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Updated by Tina Sieber on January 21, 2017.

Microsoft has slowly but surely pushed the command line 10 Windows Command Line Tips You Should Check Out 10 Windows Command Line Tips You Should Check Out Read More aside in the Windows interface. This is not without reason. It’s an antiquated and mostly unnecessary tool from an era of text-based input.

But many commands remain useful, and Windows 8 and 10 even added new features. Here we present the 15 commands every Windows user needs to know.

In case you’re not sure how to access the command prompt, forgot basic commands, or would like to know how to see a list of  switches for each command, you can refer to our beginners guide to the Windows command line A Beginners Guide To The Windows Command Line A Beginners Guide To The Windows Command Line Read More for instructions.

Our 15 Favorites

1. ASSOC

assoccmd2

Most files in Windows are associated with a specific program that is assigned to open the file by default. At times, remembering these associations can become confusing. You can remind yourself by entering the command “assoc” to display a full list of file name extensions and program associations.

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You can also extend the command to change file associations. For example, “assoc .txt=” will change the file association for text files to whatever program you enter after the equal sign. The ASSOC command itself will reveal both the extension names and program names, which will help you properly use this command. You can probably do this more easily in the GUI, but the command line interface is a perfectly functional alternative.

2. Cipher

ciphercmd

Deleting files on a mechanical hard drive doesn’t really delete them at all How to Securely Delete Files From Your HDD or SSD in Windows How to Securely Delete Files From Your HDD or SSD in Windows Did you know files never actually get deleted? That's why they can be recovered; by you or someone else. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, learn how to securely delete files. Read More . Instead, it marks the files as no longer accessible and the space they took up as free. The files remain recoverable until the system overwrites them with new data, which can take some time.

The cipher command 5 Windows 7 Features You Didn't Know Existed 5 Windows 7 Features You Didn't Know Existed Windows 7 contains many little-known features. Here we highlight the more impressive ones that could boost your productivity and deepen your love for Windows 7. Read More , however, wipes a directory by writing random data to it. To wipe your C drive, for example, you’d use the command “cipher /w:c”, which will wipe free space on the drive. The command does not overwrite undeleted data, so you will not wipe out files you need by running this command.

You can use a host of other cipher commands, however, they are generally redundant with Bitlocker enabled versions of Windows.

3. DriverQuery

driverquerycmd

Drivers remain among the most important software installed on a PC. Improperly configured or missing drivers can cause all sorts of trouble, so its good to have access to a list of what’s on your PC. That’s exactly what the “driverquery” command does. You can extend it to “driverquery -v” to obtain more information, including the directory in which the driver is installed.

4. File Compare

You can use this command to identify differences in text between two files. It’s particularly useful for writers and programmers trying to find small changes between two versions of a file. Simply type “fc” and then the directory path and file name of the two files you want to compare.

fccmd

You can also extend the command in several ways. Typing “/b” compares only binary output, “/c” disregards the case of text in the comparison, and “/l” only compares ASCII text.

So, for example, you could use the following:

fc /l "C:\Program Files (x86)\example1.doc" "C:\Program Files (x86)\example2.doc"

The above command compares ASCII text in two word documents.

5. Ipconfig

This command relays the IP address that your computer is currently using. However, if you’re behind a router (like most computers today), you’ll instead receive the local network address of the router.

Still, ipconfig is useful because of its extensions. “ipconfig /release” followed by “ipconfig /renew” can force your Windows PC into asking for a new IP address, which is useful if your computer claims one isn’t available. You can also use “ipconfig /flushdns” to refresh your DNS address. These commands are great if the Windows network troubleshooter chokes, which does happen on occasion.

6. Netstat

Entering the command “netstat -an” will provide you with a list of currently open ports and related IP addresses Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Find Out Who's Eating Your Bandwidth With These Tips Click....wait. Click....wait. Click....ARG! Does that seem familiar? It's you when you run out of Internet bandwidth! Let's find out what occupies your Internet connection and how to get it back. Read More . This command will also tell you what state the port is in – listening, established or closed.

