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DOS Commands

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A list of DOS commands for Microsoft's MS-DOS operating system follows. In versions 5 and later only, the user can get help by typing HELP at the shell prompt. (Before version 6, the help displayed by this command is very basic and not interactive.) In the interactive help of versions 6 and later, square brackets indicate optional parameters, while italicized items should be replaced with specific values.

In DOS version 5 or later, to get help on a dos command, at the dos prompt, type /? after the command name. For example, to get help for the xcopy command, type the following at the dos prompt:

xcopy/?

The operating system will not execute the command but instead display a help page on the command, in this case xcopy. To view this help page, see the xcopy entry on this page or click here.

In the list below, when a command can accept more than one filename, or a filename including wildcards (* and ?), it is said to accept a filespec parameter. Commands that can accept only a single filename are said to accept a filename parameter.

For most of the commands, the Unix equivalent is given. It should be noted that Unix commands typically provide ranges of functionality and flexibility that are not approached by the equivalent DOS command, so all comparisons are approximate. For example, the DOS commands copy and xcopy are said to be equivalent to the Unix cp command, but in reality cp has much greater power than both copy and xcopy combined. On the other hand, move and ren have much more power in DOS.

Commands

attrib

Change or view the attributes of one or more files. It defaults to displaying the attributes of all files in the current directory.

Options:

  • To add an attribute attach a '+' in front of it.
  • To remove an attribute attach a '-' in front of it
  • Attributes include
    • A - Archived (used mainly by file archiving software)
    • H - Hidden
    • S - System
    • R - Read-only
attrib [+|-ahrs] [filespec]

Roughly equivalent to the Unix command chmod. In Linux, the command chattr also performs similar functions.

cd or chdir

Change current directory.

cd directory

Equivalent to the Unix command cd (with parameters), or pwd (without parameters). (cd .. descends a directory.)

chkdsk

Verifies a hard disk or a floppy disk for file system integrity.

Options:

  • /F : Fixes errors on the disk
  • /V : Displays the full path and name of every file on the disk
chkdsk drive [[path]filename] [/F] [/V]

Equivalent to the Unix command fsck

cls

Clears the screen.

cls

Equivalent to the Unix command clear

copy

Copies files from one location to another. The destination defaults to the current directory. If multiple source files are indicated, the destination must be a directory, or an error will result.

copy filespec [destination]

Equivalent to the Unix command cp.

Files may be copied to devices (e.g. "copy file lpt1" would send the file to the printer on lpt1. "copy file con" would output to screen, which would be the same as type.

Most useful to note that "copy file.txt+file2.txt > file_cat.txt" will concatenate the files and output them as file_cat.txt. Which is just like the "cat" command.

copy device

copy device filename

In this usage, data is written from the given device to the file until the end-of-file character (ASCII character 26, which may be typed as ctrl-Z) is encountered. The most commonly used device is named con, which is short for "console"; thus, copy con filename would allow the user to type directly into a file, and press ctrl-Z when finished.

In Unix, this functionality is provided by the cat command. cat > filename (with ctrl+D to finish) would be equivalent to the DOS command copy con filename.

defrag

Defragments disk drive

defrag driveletter

No Unix equivalent.

del or erase

Deletes files.

del filename
erase filename

To delete files in Quiet mode

del /Q filename

Equivalent to the Unix command rm.

deltree

Deletes a directory along with all of the files and subdirectories that it contains. Normally, it will ask for confirmation of such a drastic action.

deltree [/y] directory

The /y parameter if present tells the deltree command to carry out without first prompting for confirmation.

The deltree command is not included in recent Microsoft Windows operating systems. Deleting a non-empty directory in those versions of Windows where the command is not included, can be achieved by the use of the rmdir command as in the following example:

rmdir /s directory

In Unix, the functionality of deltree is provided by the rm command with the parameter -r (or -rf for the /y switch).

dir

Displays contents of a directory.

Options :

  • /w : Wide list format
  • /p : Pause at every page
  • /s : Also look in subdirectories
  • /a(xx) : Display files with the specified attributes only
  • /o(xx) : Modifies sort order
dir [options] [filespec]

Equivalent to the Unix command ls (the option -l is "long" list format, it works the opposite way from /w.)

echo

Prints its own arguments back out to the DOS equivalent of the standard output stream. Usually, this means directly to the screen, but the output of echo can be redirected like any other command. Often used in batch files to print text out to the user.

echo this is text              Outputs 'this is text'
echo.                          Outputs a blank line

Another important use of the echo command is to toggle echoing of commands on and off in batch files.

echo on               turns on echoing of commands
echo off              turns off echoing of commands

Traditionally batch files begin with the @echo off statement. This says to the interpreter that echoing of commands should be off during the whole execution of the batch file thus resulting in a "tidier" output. The @ symbol declares that this particular command (echo off) should also be executed without echo. For example the following 2 batch files are equivalent:

Batch1.bat:

@echo off
echo The files in your root directory:
dir /b /a-d c:

Batch2.bat:

@echo The files in your root directory:
@dir /b /a-d c:

Echo can be used to write to files directly from the console, by redirecting the output stream:

echo text > filename

Echo can also be used to append to files directly from the console, again by redirecting the output stream:

echo text >> filename

To type more than one line from the console into a file, use copy con (above).

