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MS-DOS is a non-graphical command line operating system created for IBM compatible computers. MS-DOS was first introduced by Microsoft in August 1981 and was last updated in 1994 with MS-DOS 6.22. Although the MS-DOS operating system is rarely used today, the command shell commonly known as the Windows command line is still widely used.
MS-DOS is a non-graphical command line operating system derived from 86-DOS that was created for IBM compatible computers. MS-DOS originally written by Tim Paterson and introduced by Microsoft in August 1981 and was last updated in 1994 when MS-DOS 6.22 was released. MS-DOS allows the user to navigate, open, and otherwise manipulate files on their computer from a command line instead of a GUI like Windows.
Windows DOS command prompt window Today, MS-DOS is no longer used; however, the command shell, more commonly known as the Windows command line is still used by many users. The picture to the right, is an example of what an MS-DOS window more appropriately referred to as the Windows command line looks like running under Microsoft Windows.
Most computer users are only familiar with how to navigate Microsoft Windows using the mouse. Unlike Windows, MS-DOS is a command-line and is navigated by using MS-DOS commands. For example, if you wanted to see all the files in a folder in Windows you would double-click the folder to open the folder in Windows Explorer. In MS-DOS, to view that same folder you would navigate to the folder using the cd command and then list the files in that folder using the dir command.
The autoexec.bat and the config.sys were files created for MS-DOS and Windows 3.x as an easy solution of loading the files required for various devices as well as the operating system to properly run. These files are required for later revisions of MS-DOS and Windows 3.x to load. However, with newer versions of Windows are no longer needed.
How to edit the files: The auotexec.bat and the config.sys are edited by the MS-DOS command file Edit. To edit these files, type edit c:autoexec.bat to edit the autoexec.bat file, or edit c:config.sys to edit the config.sys file. If the mouse drivers are not loaded properly, the mouse will not work.
Remarking information: Remarking lines within the autoexec.bat or the config.sys allows you to temporarily or permanently prevent a line from loading each time you boot the computer. To remark a line place "REM " in front of each line you want to skip.
If you are encountering issues with a line in the autoexec.bat it is highly recommended that you remark the line instead of removing the line in case it needs to be placed back into the autoexec.bat.
Getting additional memory: The below commands help your computer load programs into memory more efficiently allowing you to have more memory for MS-DOS programs and games.
Batch files allow MS-DOS and Microsoft Windows users to write a series of commands to run in order upon their execution for automating frequently performed tasks. For example, a batch file could be used to run frequently utilized commands, delete or move a series of files, and other jobs.
One of the earliest batch files was the autoexec.bat, which is a boot batch file loaded each time the computer started MS-DOS and early versions of Windows. A simple batch file does not require any special programming skills and can be created by users with a basic understanding of MS-DOS commands.
To run a batch file, follow the steps below for where you want to run the batch file.
Running a batch file from within Windows:
A batch file runs like any other executable file by double-clicking the file within Windows. However, because a batch file runs in a command line, it immediately exits when done, so you may only see a black box for a second.
Tip: If the batch file is closing too fast, or you want to read the output from the batch file, you can edit the batch file and add a pause to the end of the file. The pause command waits for user input before continuing.
Run a batch file from the Command Prompt:
To run a batch file, move to the directory containing the file and type the name of the batch file. For example, if the batch file is named "hope.bat", you can type "hope" to execute the batch file.
A boot disk allows you to boot off of a diskette instead of your hard drive. This diskette can be used to fix issues that may arise during the lifetime of your computer or to help load older MS-DOS games. Keep in mind this diskette is completely different than a restore CD or disc that may have been included with your computer.
CD-ROM drives that are over 16x have max written next to it. When max is written next to the speed or on the drive, this indicates that the CD-ROM uses CAV, or Constant Angular Velocity, to access its data. Originally, CD-ROM drives utilized CLV, or Constant Linear Velocity, which accessed data slower or faster by changing the speed of the motor to transfer the data at a steady flow.
With CAV, the CD rotates at a constant speed, which means a 32x speed CD-ROM, for example, will be able to access the data 32x on the outside layer. However, when approaching the middle of the CD-ROM drive, the access speed can decrease close to 20x.
CD-ROM drives have the capability of running horizontally and vertically. When running the drive vertically, we recommend looking for a small "sleeve" that is used to retain a disc while it is being spun in the drive. This alignment usually corresponds with the drive's eject button be placed near the top of the machine.
Below are known Microsoft DOS issues and the resolutions to each of them, if available.
Extended characters in the label of a drive: Earlier versions of Windows and MS-DOS allows extended characters to be entered into the label of the hard drive or disk drive. If invalid characters are detected in the label when running scandisk it may attempt to correct the label of the drive and damage or destroy all of the drives data.
Xcopy and attributes: When using xcopy to copy the contents of a folder, the source folder's attributes are not applied to the new folder. The reason for this is because xcopy cannot copy attributes for directories. To fix this issue, ensure that you do not have the folders attribed.
More than 65MB of RAM: MS-DOS 6.2 and above will not accept or recognize more than 64 megs of RAM when typing mem.
Window switching: If the Windows 95 command line is in window mode and you press Alt + Space, let go of the space while continuing to hold down Alt, and press Tab to switch to another window the menu stays up.
