems to happen. But if you type “c:”, then the working folder will change to “c:\windows” (assuming that it was the last folder you worked with on your “C:” drive).

How to view the contents of a folder
You can view the contents of a folder by using a simple command called DIR. To test it, we’ve created a folder named Digital_Citizen on the D: drive, with several files and subfolders.

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The last time, our working folder was “C:\Windows”. We will navigate to the folder mentioned above by using the command “cd /d D:\Digital_Citizen”. To view the contents of the folder we will type DIR and press Enter on the keyboard. A list of the files and folders contained by it is displayed, together with some details about them (the size and the date and time when they were last modified).

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How to create a new folder from the Command Prompt


You can make a new directory using the MKDIR (Make Directory) or the MD command. The syntax of these commands is “MKDIR Folder” or “MD Folder”.

Let’s say we need to create a new folder called Digital_Citizen_Life that will be placed in the “D:\Digital_Citizen” folder. We will type “mkdir Digital_Citizen_Life” and then we will press Enter, as shown below.

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To test if it worked, we will use again the dir command. The newly created folder appears in the list.

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NOTE: Don’t forget that all these commands depend on the current location in the Command Prompt. For instance, if you are on the “C:” drive and type “MKDIR test”, a new folder will be created in the root of the “C:” drive.

Another way to create a folder, that doesn’t involve being in the desired folder, is to type the complete path of the new folder. For example, if you are working on the “D:” drive and you want to create a new folder in “C:”, called other_stuff, type “mkdir c:\other_stuff” and then press Enter.

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When you need to create a folder with subfolders at the same time you can use the ”MKDIR Folder\Subfolder” command . For instance, if we type “mkdir Digital_Citizen_Tests\Beta\Test1” three folders will be created: Digital_Citizen_Tests, Beta and Test1, in a tree-like structure.

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How to rename files and folders


To rename files and folders you need to use the REN (Rename) command.

To rename folders, type “ren Folder NewFolderName”. For example, if we wanted to rename the Digital_Citizen_Tests folder to Digital_Citizen_Final_Tests, we should run “ren Digital_Citizen_Tests Digital_Citizen_Final_Tests” and then press Enter.

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To rename a file, use the same command, like this: “ren filename.extension newname.extension”. For instance, to rename the Digital_Citizen_Picture.jpg file to Picture1.jpg we have to run the command “ren Digital_Citizen_Picture.jpg Picture1.jpg” command.

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Copy files and folders


The Copy command allows you to copy files from one location to another. To use this command you have to type

“copy location\filename.extension newlocation\newname.extension”.

For example, let’s use this command to copy the Picture1.jpg file from the Digital_Citizen folder located on the “D:” drive to the

“D:\Digital_Citizen\Digital_Citizen_Tests\ folder.

To make things more interesting we want the file to be named Testing_Picture1.gif. We will write the command

“copy D:\Digital_Citizen\picture1.jpg

:\Digital_Citizen\Digital_Citizen_Tests\testing_picture1.gif”

followed by Enter. You will receive a confirmation of the operation, as you can see below.

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If you are copying within the same directory you don’t have to put the path in command. As an example, we will copy Digital_Citizen_Notes.txt from “D:\Digital_Citizen” in the same folder, only with a different extension: let’s say Digital_Citizen_Notes.doc. To do that, we have to run the command “copy Digital_Citizen_Notes.txt Digital_Citizen_Notes.doc”.

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To copy a folder and its content from a location to another, use the XCOPY command followed by the “/s /i” operators. Let’s assume that we need to copy a folder from “D:\Digital_Citizen” to “C:\Backup_Digital_Citizen”. To do that, we’ll have to run the command “xcopy /s /i d:\Digital_Citizen c:\Backup_Digital_Citizen”. The “/s” parameter will ensure that all the directories and subdirectories will be copied, except the ones that are empty. The ‘/i’ parameter will create a new directory if the destination folder doesn’t exist and will copy all the files.

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Delete files and folders


The DEL (Delete) is used to delete files from the folders you’ve created. To delete all the files from a folder you have to run the command “del folder”. For instance, from the directory Digital_Citizen found on the “D:” drive, we will delete all the files from the Digital_Citizen_Tests folder, by typing the command “del Digital_Citizen_Tests”. You need to confirm the delete process by typing the letter “y” and then press Enter.

NOTE: To also delete hidden files from the folder, you must add the “/h” parameter. Also note that the DEL command doesn’t work for deleting folders – for that, you’ll have to use the RD command of which we’ll talk in a bit.

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If you need to delete a single file, use the DEL command followed by that file’s name. For instance, to delete the file Digital_Citizen_Notes.txt from “D:\Digital_Citizen”, we should run the command “del Digital_Citizen_Notes.txt”.

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Here is a list of useful DEL combinations that are worth mentioning:

  • DEL *.DOC – delete all files with the DOC extension (you can use any file extension necessary, DOC is just an example);
  • DEL Test*.* – delete all files beginning with Test;
  • DEL *.* – delete ALL files from the current folder.

The DEL command cannot be used to delete folders, therefore we will use another command to remove any empty folder: RD (Remove Directory). We’ve previously deleted all the files from the Digital_Citizen_Tests folder. It’s time to delete it by typing ”RD Digital_Citizen_Tests”.

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Launch an application from the Command Prompt


To run a program from the Command Prompt, you need only to navigate to the folder that contains the executable and type the program’s name. For example, if you want to launch Paint using Command Prompt, go to “C:\Windows\System32” and you will find the executable called mspaint.exe. Let’s see how this operation is done, if you were in “D:\Digital_Citizen”. First off all, change the working directory to the application’s folder by typing “cd /d c:\windows\System32\”. Then write mspaint.exe or simply mspaint and press Enter. Both commands can be seen in the screenshot below.

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How to get help in Command Prompt


To access help in Command Prompt you have to type the help command and then press Enter. A list with all available commands will be displayed, as you can see below.

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If a certain command interests you, type help followed by the name of that command. Another way to do the same thing is to type the command’s name followed by the “/?” parameter. To test it, use “help cd” or “cd/?” to display information about the cd command. In the picture below you can see the result.

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Conclusion


The Command Prompt remains a very powerful tool for any computer user who is willing to get his hands dirty and learn new things. We hope this article was useful in helping you learn the basics about running commands in the Command Prompt. If you have any questions about it, don’t hesitate to leave us a comment below.