Windows is not popular with its command-line interface currently but provides the command-line interface for some basic tasks. Windows command line can be used to navigate files and directories by changing the current working directory. The
cd (Change Directory) command is used to change directories. There are also helper commands like popd and pushd which are used to change the directory.
Open Command Prompt (cmd)
First, we will launch or open the command prompt. The command prompt is also called MS-DOS or cmd.exe. Even it can be opened in different ways the most practical and easy way is to use the
Start Menu by typing cmd or command prompt like below.
Open is used to open cmd with current user privileges but if you need Administrator privileges use
Run as administrator button. But changing directories does not require Administrative privileges.
Default Working Directory of Command Prompt
When the command prompt is opened the default path or current working directory is the current user’s home path. The users home path is located under the Windows partition which is mostly
Users directory with the username. For this example the default directory is
Before changing the directory with the
cd command listing directories for the current working or different path is very useful. The
dir command is used to list files and folders easily like below. We can from the output that directories are labeled as <DIR> in order to specify it as a directory.
C:\Users\ismail> dir Volume in drive C has no label. Volume Serial Number is 801B-D913 Directory of C:\Users\ismail 10/08/2020 03:26 PM <DIR> . 10/08/2020 03:26 PM <DIR> .. 08/26/2020 08:02 AM <DIR> .idlerc 08/26/2020 06:00 PM 178 .packettracer 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> 3D Objects 07/06/2020 11:34 AM <DIR> Cisco Packet Tracer 7.3.0 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Contacts 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Desktop 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Documents 10/08/2020 02:44 PM <DIR> Downloads 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Favorites 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Links 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Music 09/10/2020 11:27 AM <DIR> OneDrive 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Pictures 05/21/2020 10:36 AM <DIR> PycharmProjects 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Saved Games 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Searches 09/25/2020 02:40 PM <DIR> Test 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> Videos 10/08/2020 03:26 PM <DIR> wisetut 1 File(s) 178 bytes 20 Dir(s) 63,282,102,272 bytes free
We can also list different paths or directories’ contents by providing these paths like below. In the following example, we will list files and folders of the
C:\Users\ismail> dir Desktop Volume in drive C has no label. Volume Serial Number is 801B-D913 Directory of C:\Users\ismail\Desktop 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> . 10/06/2020 04:24 PM <DIR> .. 10/01/2020 03:51 PM <DIR> Backup 08/26/2020 08:02 AM 28 backup.py 07/10/2020 12:54 PM 3,442 bookmarks-2020-07-10.json 07/06/2020 11:33 AM 1,093 Cisco Packet Tracer.lnk 07/27/2020 01:23 PM 1,412 Opera Browser.lnk 09/23/2020 02:41 PM 73 runwise.bat 10/01/2020 03:51 PM <DIR> Test 08/26/2020 08:02 AM 28 test.py 6 File(s) 6,076 bytes 4 Dir(s) 63,286,165,504 bytes free
Alternatively, we can use an absolute path in order to list specified path contents, directories, and files. In the following example, we will list directories of the “C:\Users\ismail\Desktop“.
> dir C:\Users\ismail\Desktop
cd Command Syntax
The cd command is the most popular and defacto way to change directories. As a simple command
cd provides very simple syntax and options to use.
cd OPTION DRIVE:DIRECTORY
- OPTION is generally not used.
- DRIVE is the drive letter of the path but it is optional and generally not used.
- DIRECTORY is the directory name we want to change. DIRECTORY can be a relative or absolute path with single or multi-level directories.
Change Directory with Relative Path
Let’s start with a simple example where we will change the current working directory by providing the relative path. We will put the absolute path after the cd command as a parameter. If the path contains spaces double quotes can be used.
C:\>cd Users C:\Users>cd ismail\Desktop C:\Users\ismail\Desktop>
Change Directory with Absolute Path
An absolute path is the most reliable way to change the directory where the full path of the directory is provided. The absolute path also contains the drive letter or partition like
C:\> C:\>cd c:\Users\ismail\Downloads c:\Users\ismail\Downloads> c:\Users\ismail\Downloads>cd c:\Users\ismail\Desktop c:\Users\ismail\Desktop> c:\Users\ismail\Desktop>cd "c:\Program Files" c:\Program Files>
Change Directory To The Upper or Parent
The cd command also provides
.. in order to specify one level upper directory or parent directory. Lets use the .. to change single or multiple times upper or parent directories.
c:\Users\ismail\Downloads\MyTools> c:\Users\ismail\Downloads\MyTools>cd .. c:\Users\ismail\Downloads>cd ../../.. c:\>
Change Directory To The Root Of Current Partition or Drive
The cd command provides the
/ paremeter which can be used to change the current working directory to the root of the current partition or drive. For example, if the current working directory is one of
c:\Users when the
cd /d is used the current working directory will be changed to the
c:\Users\ismail\Desktop>cd \ c:\>cd c:\Users\ismail c:\Users\ismail> c:\Users\ismail>cd \ c:\>
Change Partition or Drive
Windows may contain multiple drives or partitions with different letters. Generally the sequential letters like
E: , … are used. We can also navigate into these drives by using the cd command but if we specify the cd command like below it will not throw an error but also will not change the directory. cd D:\backup command will not work because changing partition or drive needs the /d parameter to work successfully.
C:\> C:\>cd /d d:\backups d:\backups
Alternatively just typing the drive or partition letter we want to navigate will change to the given partition like below. In the following example, we will type
d: which can be also
D: to change partition
C:\> C:\>d: d:\
Using Tab Key Auto-Complete Path
The windows command line provides the ability called
Auto Complation where the first letters of the path are typed by pressing
Tab key will auto-complete the pathname. If there are multiple paths or directories where the typed letters are the same the first directory will be completed automatically but pressing the Tab key again will change to the second path with the same first letters etc. Let’s make an example. Type
cd D and like below.
and press the
Tab key which will result following.
Now I will press the tab key again the change to the second alternative.
Display Current Working Directory
The current working directory can be displayed by printing the
%CD% environment variable to the command line. The echo command can be used to print %CD% like below.
c:\>echo %cd% c:\ c:\>cd Users\ismail\Downloads c:\Users\ismail\Downloads>echo %cd% c:\Users\ismail\Downloads c:\Users\ismail\Downloads>
Change Directory By Storing Current Working Directory or Path with pushd Command
Windows command-line interface also provides the
pushd command which can be used to change the current working directory by storing it. This will be useful when we want to return to the current working directory without remembering or typing it with the
popd command. The pushd command can be used to store multiple paths and can be reverted back with the popd command.
c:\Users> c:\Users>pushd ismail c:\Users\ismail>pushd c:\WINDOWS\system32 c:\Windows\System32>popd c:\Users\ismail>popd c:\Users>
You can use the pushd and popd commands for different drives or partitions without a problem. Also, the pushd and popd commands are very useful for the UNC paths, etc.