How to Open Command Prompt

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

Screenshot of the Command Prompt in Windows 10
Command Prompt (Windows 10).

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.

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.

Time Required: Opening Command Prompt will probably only take you several seconds, no matter what version of Windows you're using, and much less once you learn how to do it.

Open Command Prompt in Windows 10

  1. Select the Start button.

  2. Type cmd.

    Screenshot showing how to search for Command Prompt in Windows 10
    Opening Command Prompt in Windows 10.
  3. Click or tap Command Prompt from the list.

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

  1. Select the Start button.

  2. Find the Windows System folder from the list of apps and tap or click it.

  3. Under the Windows System folder, click or tap Command Prompt.

One more method for opening Command Prompt in Windows 10 is via 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.

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 In more recent versions of Windows 10, Command Prompt has been replaced by PowerShell, but you can still access it from the Power User Menu by editing the taskbar settings.

Right-click or tap-and-hold the taskbar, select Taskbar settings, and then disable the option called Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu when I right-click the start button or press Windows key+X.

Open Command Prompt in Windows 8 or 8.1

Screenshots showing how to open Command Prompt in Windows 8
Opening Command Prompt in Windows 8.
  1. Swipe up to show the Apps screen. You can accomplish the same thing with a mouse by clicking on 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 via the Power User Menu - just hold the WIN and X keys down together, or right-click the Start button, and choose Command Prompt.

  2. Now that you're on the Apps screen, swipe or scroll to the right and locate the Windows System section heading.

  3. Under Windows System, tap or click Command Prompt.

    A new Command Prompt window will open on the Desktop.

  4. 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 via 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

Screenshots showing how to open Command Prompt in Windows 7
Opening Command Prompt in Windows 7.
  1. Click Start (Windows XP) or the Start button (Windows 7 or Vista).

    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 click Command Prompt when it appears in the results.

  2. Click All Programs, followed by Accessories.

  3. Choose Command Prompt from the list of programs.

    Command Prompt should open right away.

  4. You can use Command Prompt to execute commands. 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.

The CMD Command, Elevated Command Prompts, & Windows 98 & 95

In any version of Windows, like shown for Windows 10 above, Command Prompt can also be opened by executing the cmd run command, which you can do from any Search or Cortana field in Windows, or via the Run dialog box (you can open the Run dialog box with the Win+R keyboard shortcut).

In versions of Windows released before Windows XP, like Windows 98 and Windows 95, Command Prompt does not 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 "check that you have administrative rights" or "... command can only be executed from an elevated command prompt" message after trying to execute the command.

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.