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How To Open Command Prompt

How To Open Command Prompt

There are several ways to open command prompt depending on which Windows system you’re utilizing. Because command prompt is so important in facilitating functions and troubleshooting problems, it’s important that you know exactly how to access this program to fully take advantage of prompt’s capabilities.

What is command prompt?


Command prompt icon

Command prompt is a program used in Windows operating systems. It allows the user to enter commands, try to troubleshoot problems, and do advanced administrative functions. All of this is done through a text-based interface screen.

Other names for command prompt include:

  • Windows Command Processor
  • exe
  • Cmd
  • Command shell

Prompt is basically a type of command line interface program that lets you communicate with the operating system via text based inputs. These commands are interpreted so that the OS can then carry them out.

How to open command prompt for Windows 10 or 11

Circled command prompt menu icon

  1. Find the Start menu, which is the Windows icon at the bottom left corner of the taskbar.
  2. In the search field you can either type command prompt, or  type cmd, which is the short name for it.
  3. Select command prompt
  4. From there, a black screen will appear (the command prompt window) that you can enter various commands or other such executables.

Command Prompt from the Windows System Folder

Windows system folder circled

  1. Find the Start menu/Windows icon
  2. You’ll see a long list of apps, programs, files, etc.
  3. Scroll down through these until you find the Windows System Folder. Select this folder.
  4. You’ll see the command prompt icon. Click command prompt.  

Want more tips for Windows? Here’s how to install Microsoft SQL Server.

How to open prompt through keyboard shortcuts

Run menu box

You can also use the keyboard to gain access through a command prompt shortcut.

  • Press Windows Key + R. This opens the Run Type “cmd” in the field space and hit enter.

Another option is:

  • Press Windows Key + X. This opens the power users menu where you can then select command prompt from. You can also simply right click the start menu to do the same thing.

Note: Depending on your system or windows settings, command prompt may not be in the menu that pops up. Instead, you may see Windows PowerShell or Windows Terminal. These are both similar to command prompt but are more powerful and are capable of more advanced administrator tasks and commands. They can still perform all the same things that command can, plus lots more.

Access Command Prompt from File Explorer

File explorer search bar

  1. On the taskbar, locate the Windows File Explorer icon. Or, you can do a keyboard shortcut by pressing the Windows Key + E, which will automatically open file explorer.
  2. The file explorer location bar will be at the top. Enter cmd and then press enter.

If you want more helpful ways to deal with your Windows 11 OS, here’s how to restart Windows 11. Because, trust me, there will come a time when you need to.  

Open Command Prompt in Older Windows Versions

Windows 8 logo

Depending on your operating system, you may need to open command prompt differently than what has already been covered.

Prompt for Windows 8 & 8.1

  1. Click or tap the Windows Start button to access Apps.
  2. In the search bar you can put “cmd,” and press enter and find the command prompt that way.

Other methods to open prompt in Windows 8:

  • Hold the windows key + X down to access the power user menu. Find Command prompt.
  • Right click the start icon to open the power user menu. Find Command Prompt.
  • Use the Apps screen to find Windows System and choose Command Prompt from there.
  • Right click on the start button. Select Run. Type in exe then press enter or the “ok” button.

Prompt for Windows 7, Vista, and XP

  1. Click on the Start button to open the menu
  2. Go to All Programs, then Accessories
  3. Select Command Prompt

You can also type “command” in the search box next to the Start icon and then select it when it appears in the search results.

Frequently Asked Questions

Closeup of command prompt window

How do I open the Command Prompt in my Mac?

Command Prompt is not the same on Mac, instead it is called “Terminal.” To access it, do the following:

  1. Click the “Launchpad” icon.
  2. Type “Terminal,” in the search bar and then click it.

You can also:

  1. Go to the Finder
  2. Go to the Applications/Utilities folder
  3. Select and double click Terminal

How do I open Command Prompt with administrative privileges?

Circled run as administrator

If you want full administrator access, you’ll need to have that in place when you open Prompt. There are several ways to do this, but for simplicity, here is a good trick to follow.

  1. Type cmd or command in your search bar by your Start button.
  2. The menu will open, showing the command prompt icon
  3. Right click on command prompt
  4. Select run as administrator
  5. You’ll probably have a “user account control” window pop up, asking for permission to let the app make changes to your device. Select yes. From there, you will have administrator permissions.

What Can I do with Command Prompt?

Prompt allows you to troubleshoot, execute commands, and even perform admin tasks. Here are just a small handful of the more common reasons people open the command prompt.

  • See your PC driver list so you know what drivers are installed on your computer
  • Abort a command in mid-operation
  • Scan system files for issues
  • Use tasklist instead of task manager to view processes running on your computer
  • Check your drive for errors
  • Format a drive
  • Find your system information, such as your hardware and Windows installation versions, install dates, etc.
  • Network commands that help you configure and manage the IP addresses on your computer
  • Ping to test if your PC can reach a certain destination such as a specific website
  • Here’s how to look up registry values from command prompt

What is PowerShell?

Circled PowerShell from menu list

While you’ve been searching through your computer to find the command prompt, there’s a decent chance you’ve run across PowerShell. So what exactly is it?

A shell is a program that runs the command line interpreter. It grants access to the components of an operating system. PowerShell provides a great deal more advanced features and capabilities than command prompt does. Plus, it can do all the same things prompt did too so you may find yourself using it a great deal more. Here are some facts about PowerShell:

  • It is not just a command-line shell, but it is also a scripting language
  • It runs on Windows, Linux, and macOS
  • A framework that can automate management tasks, amongst other things
  • It is far more useful than prompt because it can do all the same things, plus offer advanced administrator and IT functions

For those curious, here’s a link to Microsoft’s PowerShell overview.

What is Windows Terminal?

Another discovery you might have made while looking into command prompt, is Windows Terminal. This is a host application for command-line shells, like PowerShell. Remember, a shell is a program. The terminal sends user inputs into this program. The shell/program then outputs back into the terminal for display for the user. They work together. Note: Windows Terminal is often already installed on newer OS versions, though sometimes you may have to download it. For Windows 11, Terminal is now the default command-line experience. Basically, all command-line applications, such as Prompt and PowerShell, will open automatically in Windows Terminal. It can do everything those two apps could do and more.

Speaking of Windows 11, some Windows 10 users are not happy with the death knell of their beloved OS. Here’s an article all about how Microsoft is ending Windows 10.


There are so many ways to launch command prompt, and all are incredibly easy to execute. Whatever method you select, feel free to create a desktop shortcut or pin it to your taskbar to make it even easier to access in the future.

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