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New to using the command prompt? Check out the Windows Command Prompt Beginner’s Guide

Have you ever had an issue with your computer? Has your Windows ever been corrupt, and you need to wipe the system? I have definitely been in that situation, but what can you do – you really, really need your data, but can’t have it!? Well, I use Command Prompt with that in mind. You can just stick in a Windows Vista/7 DVD, click Repair Computer, and you’re on CMD (Command Prompt). Then, you can back everything up with a flash drive with a few commands!

To launch Command Prompt, type CMD into the Start Search box, or Run box (on Windows XP), and press enter. There are about 85 commands, but I’m going to show you my top-10 (in no particular order!):

  1. HELP – The help command will display the whole list of commands, with a description on what you want it to do. Talking about help, if you type in a command and then /? (i.e. HELP /?), it’ll show you a mini-description, and any syntaxes you can use.
  2. IPCONFIG – If you are ever asked what your Local (from the Router) IP Address is, then you can just type it in and it’ll come up. You can also use IPCONFIG to reset your IP Address (if the network connection doesn’t seem to be working), by typing in ipconfig /release and then ipconfig /renew.
  3. PING – The ping command will send a packet with 32 bytes of data to a computer, and show when it comes back to your computer. A good way to see if your internet connection is good is to check the connection speed. I also use this as my desktop is upstairs, and my (main) printer downstairs, and so I can ping the printer to see if it’s on or not.Occasionally, I ping google.com, which’ll show if you’ve got a decent connection speed. You should get a speed of about 50-75ms for an average connection, but it may vary per provider, and also if you have peer-to-peer applications running. Unlike speeds, the lower the number, the better (as it’s time). If you use this, it’ll send 4 “pings” to the computer, and then report statistics. However, if you add -t to the end of the command (i.e. ping google.com -t, it’ll carry on infinitely, until you press the Control key and C at the same time.
  4. VOL – When you solely have access to the Command Prompt, you don’t have access to any “My Computer” screen, so you have to work around that. I do this using the VOL command. Let’s say you type in VOL C:, then it’ll give you the name of the drive, and the serial number. So, when I’m copying someone’s files, then I use VOL to see what drive letter my external hard drive has been assigned to. Unfortunately, you have to use Trial & Error to get anywhere though!
  5. DIR (pictured below) – If I’m looking through someone’s files, trying to find what needs to be backed up, I need to look through their folder structure. To do this, we can just type in dir C:\, and it’ll display all the files and/or folders in that particular location.
  6. XCOPY – When I’ve located this person’s documents folder, the next thing I want to do is copy it to my hard drive (found by the VOL command, we’ll use F: in this example). To do this, I’d use the XCOPY command, with /E at the end (as that says to copy everything in the folder, including empty folders).  Let’s say the path was C:\Users\Me\Documents, and I wanted it on the folder F:\His Documents on my flash drive, I’d type in XCOPY “C:\Users\Me\Documents” “F:\His Documents” /E.
  7. DEL – If you have a folder on a system that you need to delete, you can use this to do it. You may want to add /P at the end, as that confirms each file. So, if I want to delete everything in C:\Users\Me\My Viruses, then I can type in DEL “C:\Users\Me\My Viruses” /P. Again, you don’t need to say /P if you wouldn’t like to!
  8. REN – You wouldn’t want to use this a lot, but if there was a file you wanted to rename, then you can type in REN “C:\Users\Me\Documents\Vsita.pdf” “Vista.pdf”, and it’d rename the misspelled Vista pdf to the right name!
  9. TASKKILL – If you want to end a process, without using the Task Manager, you can use CMD. If the process was called “Vista.exe”, then you just type in TASKKILL /IM Vista.exe. You need to add the IM to show that it is a process (image) name that needs to be terminated (you could also do it by things like Process IDs).
  10. SHUTDOWN – Probably one of the best, as it can be adapted in batch files. It’s probably best to type in shutdown /? to see everything it can do, but, just so you know, shutdown /l logs off, shutdown /s shuts it down, shutdown /r reboots it, and shutdown /h to hibernate your computer.

By the way, if you get a message saying “The Requested Operation requires Elevation”, then, when launching CMD, instead of just pressing Enter, hold the Control and Shift keys, and then press Enter. And, finally, with any command that you have to type a directory in (i.e. DIR), if there’s a space, you’ll need to put the path in speech marks, or you’ll just get errors.

About Harry

Harry has always loved computers and technology. He enjoys breaking his tech, and then trying to fix again (usually successfully!) and loves about almost anything tech! • Favourite browser - Google Chrome • Favourite PC brand - HP • Favourite phone - Google Pixel

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