This is a great command for when you’re trying to troubleshoot devices connected to your PC or when you fear a Trojan infected your system and you’re trying to locate a malicious connection.

7. Ping

pingcmd

Sometimes, you need to know whether or not packets are making it to a specific networked device. That’s where ping comes in handy. Typing “ping” followed by an IP address or web domain will send a series of test packets to the specified address. If they arrive and are returned, you know the device is capable of communicating with your PC; if it fails, you know that there’s something blocking communication between the device and your computer. This can help you decide if the root of the issue is an improper configuration or a failure of network hardware.

8. PathPing

This is a more advanced version of ping that’s useful if there are multiple routers between your PC and the device you’re testing. Like ping, you use this command by typing “pathping” followed by the IP address, but unlike ping, pathping also relays some information about the route the test packets take.

9. Tracert

tracertcmd

The “tracert” command is similar to pathping. Once again, type “tracert” followed by the IP address or domain you’d like to trace. You’ll receive information about each step in the route between your PC and the target. Unlike pathping, however, tracert also tracks how much time (in milliseconds) each hop between servers or devices takes.

10. Powercfg

Powercfg is a very powerful command for managing and tracking how your computer uses energy. You can use the command “powercfg /hibernate on” and “powercfg /hibernate off” to manage hibernation, and you can also use the command “powercfg /a” to view the power-saving states currently available on your PC.

Another useful command is “powercfg /devicequery s1_supported”, which displays a list of devices on your computer that support connected standby. When enabled, ou can use these devices to bring your computer out of standby – even remotely. You can enable this by selecting the device in Device Manager, opening its properties, going to the Power Management tab and then checking the “Allow this device to wake the computer” box.

“Powercfg /lastwake” will show you what device last woke your PC from a sleep state. You can use this command to troubleshoot your PC if it seems to wake from sleep at random.

powercfgcmd

You can use the “powercfg /energy” command to build a detailed power consumption report for your PC. The report saves to the directory indicated after the command finishes. This report will let you know of any system faults that might increase power consumption, like devices blocking certain sleep modes, or poorly configured to respond to your power management settings.

Windows 8 added “powercfg /batteryreport”, which provides a detailed analysis of battery use, if applicable. Normally output to your Windows user directory, the report provides details about the time and length of charge and discharge cycles, lifetime average battery life, and estimated battery capacity.

11. Shutdown

As of Windows 8/8.1 there is now a shutdown command 10 Clever Ways To Optimize The Windows Shutdown Process 10 Clever Ways To Optimize The Windows Shutdown Process Are Windows shutdowns an ordeal? Time to crack down on this process and save time. Most solutions are super simple and only take a few seconds, promised! Read More that – you guessed it! – shuts down your computer.

This is of course redundant with the already easily accessed shutdown button, but what’s not redundant is the “shutdown /r /o” command, which restarts your PC and launches the Advanced Start Options menu, which is where you can access Safe Mode and Windows recovery utilities. This is useful if you want to restart your computer for troubleshooting purposes.

12. System File Checker

System File Checker is an automatic scan and repair tool How to Fix a Corrupted Windows 10 Installation How to Fix a Corrupted Windows 10 Installation System corruption is the worst that could happen to your Windows installation. We show you how to get Windows 10 back on track when suffering from BSODs, driver errors, or other unexplained issues. Read More that focuses on Windows system files.

You will need to run the command prompt with administrator privileges and enter the command “sfc /scannow”. If SFC finds any corrupt or missing files, it will automatically replace them using cached copies kept by Windows for this purpose alone. The command can require a half-hour to run on older notebooks.

13. Recovery Image (Windows 8)

recimgcmd

Virtually all Windows 8/8.1 computers ship from the factory with a recovery image How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk How to Create a Windows 8 Recovery Disk The days of reinstalling Windows when it acts up are long since gone. All you need to fix Windows 8 is a recovery disk, either on CD/DVD, a USB or an external hard disk drive. Read More , but the image may include bloatware you’d rather not have re-installed. Once you’ve un-installed the software you can create a new image using the “recimg” command. Entering this command presents a very detailed explanation of how to use it.

