What is the Command Prompt (CMD)?

The Command Prompt or CMD is the bane of many Windows users. Most people don’t understand what it is, and, unless they really have to use it, they try to avoid it. Also, most of those who read our tutorials about the Command Prompt on Digital Citizen are either students that have to learn how to work with it for their IT exams, or IT professionals who use it for work. If you are not an IT geek, but you want to know what the Command Prompt is, why it is useful, and who invented it, read this article:

What is the Command Prompt?

The Command Prompt is an application found in Windows operating systems. In technical terms, the Command Prompt is a command-line interpreter, and its purpose is to let you enter commands using a special syntax. The commands sent to the Command Prompt are entered as lines of text, which are run by the operating system as soon as you press Enter on your keyboard.

The Command Prompt from Windows 10

Unlike regular apps that use graphical user interfaces, the Command Prompt doesn’t have a visual interface per se. Instead of buttons, checkboxes, sliders, bars, lists, and other such graphical elements, the Command Prompt uses only the text entered from the keyboard.

What is the meaning of CMD?

CMD is an abbreviated form of the word command, and it’s also the short way of asking Windows to launch the Command Prompt. For instance, in Windows 10, you can use the search or the Run window to look for cmd and run Command Prompt instead of typing the full name.

Searching for CMD and running Command Prompt

You might also hear about the CMD Prompt, but that’s just another way of saying Command Prompt.

Why is the Command Prompt useful?

Although it’s arguably harder for regular users to learn and use the Command Prompt instead of modern apps with graphical user interfaces, this tool can be useful in certain situations.

One of the main reasons why Command Prompt is useful is that it allows you to run multiple commands one after another, which means that you can use it to automate tasks. For example, by creating a simple script, you can make a batch of commands that are automatically run at the specific times you choose (like when you log into Windows, when you shut down Windows, or only when you double-click on the batch file).

Another strong point of Command Prompt, especially compared to apps with graphical user interfaces, is that it gives us a direct line of communication with the operating system. In other words, if you know the right commands, you can do more with Command Prompt than you can with a regular app. Although using your mouse to work with Windows is usually enough for most users, the Command Prompt gives you a higher level of control over the operating system, offering you access to options and tools that are not available otherwise.

Things you can do with Command Prompt

Many of the things you can do with the graphical interface from Windows are replicated in Command Prompt. That means that you can use CMD to do all the regular stuff like copying, renaming, or deleting files and folders, navigate through folders, run applications, change settings, and so on.

However, the Command Prompt also gives you additional powers that you can’t get if you’re using just the regular interface from Windows. For example, the Command Prompt lets you run ping, netstat, and ipconfig commands, which can tell you a lot about your network status. There are commands that you can use to manage running processes or work with the boot files and configuration data on your system drive, commands that let you check the health of your drives, commands that let you install or uninstall additional Windows features, and even commands that let you add and delete keys to or from the Windows Registry.

The REG command help from Command Prompt

The list is extremely long, so if you want to know whether a specific command for a specific task exists, we advise you to look through the full list of Windows Commands. If you want to learn in more detail how to work with the Command shell, you can also find some good help in our guides: Command Prompt.

When was Command Prompt invented, and by whom?

Command Prompt’s history starts with MS-DOS, an operating system that was created by Microsoft back in 1981, which is almost 40 years ago. MS-DOS didn’t have a graphical user interface, and most commands that you could run in it were relatively simple. At that time, the Command Prompt didn’t exist, but its ancestor Command.com did. Command.com was the default command-line interpreter available in MS-DOS, and it was also the only user interface available in that operating system. Command.com was present in a couple of the following Microsoft operating systems, from Windows 95 up to Windows 98 SE and Windows ME.

MS-DOS Prompt in Windows 98 SE

Later on, when Microsoft released Windows NT in 1993 (27 years ago), the Command Prompt as we know it today was born. Command Prompt (cmd.exe) offered compatibility with the old commands that were available in the Command.com from MS-DOS, to make it easier for companies to adapt and migrate to the new operating system. Although new commands were added with each new version, the Command Prompt kept that compatibility throughout the years. The following operating systems – Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 – still have the Command Prompt and everything still works pretty much the same way.

What is Command Prompt’s future?

The Command Prompt has had a long and useful life. A few years ago, when Microsoft decided to replace the Command Prompt shortcuts from the WinX menu in Windows 10, publications and users were concerned that the Command Prompt might not live much longer. However, Rich Turner (Sr. Program Manager, Windows Console & Command-Line) from Microsoft published a post called Rumors of Cmd’s death have been greatly exaggerated, in which he told the entire world that “The Windows Cmd / Command-Line shell is NOT being removed from Windows in the near or distant future!”.

Are you using Command Prompt?

Now you know more about the Command Prompt, why it is useful, and what you can do with it. You also know where it came from and that it still has a future. The question is: have you used and are you still using it? If you do, what are you using Command Prompt for? Leave a comment below and let’s talk.