Introduction to DOS
By Stephen Bucaro
Today, we all interface with the Windows Operating System through it's graphical user
interface (GUI). It's easy to perform tasks and configure the system using with check
boxes and drop-down lists. However, the first PCs didn't use the Windows Operating
System, they used the Disk Operating System (DOS). DOS has a text interface where the
user performs tasks and configures the system by typing text commands. The interface
is referred to as the command line.
The DOS command line interface is still available in Windows Vista, and no matter
how crude you might think it is, the DOS command line interface is still used
regularly by the most skilled system administrators. Below is a list of the
advantages that the DOS interface has over the GUI interface for configuring the
system and performing administrative tasks.
• Much like a department store that re-arranges the old merchandise
to make you think they have something new, with every new Windows version Microsoft
shuffles menu items around and shuffles functions between dialog boxes. But the DOS
commands to perform administrative tasks rarely change.
• Typing a DOS command is much quicker than navigating menus,
opening dialog boxes, setting check boxes, scrolling through drop-down lists, and
clicking on buttons.
• GUI utilities are not available for the most powerful system
commands. That's because only the most skilled system administrators know how to use
the command line interface, and Microsoft would rather not have rookies playing with
the most powerful system commands.
• You can type many DOS commands into a file called a batch file.
A batch file is a script is executed by typing the name of the file at the command
line. With a DOS command batch file, you can automate administrative tasks that would
require multiple GUI utilities to perform. When you need to perform the same task
again, just type the name of the batch file at the command line again.
• Many Network administrative tasks have no GUI utility interface.
• When the GUI can't load, the DOS command line interface is the
only way you can troubleshoot and repair the system.
Running DOS Commands
To run DOS commands in the GUI interface (and not in batch file), you first need to
open a command window. A command window is a window that displays the DOS
prompt. The DOS prompt is the location in the command window where you type
command text. To open a command window select Start | All Programs | Accessories
and click on Command Prompt. Shown below is an example of the DOS Prompt
that you'll see in the command window that appears.
dir is a very common DOS command. The dir command returns a list of all
the folders and files in the path listed in the DOS Prompt. Type dir at the
blinking insertion cursor and press the keyboard [Enter] key. A list of all the
folders and files in the path listed should appear in the command window. The
proper way to close a command window is to type exit at the DOS Prompt.