How to Master the Command Prompt in Windows 10
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The Command Prompt is a Windows utility that lets you give the system instructions. It can automate tasks, troubleshoot issues, and perform all sorts of functions. We’re going to show you how to get the most out of it, including how to change the colors, execute multiple commands, get help on any command, and much more.

To open the Command Prompt, just do a system search for cmd and open the relevant result. Alternatively, press Windows key + R, type cmd into the Run utility, and hit Enter to launch the Command Prompt.

If you have your own tip to share, be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

1. Always Open as Administrator

You can run the Command Prompt in standard and administrator modes. Some commands will only work in the latter, so generally, it makes sense to just use that mode all the time.

command prompt run as administrator

To have a Command Prompt instance that always opens as administrator, we’ll need to use a shortcut. Do a system search for cmd, right-click the result and choose Send to > Desktop (create shortcut).

Right-click the new shortcut, click Advanced, and tick Run as administrator. Press OK twice and you’re finished.

2. Access Through Windows Key + X

If you press Windows key + X you will launch the power user menu. It gives you quick access to things like Device Manager, Disk Management, and Task Manager.

It can also list the Command Prompt, but yours might have Windows PowerShell instead.

windows key x command prompt

It’s very easy to switch this. To begin, press Windows key + I to open Settings. Navigate to Personalization > Taskbar. Slide Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu when I right-click the start button or press Windows logo key + X to Off. Now you’ll see the Command Prompt on the list.

See our guide for the fastest way to open the Command Prompt This Is the Fastest Way to Open a Command Prompt in Windows This Is the Fastest Way to Open a Command Prompt in Windows The Command Prompt can be opened in many different ways, but you really only need to know the simplest and fastest way. Read More if you want to know some other ways you can open the utility.

3. Open via Folder Context Menu

Prior to Windows 10 build 14986, pressing Shift + right-click inside a folder would provide the option to Open command window here. This would then open Command Prompt with the path already set to the folder you specified.

open command prompt window here

However, this has been replaced with Open PowerShell window here as Microsoft attempts to move people away from the Command Prompt 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 . As Windows 10 has automatic and forced updates Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Pros & Cons of Forced Updates in Windows 10 Updates will change in Windows 10. Right now you can pick and choose. Windows 10, however, will force updates onto you. It has advantages, like improved security, but it can also go wrong. What's more... Read More , you have no choice in this matter. If you don’t like the change and want to add in the Command Prompt option, head over to TenForums and download their registry tweaks.

4. Copy and Paste

If you want to copy any text, press Ctrl + M to enter mark mode. Left-click and drag to highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + C or Enter to copy it to your clipboard. You can press Esc at any time if you want to leave mark mode. To paste, simply press Ctrl + V.

command prompt copy and paste

Think that sounds too cumbersome? Right-click the Command Prompt title bar and click Properties. Switch to the Options tab, tick QuickEdit Mode, and click OK. Now you don’t need to press anything before being able to highlight text.

5. Use Arrows Keys for Previous Commands

If you’ve entered a previous command that you want to use again, use the up and down arrows on your keyboard to move between them. This is handy if you’re repeatedly executing the same commands or want to correct a mistake in what you just submitted.

command prompt f7

You can also press the right arrow key to enter your previous command character by character. This could be useful if you need to enter multiple commands that have the same opening.

Alternatively, press F7 to see a list of all your previous inputs, using the up and down arrows to navigate and Enter to select, or type doskey /history to output it in the Command Prompt.

6. Drag and Drop Files for Input

It can be tedious to write out a folder or file path name in the Command Prompt. You don’t need to waste the time, though, because there’s a much quicker way.

command prompt file path copy

Navigate to the folder or file you want in File Explorer. Left-click and drag it into a Command Prompt window. That path will then appear. It’s that simple!

7. Get Help With Any Command

Is there a command that you can’t quite remember how to use or what it does? No problem. Just append /? to your command and you’ll be shown information about that command, like what options you can use and some examples. It works on all of them.

command prompt help

For example, if you want more information about the ipconfig command then input ipconfig /?. It won’t actually run the command, so don’t worry about that.

