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Introduction to DOS

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.

c:\Users\User Name>_

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.

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