Learning MS-DOS Basics - A Tutorial

This tutorial gives you an opportunity to try basic MS-DOS commands. By following the procedures in this section, you will learn to:

The Command Prompt

When you first turn on your computer, you will see some cryptic information flash by. MS-DOS displays this information to let you know how it is configuring your computer. You can ignore it for now. When the information stops scrolling past, you'll see the following:

C:\>

This is called the command prompt or DOS prompt. The flashing underscore next to the command prompt is called the cursor. The cursor shows where the command you type will appear.

If your command prompt looks like the sample command prompt above, skip to the following section, "Typing a Command."

If your command prompt does not look like the example, type the following at the command prompt, and then press ENTER:

cd \

Note that the slash leans backward, not forward. You will learn more about the cd command later in the tutorial. If your command prompt still doesn't look like the example, type the following at the command prompt, and then press ENTER:

prompt $p$g

Your command prompt should now look like the example.

Typing a Command

This section explains how to type a command at the command prompt and demonstrates the "Bad command or file name" message.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt (you can type the command in either uppercase or lowercase letters):
    2. nul

      If you make a typing mistake, press the BACKSPACE key to erase the mistake, and then try again.

    3. Press ENTER.
    4. You must press ENTER after every command you type.

      The following message appears:

      Bad command or file name

      The "Bad command or file name" message appears when you type something that MS-DOS does not recognize. Because nul is not a valid MS-DOS command, MS-DOS displays the "Bad command or file name" message.

    5. Now, type the following command at the command prompt:

ver

The following message appears on your screen:

MS-DOS version 6.22

The ver command displays the version number of MS-DOS.

Continue to the next section, where you will use the dir command to view the contents of a directory.

Viewing the Contents of a Directory

In this section, you will view the contents of a directory by using the dir command. The dir command stands for "directory."

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

dir

A list similar to the following appears:

Volume in drive C is MS-DOS_6.22 
Volume Serial Number is lE49-15E2 
Directory of C:\ 

WINDOWS      <DIR>    09-08-92 10:27p 
TEMP         <DIR>    05-15-92 12:09p 
CONFIG  SYS       278 09-23-92 10:50a 
COMMAND COM     53014 09-18-92 6:00a 
WINA20  386      9349 11-11-91 5:00a 
DOS          <DIR>    09-02-92 4:23p 
AUTOEXEC BAT      290 09-23-92 10:54a 

               7 file(s) 62931 bytes 
                       8732672 bytes free 

This is called a directory list. A directory list is a list of all the files and subdirectories that a directory contains. In this case, you see all the files and directories in the main or root directory of your drive. All the files and directories on your drive are stored in the root directory.

Changing Directories

Look at the list on your screen. All the names that have <DIR> beside them are directories. You can see a list of the files in another directory by changing to that directory, and then using the dir command again. In this case, you will change to the DOS directory.

Before you begin this section, make sure you have a directory named DOS by carrying out the following procedure.

1. Look through the directory list on your screen for a line that looks similar to the following:

DOS <DIR> 09-02-92 4:23p

2. If you see a line like this, you have a directory named DOS. Skip to the next procedure, "To change from the root directory to the DOS directory."

If you do not see a line in the directory list indicating that you have a directory named DOS, type the following at the command prompt:

dir /s memmaker.exe

You will see a message that includes a line such as the following:

Directory of C:\DIRNAME

If the name that appears in place of DIRNAME is DOS, you have a DOS directory. Skip to the next procedure.

If the name that appears in place of DIRNAME is not DOS, substitute the name that appears for DOS throughout this tutorial. For example, if the name that appears in place of DIRNAME is MSDOS, type msdos whenever you are instructed to type dos.

To change directories, you will use the cd command. The cd command stands for "change directory."

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

cd dos

The command prompt changes. It should now look like the following:

C:\DOS>

The command prompt shows which directory you are in. In this case, you know you successfully changed to the DOS directory because the command prompt displays the directory's name. Now the current directory is DOS.

Next, you will use the dir command to view a list of the files in the DOS directory.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

dir

A list of the files in the DOS directory appears, but scrolls by too quickly to read. You can modify the dir command so that it displays only one screen of information at a time.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

dir /p

One screen of information appears. At the bottom of the screen, you will see the following message:

Press any key to continue . . .

2. To view the next screen of information, press any key on your keyboard. Repeat this step until the command prompt appears at the bottom of your screen.

When you typed the dir command this time, you included the /p switch after the command. A switch modifies the way MS-DOS carries out a command. Generally, a switch consists of a forward slash (/) that is followed by one or more letters or numbers. When you used the /p switch with the dir command, you specified that MS-DOS should pause after it displays each screen of directory list information. The p actually stands for "page"

Another helpful switch you can use with the dir command is the /w switch. The /w switch indicates that MS-DOS should show a wide version of the directory list.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:
    2. dir /w

      The directory list appears, with the filenames listed in wide format. Note that only filenames are listed. No information about the files' size or date and time of creation appears.

    3. If the directory contains more files than will fit on one screen, you can combine the /p and /w switches as follows:

dir /w /p

Changing Back to the Root Directory

Next, you will change from the DOS directory to the root directory. The root directory is the directory you were in before you changed to the DOS directory. Before you begin this section, make sure your command prompt looks like the following:

C:\DOS>

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

cd \

Note that the slash you type in this command is a backslash (\), not a forward slash (/).

No matter which directory you are in, this command always returns you to the root directory of a drive. The root directory does not have a name. It is simply referred to by a backslash (\).