8. Use Tab for Auto-Complete

You can press the Tab key to auto-complete your command. This is useful for when you don’t know the full name of the command or to save you time. For example, rather than typing out a full file path, you can press Tab to have it automatically completed.

tab key command prompt

If what it serves isn’t what you need, just keep pressing Tab to progress through the options. Alternatively, press Shift + Tab to reverse through the options.

9. Output to a File or Clipboard

If you want to save the output of the Command Prompt you could copy it, paste it into a text editor, and then save. But you can do it much quicker and all within Command Prompt.

command prompt output

To do this, input your command followed by a > and the file you want to output to. For example, to output your ipconfig to a text file in my Documents, I would input ipconfig > C:\Users\Joe\Documents\myinfo.txt.

You can also output to your clipboard, ready to paste elsewhere. To do this, input your command followed by | clip. For example, ipconfig | clip.

10. Cancel a Command

If you’ve submitted a command that you want to stop, just press Ctrl + C. This will end the command up to the point that it’d go to. This means that it won’t reverse what it’s already done, but it will stop it going any further.

windows 10 upgrade cancel

You’ll find a lot of commands will complete before you even have time to press the keys, but it’s useful for those that do without having to exit Command Prompt completely.

11. Execute Multiple Commands

If there are multiple commands you want to use then you don’t need to input each in turn and wait for them to complete. Instead, you can separate your commands with &&.

command prompt multiple commands

For example, if you wanted to output both ipconfig and tree you would input ipconfig && tree. You can do this for however many commands you need — it’s not just limited to two.

12. Customize the Look

The default black and white appearance of the Command Prompt is iconic, but it doesn’t hurt to mix things up a bit. To begin customizing the look, right-click the title bar of your Command Prompt and click Properties.

Begin with the Font tab. Here you can change the Size and Font used. It’s recommended to use a TrueType font (signified with a colorful TT symbol) for clearer display.

customize command prompt colors

Move to the Layout tab. Here you can change the size and position of the Command Prompt window. In actuality, it’s easier just to do this on the window itself, using the default Windows abilities of dragging the sides of the window and moving with the Taskbar.

Finally, go to the Colors tab. Use the radio buttons to select what you want to recolor, then click a color to set it. Alternatively, input the red, green, and blue values. The Opacity slider will adjust the entirety of the Command Prompt window — set it to 100 percent if you don’t want any opacity.

Command Prompt Commander

Hopefully, you’ve learned something new about how to get the most from the Command Prompt. Whether it’s something to make you more efficient, like outputting to a file or auto-completing a command, or just something fun, like changing the colors, there’s so much the Command Prompt can do.

If you want to get even better at using the Command Prompt, be sure to read our articles on what the essential commands are Essential Windows CMD Commands You Should Know Essential Windows CMD Commands You Should Know The bleak interface of the command prompt is your gateway to advanced Windows tools. We show you essential CMD commands that will let you access them. Read More and common Windows tasks it can make easier 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy 7 Common Tasks The Windows Command Prompt Makes Quick & Easy Don't let the command prompt intimidate you. It's simpler and more useful than you expect. You might be surprised by what you can accomplish with just a few keystrokes. Read More .

What tips listed here will you be making use of? Do you have your own to share?

Image Credit: Claudio Divizia via Shutterstock.com

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  1. David
    September 5, 2017 at 7:25 pm

    I disagree with the first suggestion. Running the command line as administrator may lead to unexpected consequences or deleted files. The system is doing its best to protect you by not running as an administrator.

  2. Deano
    September 4, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    My advice, transition to the more powerful, easier to learn PowerShell. Take the leap!

    PowerShell is superseding the (old) Command Line and Microsoft will be hiding CMD in the near future.

    BTW: For the command line you can pause or resume a running script/command with the "Pause" key and "Ctrl+Z".