Equivalent to the Unix command echo.

exit

Exits the current batch script or the controlling thread. When running from Windows this will close the command prompt.

EXIT [/B] [exitcode]
/B        Exit the current batch script and set ERRORLEVEL to exitcode
           Without this option, the controlling thread and any intermediate
           batch files are immediately exited, and the process return code
           is set to exitcode.

fdisk

Manipulates hard disk partition tables. The name derives from IBM's habit of calling hard drives fixed disks. When run from the command line, it displays a menu of various partitioning operations:

  • Create DOS partition or Logical DOS Drive
  • Set active partition
  • Delete partition or Logical DOS Drive
  • Display partition information
  • Change current fixed disk drive

find

A filter to find lines in the input data stream that contain or don't contain a specified string and send these to the output data stream.

Find may also be used as a pipe.

find "keyword" < ''inputfilename'' > ''outputfilename''

Searches for a text string in a file or files.

FIND [/V] [/C] [/N] [/I] "string" [[drive:][path]filename[ ...]]

/V Displays all lines NOT containing the specified string. /C Displays only the count of lines containing the string. /N Displays line numbers with the displayed lines. /I Ignores the case of characters when searching for the string. "string" Specifies the text string to find. [drive:][path]filename Specifies a file or files to search.

If a pathname is not specified, FIND searches the text typed at the prompt or piped from another command.

Equivalent to the Unix command grep. The Unix command find performs an entirely different function; see tree

format

Delete all the files on the disk and reformat it for MS-DOS

In most cases, this should only be used on floppy drives or other removable media. This command can potentially erase everything on a computer's hard disk.

/autotest and /backup is an undocumented feature. Adding it formats the drive without a confirmation prompt.

format [options] drive
FORMAT drive: [/V[:label]] [/Q] [/F:size] [/B | /S] [/C]
FORMAT drive: [/V[:label]] [/Q] [/T:tracks /N:sectors] [/B | /S] [/C]
FORMAT drive: [/V[:label]] [/Q] [/1] [/4] [/B | /S] [/C]
FORMAT drive: [/Q] [/1] [/4] [/8] [/B | /S] [/C]
 /V[:label]  Specifies the volume label.
 /Q          Performs a quick format.
 /F:size     Specifies the size of the floppy disk to format (such
             as 160, 180, 320, 360, 720, 1.2, 1.44, 2.88).
 /B          Allocates space on the formatted disk for system files.
 /S          Copies system files to the formatted disk.
 /T:tracks   Specifies the number of tracks per disk side.
 /N:sectors  Specifies the number of sectors per track.
 /1          Formats a single side of a floppy disk.
 /4          Formats a 5.25-inch 360K floppy disk in a high-density drive.
 /8          Formats eight sectors per track.
 /C          Tests clusters that are currently marked "bad."

Known as a joke among UNIX users of that time since every user on the machine could easily cause damage with just one command. Therefore, it was known in the UNIX community as "The big DOS timesaver".

Equivalent to the Unix command mkfs

help

Gives help about DOS.

help 'command' would give help on a specific command, in MS-DOS 6 a HELP program was started which would give more details and examples, earlier versions basically gave the same information as command/? would give.

Partially equivalent to the Unix command man.

InterLnk

MS-DOS 6 and above command to network PCs using a null modem cable or LapLink cable. InterLnk is the client-side program (InterSvr is the server) which mapped the drives of the machine running InterSvr to the local machine.

No Unix equivalent.

to set laplink: set device=c:laplink.exe in autoexe.bat file

InterSvr

MS-DOS 6 and above command used to network PCs using a null modem cable or LapLink cable. The server-side version of InterLnk, it also immobilizes the machine it's running on as it's an active app (As opposed to a TSR) which must be running for any transfer to take place.

No Unix equivalent.

label

Changes the label on a logical drive, such as a hard disk partition or a floppy disk.

md or mkdir

Makes a new directory. The parent of the directory specified must already exist.

md directory

Equivalent to the Unix command mkdir

mem

Displays memory usage.

mem

Equivalent to the Unix command free

memmaker

Starting from version 6, MS-DOS included the external program MemMaker which was used to free system memory (especially Conventional memory) by automatically reconfiguring Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files. This was usually done by moving TSR Programs to the Upper memory. The whole process required 3 system restarts. Before the first restart the user was asked whether he wanted to enable EMS Memory or not.

The use of MemMaker was popular among gamers who wanted to enable or disable Expanded memory in order to run a game which required EMS or not. The result would however not be as good as someone changing the settings themself.

Options :

  • /BATCH Runs MemMaker in batch (unattended) mode. In batch mode, MemMaker takes the default action at all prompts.
  • /UNDO Instructs MemMaker to undo its most recent changes.

more

Pages through the output so that you can view more than one screen of text.

command | more

Equivalent to the Unix commands more and less.