The command prompt should now look like the following:

C:\>

When your command prompt appears similar to this---that is, when it does not contain the name of a directory---you are in the root directory.

Creating a Directory

In this section, you will create two directories. Creating a directory is helpful if you want to organize related files into groups to make them easy to find. Before you begin this section, make sure the command prompt looks like the following:

C:\>

To create a directory, you will use the md command. The md command stands for "make directory."

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

md fruit

You have now created a directory named FRUIT. You won't see the new FRUIT directory until you carry out the dir command in the next step.

2. To confirm that you successfully created the FRUIT directory, type the following at the command prompt:

dir

or

dir /p

Look through the directory list. A new entry somewhere in the list should look similar to the following:

FRUIT <DIR> 09-25-93 12:09p

3. To change to the new FRUIT directory, type the following at the command prompt:

cd fruit

The command prompt should now look like the following:

C:\FRUIT>

You will now create a directory within the FRUIT directory, named GRAPES.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:
    2. md grapes

      You will not see the new GRAPES directory until you carry out the dir command in the next step.

    3. To confirm that you successfully created the GRAPES directory, type the following at the command prompt:
    4. dir

      A list similar to the following appears:

      Volume in drive C is MS-DOS-6 
      Volume Serial Number is lE49-15E2 
      Directory of C:\FRUIT
      
      .          <DIR>        09-25-93 12:08p 
      ..         <DIR>        09-25-93 12:08p 
      GRAPES     <DIR>        09-25-93 12:10p 
                          3 file(s) 0 bytes 
                             11534336 bytes free 

      Note that there are three entries in the FRUIT directory. One is the GRAPES directory that you just created. There are two other entries---one looks like a single period (.) and the other looks like a double period (..). These directory entries are important to MS-DOS, but you can ignore them. They appear in every directory and contain information relation to the directory structure.

      The GRAPES directory is a subdirectory of the FRUIT directory. A subdirectory is a directory within another directory. Subdirectories are useful if you want to further subdivide information.

    5. To change to the GRAPES directory, type the following at the command prompt:
    6. cd grapes

      The command prompt should now look like the following:

      C:\FRUIT\GRAPES>

    7. To switch back to the FRUIT directory, type the following:

cd ..

The command prompt should now look like the following:

C:\FRUIT>

When the cd command is followed by two periods (..), MS-DOS moves up one level in the directory structure. In this case, you moved up one level from the GRAPES directory to the FRUIT directory.

Deleting a Directory

If you no longer use a particular directory, you may want to delete it to simplify your directory structure. Deleting a directory is also useful if you type the wrong name when you are creating a directory and you want to delete the incorrect directory before creating a new one.

In this section, you will delete the GRAPES directory. Before you begin this section, make sure the command prompt looks like the following:

C:\FRUIT>

To delete a directory, use the rd command. The rd command stands for "remove directory."

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:
    2. rd grapes

    3. To confirm that you successfully deleted the GRAPES directory, type the following at the command prompt:

dir

The GRAPES directory should no longer appear in the directory list.

Note You cannot delete a directory if you are in it. Before you can delete a directory, you must make the directory that is one level higher the current directory. To do this, type cd.. at the command prompt.

Changing Drives

This section describes how to change drives. Changing drives is useful if you want to work with files that are on a different drive.

So far, you have been working with drive C. You have other drives you can use to store information. For example, drive A is your first floppy disk drive. The files and directories on drive A are located on the floppy disk in the drive. (You might also have a drive B, which contains the files and directories stored on the floppy disk in that drive.)

Before you begin this section, make sure your command prompt looks like the following:

C:\FRUIT>

1. Insert a 3.5" floppy disk in drive A label- side up. Make sure the disk clicks into the drive.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:
    2. a:

      Note that the command prompt changed to the following:

      A:\>

      This message may appear:

      Not ready reading drive A

      Abort, Retry, Fail?

      If you see this message, the disk may not be inserted properly. Place the disk label-side up in the disk drive, and make sure the disk clicks into the disk drive. Then, type r for Retry. If this message appears again, press F for Fail, and then type b: at the command prompt. If you no longer see this message, type b: instead of a: throughout the rest of the tutorial.

      There must be a floppy disk in the drive that you want to change to.

    3. To view a list of the files on the floppy disk in drive A, type the following at the command prompt:
    4. dir

      A list of the files on the disk appears.

    5. Change back to drive C by typing the following at the command prompt:

c:

Your command prompt should return to the following:

C:\FRUIT>

When you type a drive letter followed by a colon, you change to that drive. The drive letter that appears in the command prompt shows which drive is the current drive. Unless you specify otherwise, any commands you type are carried out on the current drive and in the current directory.

So far, all the commands you typed were carried out on the current drive and in the current directory. You can also carry out a command on a drive that isn't current. For example, you can view the files on a disk in drive A without switching to drive A by following this procedure.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

dir a:

A list of the files on the floppy disk in drive A appears, even though your command prompt indicates that drive C is current.

By specifying a: after the dir command, you are giving MS-DOS additional information. You are indicating that you want the dir command to show the list of files and directories on drive A instead of drive C. The a: you typed after the dir command is called a parameter. A parameter specifies what a command should act on. In the previous example, the parameter you used indicated which directory list you want to view.

The following procedure presents another example of using a parameter.

    1. Type the following at the command prompt:

dir c:\dos

A list of the files in the DOS directory on drive C should scroll past on your screen.

The c:\dos parameter specifies that you want MS-DOS to display the contents of the DOS directory on drive C, even though your command prompt indicates that the FRUIT directory is current.

DOS Tutorial Part 2