You must have administrator privileges to use the recimg command, and you can only access the custom recovery image you create via the Windows 8 “refresh” feature How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation How To Restore, Refresh, or Reset Your Windows 8 Installation In addition to the standard System Restore feature, Windows 8 has features for "refreshing" and "resetting" your PC. Think of these as ways of quickly re-installing Windows -- either keeping your personal files or deleting... Read More .

In Windows 10, system recovery 4 Ways to Reset Windows 10 and Reinstall From Scratch 4 Ways to Reset Windows 10 and Reinstall From Scratch Windows 10 is still Windows, meaning it will need a fresh start every once in a while. We show you how you can get a fresh Windows 10 installation with as little effort as possible. Read More has changed. Windows 10 systems don’t come with a recovery partition, which makes it more important than ever to create a recovery drive Windows 10 Maintenance: What Has Changed & What You Need to Consider Windows 10 Maintenance: What Has Changed & What You Need to Consider In Windows 10, Microsoft seriously overhauled maintenance features. Especially Windows Update is causing some headache. We provide you with an overview of new settings and show you which third party tools you still need. Read More .

14. Tasklist

You can use the “tasklist” command to provide a current list of all tasks running on your PC. Though somewhat redundant with Task Manager, the command may sometimes find tasks hidden from view in that utility.

tasklist

There’s also a wide range of modifiers. “Tasklist -svc” shows services related to each task, use “tasklist -v” to obtain more detail on each task, and “tasklist -m” will locate .dll files associated with active tasks. These commands are useful for advanced troubleshooting.

15. Taskkill

Tasks that appear in the “tasklist” command will have an executable and process ID (a four-digit number) associated with them. You can force stop a program using “taskkill -im” followed by the executable’s name, or “taskkill -pid” followed by the process ID. Again, this is a bit redundant with Task Manager, but you can use it to kill otherwise unresponsive or hidden programs.

Recommended by Our Readers

nbstat — “for looking u names of computers on your network.” –Vferg

netstat -ano | find “est” — “to get a list of processes with established CP connections.” –Eric

tasklist | find “[process id]” — “to get the name of the executable associated with the particular process id that I’m interested in.” –Eric

cacls — “most handy to manually access hidden files and folder.” –A41202813

net use — “to map drives of networked CNC machines.” –Jimbo

chkdsk /f C: — “checks your (C: partition) hard disk for errors and fixes bad sectors.” –Kai M.

systeminfo — “this command gives you a thorough list of info about your computer.” –Kai M.

Command and Conquer

This article can only give you a taste of what’s hidden within the Windows command line. When including all variables, there are literally hundreds of commands. Download Microsoft’s command line reference guide (in Edge or Internet Explorer) for advanced support and troubleshooting.

If you appreciate the command prompt, you’ll love PowerShell Command Prompt vs. Windows PowerShell: What's the Difference? Command Prompt vs. Windows PowerShell: What's the Difference? Windows users can get by without using either the Command Prompt or PowerShell. But with Windows 10 and new features around the corner, maybe it's about time we learned. Read More  and its scripting environment! Learn these crucial PowerShell commands 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows PowerShell is what you get when you give steroids to the Windows Command Prompt. It grants you control of nearly every aspect of the Windows system. We help you leap up its learning curve. Read More and try these novel PowerShell functions in Windows 10 3 Clever PowerShell Functions After Upgrading to Windows 10 3 Clever PowerShell Functions After Upgrading to Windows 10 Windows 10 brings us a new PowerShell, essentially Command Prompt on steroids. This article shows you how to do the otherwise impossible with PowerShell. And it's easier than you think! Read More .

Did we miss any crucial commands or variables? Which commands do you find yourself using frequently?

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