7 Quick Tips to Improve the Windows Command Prompt

Joel Lee 18-11-2015

If you’ve never used the Command Prompt before, maybe it’s time you give it a try. You’d be surprised at how many common tasks are made quicker 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 with the command line. It looks intimidating at first, but it’s easier than you think to pick up.


Get started with these basic commands that everyone should know 15 Windows Command Prompt (CMD) Commands You Must Know The command prompt is still a powerful Windows tool. Here are the most useful CMD commands every Windows user needs to know. Read More , which will help you get familiarized with the Command Prompt and ease your discomfort. Who knows, you might find that you enjoy — or even prefer — the command line approach!

But whether you’re a Command Prompt newbie or veteran, there are several tips and tricks that you can use to make your time in the command line easier. Start using these and you won’t ever look back.

1. “Open Command Window Here”

One of the more annoying things about Command Prompt is that it always launches in the home directory of the user account currently logged into the system. Typically, that means C:\Users\<YourName>.

The thing is, Command Prompt is rarely needed in the home directory, so whenever you launch Command Prompt, the first step is usually navigating to the actual directory you need to work in — and that can get pretty annoying.



Fortunately, using one of the simple tricks in Windows 9 Simple Tricks You Didn't Know Were Possible in Windows Windows has many simple tricks up its sleeve that are easily overlooked. Everything we show you here is native to Windows, no gimmicks. How many of these do you know? Read More , you can launch the Command Prompt instantly from any location. Hold down the Shift key, then right-click, then select Open Command Window Here.

2. Launch Command Prompt as Admin

Another oversight in the design of Command Prompt is that the prompt commands have the same system privileges as the user account — which is great in theory, but a bit of a nuisance because there’s no easy way to elevate privileges when necessary.

For example, Linux has the same privilege limitation in its command line, but offers an easy way to run any command with superuser privileges What Is SU & Why Is It Important to Using Linux Effectively? The Linux SU or root user account is a powerful tool that can be helpful when used correctly or devastating if used recklessly. Let's look at why you should be responsible when using SU. Read More : all you have to do is prefix any command with sudo.



On Windows, you actually need to launch a separate Command Prompt as Admin. Fortunately, this isn’t too difficult: just use the Win+X shortcut with the Windows Key to open the alternative Start Menu, then select Command Prompt (Admin).

Another option in Windows 10 is to open the Start Menu, find the Command Prompt app, and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to launch it as Administrator. (This also works with any program.)

3. Tab to Auto-Complete

Use the command line for any amount of time and soon you’ll grow tired of all the typing you have to do. Here’s a quick tip to cut the amount of all that typing in half.



Just press the Tab key. The Tab key cycles through all the files and folders in the current directory, but if you type a few keys and then press Tab, it will only cycle through files and folders that match what you’ve typed.

4. Drag & Drop (Files & Folders)

You often need to type the full path of a file or folder, and this can get old quite fast. Here’s how you can do it in the blink of an eye.


Drag any file or folder into the Command Prompt and it will translate into that file or folder’s full path. Seriously, this works with any file and any folder.


5. View Entire Command History

When working in the Command Prompt, it’s common to type certain commands over and over again — especially if you’re testing a feature or troubleshooting an issue.

One option is to press the Up key, which will scroll through previously-entered commands one at a time. This works fine if you just want to repeat the last command (or one that was entered not too long ago), but isn’t so great when you have to dig back pretty far.


The other option is to press F7, which brings up an overlay window within the prompt window itself, that lists all of the commands that were used since the Command Prompt was opened. This is excellent for scanning past commands at a glance.

6. Output Directly to Clipboard

Some commands in the Command Prompt exist primarily to output information. For example, ipconfig outputs IP address information for the system while driverquery outputs driver information.

If you want to share these outputs with someone else — maybe someone on an online forum who’s helping you fix a problem — then it can be a nuisance selecting everything and copying it. Not difficult, but a nuisance all the same.