More may also be used as a filter.

more < inputfilename

move

Moves or renames a file.

move filename newfilename

Equivalent to the Unix command mv

msd

Provides detailed technical information about the computer's hardware and software.

msd

No Unix Equvivalent, however in GNU/Linux similar type of information may be obtained from various text files in /proc directory.

pcpark

Parks the hard disk(s) (stops their turning) in order to enable safe shutdown; only used on early versions.

pcpark

No Unix equivalent.

rd or rmdir

Remove a directory, which must be empty of files.

rd directory

Equivalent to the Unix command rmdir

rem

Remark statement, normally used within a batch file. However on the command line, rem can also be used to create a zero length file by redirecting an empty remark statement to a filename.

rem > newfilename

An alternative way to not run a specific statement in a batch file is creating a label that will never be used, ::.

In Unix, the # sign can be used to start a comment; the zero-length file can be achieved using various methods, such as the touch command or dd.

ren

Renames a file. Unlike the move command, this command cannot be used to rename subdirectories, or rename files across drives.

ren filename newname

A more useful function of this command is to mass rename files by the use of wildcards. For example, the following command will change the extension of all files in the current directory from htm to html:

ren *.htm *.html

In Unix, this functionality of a simple move is provided by the mv command, but changing extension of all files is not as simple.

scandisk

Disk diagnostic utility

scandisk driveletter

Scandisk is a replacement for the chkdsk utility. Its primary advantages over chkdsk is that it is more reliable and has the ability to run a surface scan which checks and marks bad sectors on the disk.

Equivalent to the Unix command fsck

set

Sets environmental variables.

sort

A filter to sort lines in the input data stream and send them to the output data stream.

sort < inputfilename > outputfilename

Equivalent to the Unix command sort.

time and date

Set/display the date and time

date
time

Equivalent to the Unix command date with the important difference that calling this from the command line or a bat script will cause the program to halt requesting a new time until RETURN is pressed. The command 'time /t' will bypass this set feature.

tree

Shows the directory tree of the current directory

Options:

  • /F (Displays the names of the files in each folder.)
  • /A (Use ASCII instead of the extended characters.)
tree [options] [directory]

Equivalent to the Unix command find

truename

truename filename

Outputs the entire path (full directory and filename) of a file. For example, if the working drive and directory were C:PROGRAMS and one typed truename fish<HARDDRIVE>, the output would be C:PROGRAMSFISH.

This command was rarely, if ever, documented in DOS manuals.

This command is similar to the Unix which command, which, given an executable found in $PATH, would give a full path and name. The C library function realpath performs this function.

type

Display a file. The more command is frequently used in conjunction with this command, e.g. type long-text-file | more.

type filename

Equivalent to the Unix command cat.

undelete

Restores file previously deleted with del. By default all recoverable files in the working directory are restored. The options are used to change this behaviour. If the MS-DOS mirror TSR program is used, then deletion tracking files are created and can be used by undelete.

Options :

  • /list : lists the files that can be undeleted.
  • /all : Recovers all deleted files without prompting. Uses a number sign for missing first character.
  • /dos : Recover only MS-DOS aware files, ignore deletion tracking file.
  • /dt : Recover only deletion tracking file aware files.
undelete [filespec] [/list|/all][/dos|/dt]

ver

Shows the version of MS-DOS you are using.

Some versions of MS-DOS support an undocumented /r switch, which will show the revision as well as the version.

ver [/r]

Equivalent to the Unix command uname. However, in Linux uname may simply refer to the version of the kernel rather than the operating system itself, which is sometimes stored in a text file in /etc/name_version, or command lsb_release -a

xcopy

Copy entire directory trees.

xcopy directory [destination-directory]

Copies files and directory trees.

XCOPY source [destination] [/A | /M] [/D[:date]] [/P] [/S [/E]] [/W] [/C] [/I] [/Q] [/F] [/L] [/H] [/R] [/T] [/U] [/K] [/N]

source Specifies the file(s) to copy. destination Specifies the location and/or name of new files. /A Copies files with the archive attribute set, doesn't change the attribute. /M Copies files with the archive attribute set, turns off the archive attribute. /D:date Copies files changed on or after the specified date. If no date is given, copies only those files whose source time is newer than the destination time. /P Prompts you before creating each destination file. /S Copies directories and subdirectories except empty ones. /E Copies directories and subdirectories, including empty ones. Same as /S /E. May be used to modify /T. /W Prompts you to press a key before copying. /C Continues copying even if errors occur. /I If destination does not exist and copying more than one file, assumes that destination must be a directory. /Q Does not display file names while copying. /F Displays full source and destination file names while copying. /L Displays files that would be copied. /H Copies hidden and system files also. /R Overwrites read-only files. /T Creates directory structure, but does not copy files. Does not include empty directories or subdirectories. /T /E includes empty directories and subdirectories. /U Updates the files that already exist in destination. /K Copies attributes. Normal Xcopy will reset read-only attributes. /Y Overwrites existing files without prompting. /-Y Prompts you before overwriting existing files. /N Copy using the generated short names.

In Unix, this functionality is provided by the cp command.

source: wikipedia

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