How to get to a MS-DOS prompt or Windows command line

Windows command line (DOS)Below are the steps on how to get to an MS-DOS prompt or into the Windows command line in all versions of Microsoft operating systems.

Windows 8 users
Windows Vista and 7 users
Windows NT, 2000, and XP users
Windows 95, 98, and ME users
MS-DOS users
Windows 3.x users
Other PC Operating System users

Windows 8 users

  1. From the Start screen type cmd and press enter.

or

  1. Move the mouse cursor to the very bottom-left corner of the screen and right-click or press Windows key + X.
  2. In the power user task menu, select either Command Prompt or Command Prompt (Admin).

Tip: How to use the Windows command line.

Windows Vista and 7 users

  1. Click Start.
  2. Type cmd and press enter.

Notice: For some commands and options to work in the Windows Vista and 7 command line you must run the command line as Administrator. To do this, right-click on the cmd icon and choose Run as administrator.

Tip: How to use the Windows command line.

If you're attempting to get into a MS-DOS prompt to troubleshoot the computer boot the computer into Safe Mode.

Windows NT, 2000, and XP users

  1. Click Start.
  2. Click Run.
  3. Type cmd or command and press enter.

Tip: How to use the Windows command line.

If you're attempting to get into a MS-DOS prompt to troubleshoot the computer, boot the computer into Safe Mode.

Tip: Windows 2000 and XP users who are unable to boot the computer into Normal Windows mode or Safe mode, can also enter and use the recovery console to manage their computer from a prompt.

Finally, if you are experiencing issues getting into Windows NT, 2000, or XP, it may be necessary to run troubleshooting steps from a MS-DOS prompt. It is recommended that the Network Administrator get into the MS-DOS prompt by using either a standard MS-DOS boot diskette (note: will not be able to access data using a standard MS-DOS bootable diskette) or the ERD diskettes created after the installation of Windows NT, or boot from the Windows XP CD.

Windows 95, 98, and ME users

If you are able to get into Windows 95, 98 or ME, you can get to a MS-DOS prompt by following the steps below.

  1. Click Start
  2. Click Run
  3. Type "command" and press enter.

This opens a MS-DOS shell. However, if you are attempting to troubleshoot an issue with the computer and are using Microsoft Windows 95 or Windows 98, we suggest you restart the computer into MS-DOS. To do this follow the steps below.

Tip: How to use the Windows command line.

How to restart the computer into a MS-DOS prompt

  1. Click Start
  2. Click Shutdown
  3. Choose the option to restart the computer into a MS-DOS prompt.

If you are unable to get into Windows 95 or Windows 98 to get into a MS-DOS prompt, follow the instructions below (Windows ME does not have this option).

  1. Reboot the computer
  2. As the computer is booting, press the F8 key when you hear a beep or when you see "Starting Windows 95" or "Starting Windows 98." Windows 98 users sometimes may find it easier to press and hold the left CTRL key as the computer is booting.
  3. If done properly the user should get to a screen similar to the below screen.
Microsoft Windows 95 Startup Menu
=============================

1. Normal
2. Logged (\BOOTLOG.TXT)
3. Safe mode
4. Step-by-step confirmation
5. Command prompt only
6. Safe mode command prompt only

Enter a choice: 1

F5=Safe Mode Shift+F5=Command prompt Shift+F8= Step-by-step confirmation [N]

   4.   Select the option for Safe mode command prompt only.

MS-DOS users

If you are running MS-DOS with no other operating systems, the computer should be booting into a MS-DOS prompt automatically unless you have a shell or other program loading automatically.

If the computer is not getting you to a MS-DOS prompt, reboot the computer and as the computer is booting, press the F5 key when you see the message "Starting MS-DOS" or the MS-DOS version. This will load the default standard MS-DOS.

If you successfully get to a MS-DOS prompt and would like to prevent the computer from loading the program that is preventing you from getting to a MS-DOS prompt, or if you would like to fix possible error messages you may be receiving when booting the computer, edit the autoexec.bat or the config.sys files.

Windows 3.x users

If you are running Windows 3.x it is likely that the computer is booting into Windows automatically and bypassing the MS-DOS prompt. If Windows loads successfully into Windows, to exit to a MS-DOS prompt, from Program Manager, click the File menu and then Exit.

If the computer is trying to load into Windows but is encountering errors while it is booting, reboot the computer and press F5 key when you see the message "Starting MS-DOS" or the MS-DOS version. This will load the default standard MS-DOS.

If you do not want Windows 3.x to load automatically into Windows 3.x, you need to edit the autoexec.bat file and remove the "win" line.

Other operating system users

If you are using another operating system such as OS/2, Linux variants, or Unix variants and you need to get to a MS-DOS prompt, it is recommended that you use a MS-DOS boot diskette unless you are dual booting the computer. Keep in mind that booting from a MS-DOS diskette is not going to allow you to have access to the files used with other operating systems. However, if you're erasing everything and starting over this would allow you to delete all pre-existing information and start over.

Tip: If you're wanting a command line, you more than likely want to access the Shell or Terminal for your operating system, not MS-DOS.

Additional information