How to Open Command Prompt

Open Command Prompt to Execute Commands in Windows 10, 8, 7, Vista, & XP

Command Prompt is one of the command-line interface programs used to execute commands in Windows operating systems.

Some popular Command Prompt commands you might have heard of include ping, netstat, tracert, shutdown, and attrib, but there are many more. We have a complete list here.

Command Prompt on Windows 10 Desktop

While Command Prompt probably isn't a tool most of you will use on a regular basis, it can really come in handy now and then, maybe to troubleshoot a specific Windows problem or to automate some kind of task.

How you open Command Prompt differs between Windows versions, so you'll find steps below for Windows 10, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, and Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. See What Version of Windows Do I Have? if you're not sure.

Open Command Prompt in Windows 10

  1. Select the Start button.

  2. Type cmd.

    "cmd" typed into search bar in Windows 10
  3. Select Command Prompt from the list.

    Command Prompt icon in Start Menu after searching in Windows 10

Open Command Prompt Through the Start Menu

Another way to open Command Prompt in Windows 10 is to look in its Start menu folder:

  1. Select the Start button.

  2. Select the Windows System folder from the list.

  3. Choose Command Prompt from the folder group.

    Command Prompt menu item in Windows System folder in Start menu on Windows 10

Open Command Prompt Using Power User Menu

One more method in Windows 10 is through the Power User Menu. If you're using a keyboard or mouse, choose Command Prompt from the menu that appears after pressing Win+X or right-clicking the Start button.

Command Prompt in Windows 10 Power User menu

You might see Windows PowerShell options in the Power User Menu instead of Command Prompt. In more recent versions of Windows 10, Command Prompt has been replaced by PowerShell, but you can still access it from the Power User Menu by editing the taskbar settings.

Open Command Prompt in Windows 8 or 8.1

  1. Select the Start button and then swipe up to show the Apps screen. You can accomplish the same thing with a mouse by selecting the down arrow icon at the bottom of the screen.

    Prior to the Windows 8.1 update, the Apps screen can be accessed from the Start screen by swiping up from the bottom of the screen, or right-clicking anywhere, and then choosing All apps.

    If you're using a keyboard or mouse, a really quick way to open a Command Prompt window in Windows 8 is through the Power User Menu—just hold the WIN and X keys down together, or right-click the Start button, and choose Command Prompt.

  2. Swipe or scroll to the right on the Apps screen to locate the Windows System section heading.

  3. Select Command Prompt. You can now execute whatever command you needed to run.

    See our List of Windows 8 Command Prompt Commands for a complete list of the commands available through Command Prompt in Windows 8, including short descriptions and links to more in-depth information if we have it.

Open Command Prompt in Windows 7, Vista, or XP

  1. Open the Start menu from the bottom-left corner of the screen.

    In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, it's a bit faster to enter command in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and then choose Command Prompt when it appears in the results.

  2. Go to All Programs > Accessories.

  3. Choose Command Prompt from the list of programs.

    Here's our List of Windows 7 Commands, List of Windows Vista Commands, and List of Windows XP Commands if you need a command reference for any of those versions of Windows.

Other Ways to Open Command Prompt

Command Prompt in Windows XP through Windows 10 can also be opened with a command. This is especially helpful if you like using the Run dialog box or if Windows Explorer has crashed and the Start menu is inaccessible (and thus the directions above don't work).

To do this, enter cmd into the command-line interface. This can be in the Run dialog box (WIN+R) or Task Manager's File > Run new task menu.

cmd command in Windows task manager

Elevated Command Prompts and Old Windows Versions

In versions of Windows released before Windows XP, like Windows 98 and Windows 95, Command Prompt doesn't exist. However, the older and very similar MS-DOS Prompt does. This program is located in the Start menu and can be opened with the command run command.

Some commands, like the sfc command that's used to repair Windows files, require that Command Prompt be opened as an administrator before they can be executed. You'll know if this is the case if you get a message like one of these after trying to execute the command:

  • check that you have administrative rights
  • ... command can only be executed from an elevated command prompt
  • you must be an administrator
sfc scannow elevated prompt message

See How to Open an Elevated Command Prompt for help starting Command Prompt as an administrator, a process that's a bit more complicated than what's outlined above.