Screen saver minimizes window: If a screen saver activates while in a Windows 95 MS-DOS window the DOS window will be minimized when the screen saver is deactivated.
Unless your drive is a DVD drive or a DVD combo drive, which is a drive capable of reading multiple disc formats including DVDs, it will be unable to read DVD discs. It is also important to realize that although you may have a drive capable of reading CD-ROM, CD-RW, and CD-R discs, it still may be unable to read DVD discs. However, a DVD+R or DVD+RW drive is also capable of reading DVD discs.
If you are still uncertain about your drive's capabilities, sometimes examining the front of the device or the drive's documentation can provide additional information.
Finally, if you still can't detect your drive's capabilities, it is recommended you contact your computer manufacturer or your CD drive manufacturer for additional information.
In MS-DOS, there are two ways commands are executed: internally and externally. An internal command is embedded into the command.com file, and an external command, which is not and requires a separate file to operate.
For example, if your computer does not have the fdisk.exe file and you try using the fdisk command, you will receive a "Bad command or file name" error message. Fdisk is an external command that only works if fdisk.exe, or in some cases, fdisk.com, is present.
However, as long as MS-DOS is running on your computer internal commands, such as the cd command, will always be available and does not require other files to run. Each of the commands listed on the Computer Hope's MS-DOS page denote what commands are external and internal.
When in a Windows command or MS-DOS window information may scroll so fast it may be necessary to scroll up in the window.
Listing files or command output one page at a time
If the reason you're wanting to scroll is because a command such is showing too much output, use one of the examples shown below to show any output one page at a time.
To list files in MS-DOS one page at a time use the 'pipe' ( | ) command in conjunction with the more statement, as shown in the examples below.
dir | more
attrib *.* | more
Also, commands like the dir command, also allow the /p command that displays one page at a time, as shown in the example below.
In early versions of Windows you can use the shortcut key Alt + Enter to switch between fullscreen and window mode version of the Windows command line.
New versions of Windows (Windows Vista and later) no longer support the ALT + Enter keyboard shortcut for a true fullscreen experience. However, pressing the maximize button makes the window the full height of the screen. You can also resize the window using the sizing handle in the bottom right corner of the window.
This system does not support fullscreen mode
Does not support fullscreen modeWhen attempting to enter fullscreen mode in Windows Vista you will receive an error message similar to that shown in the right. As mentioned above, Windows Vista and later no longer support fullscreen mode.
Below are some of the ways you can copy all of the files on one drive to another drive.
xcopy command Using the xcopy command you can copy the complete contents of a drive to another drive. An example of a command that can be used is shown below.
xcopy c: d: /h/i/c/k/e/r/y
In the above example, the xcopy command would copy all of the files on the C: drive to the D: drive.
Third-party software: You can also find software to perform the copy. Some software copies all files and folders over to the second hard drive. Other software provides a feature to clone the first hard drive to the second hard drive. This action makes an exact copy of the first hard drive, including partitions and file format.
You can find a number of free programs to do the copying or the cloning. Be sure to check user reviews (if available) for these programs, to make sure it performs correctly and does what you need it to do.
The FDISK /MBR command is an undocumented switch used with the FDISK command (MS-DOS 5.0 and higher) that recreates the master boot record on a hard drive.
How this command operates varies depending on the version of FDISK you are using. However, when performing this command, it is overwriting the information that is contained in the MBR. Performing this command multiple times is not going to do anything more than performing the same steps again.
Use the pipe or the ampersand to separate your commands. The shell and version of Windows you are using decides what character to use. Below are some additional examples for each version of Windows. In both of these examples the cd command would first get to the root of the current drive and then run the dir command to list the current contents of the root.
Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8 users
Instead of using the pipe Microsoft decided to change it to the ampersand (&) for reasons unknown. So, type the below command to have the same results as earlier versions of Windows.
cd & dir
Microsoft Windows 95, 98, and ME users
cd | dir
You can find any file on your computer using MS-DOS providing you know the name of the file or the program that created the file.
If you are unsure where the file may be on the computer, you must be at the root directory of the computer. Meaning, you must be at C:> to get to this prompt, type the below command.
Once at the root directory or the directory you believe the file to be in, type any of the below commands.
If, for example, you knew that the file had bob somewhere in the file you would type:
dir *bob*.* /s
In the above example, you will utilize the wildcard, which in MS-DOS is the asterisks ( * ). Also, we utilize the /s command switch to tell the dir command to search the current directory and all sub directories.
If you cannot recall any of the names of the files but recall that they were created in Microsoft Excel you could, for example, type:
dir *.xls /s
It may be necessary to rename several file extensions to allow compatibility with another program. A good example where this could be used is renaming an ASP file to an HTML file.
Renaming in MS-DOS and the Windows command line: To rename file extensions from the Windows command line open the command prompt and follow the steps below.
Rename a file extension keeping the original: Use the below command at the MS-DOS or Windows command line or within a batch file.
xcopy *.shn *.wav
Using a wildcard allows you to rename all files with .shn to a .wav, while keeping the original files and extensions.
See the xcopy command for further information about this command.
Rename and replace files with a file extension: If you want to rename the extensions without keeping the original file, you can also use a command similar to the example below.
rename *.shn *.wav
See the ren and rename command and xcopy command pages for further information about these commands.
Each time a command is entered into MS-DOS the computer will go through the steps below.
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