Suffix any command with | clip and the output will automatically be redirected to the clipboard. This skips the intermediary step and lets you go ahead and immediately paste it wherever you need to.

7. Run in Fullscreen Mode

Unfortunately, the fullscreen option for Command Prompt doesn’t exist in Windows Vista or Windows 7, but there’s a quick shortcut that does work in both Windows XP and Windows 10: Alt+Enter. That’s it!

In Windows 8.1, it’s a bit trickier. A Command Prompt opened in fullscreen mode only fills about half the screen, which isn’t all that useful and just looks plain ugly. However, there is a workaround — not for a true fullscreen mode, but for a maximized window.


Open the Start Menu, find the Command Prompt app, right-click on it and select Open File Location. In the File Explorer window that pops up, right-click the Command Prompt shortcut and select Properties. Navigate to the Layout tab and look in the Window Size section. For both Width and Height, set the values to 800. The next time you launch the Command Prompt, it will be a maximized window.

What’s New in Windows 10?

We know many compelling reasons to upgrade to Windows 10 10 Compelling Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 Windows 10 is coming on July 29. Is it worth upgrading for free? If you are looking forward to Cortana, state of the art gaming, or better support for hybrid devices - yes, definitely! And... Read More , but one minor reason could be the improvements to Command Prompt. Many long-awaited features have finally arrived, making the command line experience that much better.

Transparency. When the Command Prompt is open, just use the Ctrl + Shift + Minus Key to reduce the window opacity. Conversely, use Ctrl + Shift + Plus Key to increase window opacity.


Copy and paste. It’s weird that it took this long for Command Prompt to natively support copying and pasting, but better late than never, right? Ctrl + V and Ctrl + C are the relevant shortcuts.

Search for text. Searching through the command line is important, especially when you’re using a lot of informative output commands, like the ones mentioned above. Now that Command Prompt supports it, you can use Ctrl + F to bring up the search window.

How Do You Use Command Prompt?

If you’ve gotten this far and you feel like Command Prompt is too limited, then maybe you’d be better off with the more advanced PowerShell utility 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 , which is bundled with Windows 10, but available as a separate download for older versions of Windows.

For example, here are a few clever PowerShell tricks 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 that you might find helpful, while these basic PowerShell commands 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 will get you acquainted with what PowerShell can do.

Otherwise, we’d love to hear how you use Command Prompt and if you have any tips or tricks of your own. Share with us in the comments below!

Related topics: Command Prompt, Keyboard Shortcuts, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1.

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  1. Greg Zeng
    May 11, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Working in all Windows, including W-10 ...

    "Super-R" - opens "Run".

    "cmd" - opens Terminal (command prompt).

    Unlike Linux, all (?) Windows commands have help - "command -?"

    Also, unlike Linux, Windows CLI (or terminal) is more tolerant of whether you use uPpeR-cAsE.

  2. Anonymous
    November 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    I have a script that delivers a directory of command-line applications from a zip file on my personal FTP site, installs Chocolatey, replaces a PC's hosts file, modifies my %PATH% and adds batch files for launching common Windows applications so that I can function almost entirely from a cmd.exe session.

    The net effect of this is that my use of Windows is a lot closer to a *nix shell session most of the time, which means I can get away with lower resolution remote desktop sessions (or just SSH) when I'm accessing a Windows system remotely. This is particularly handy if I need to do something weird from my phone.

    Modern Windows has Powershell and even Remote Powershell now and I can work with that as well, but I'm still more comfortable with the tools I've been using for ~25 years rather than the ones I just got in the last five or so.

    • Joel Lee
      November 25, 2015 at 3:12 am

      That sounds pretty complex! But I have to agree: while Microsoft is doing a good job with catching up, terminal work is still infinitely more comfortable on Linux.

  3. Shikhanshu Agarwal
    November 18, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Great tips! I did not know most of these!

    • Joel Lee
      November 25, 2015 at 3:10 am

      Glad you found them useful, Shikhanshu! :)