What Is a Redirection Operator?

Change where to send a command's output

A redirection operator is a special character that can be used with a command, like a Command Prompt command or DOS command, to either redirect the input to the command or the output from the command.

By default, when you execute a command, the input comes from the keyboard and the output is sent to the Command Prompt window. Command inputs and outputs are called command handles.

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Redirection Operators in Windows and MS-DOS

The table below lists all the available redirection operators for commands in Windows and MS-DOS. However, the > and >> redirection operators are, by a considerable margin, the most commonly used.

Redirection Operators Cheat Sheet
Redirection Operator Explanation Example
> The greater-than sign is used to send to a file, or even a printer or other device, whatever information from the command would have been displayed in the Command Prompt window had you not used the operator. assoc > types.txt
>> The double greater-than sign works just like the single greater-than sign but the information is appended to the end of the file instead of overwriting it. ipconfig >> netdata.txt
< The less-than sign is used to read the input for a command from a file instead of from the keyboard. sort < data.txt
| The vertical pipe is used to read the output from one command and use if for the input of another. dir | sort

Two other redirection operators, >& and <&, also exist but deal mostly with more complicated redirection involving command handles.

The clip command is worth mentioning here as well. It's not a redirection operator but it is intended to be used with one, usually the vertical pipe, to redirect the output of the command before the pipe to the Windows clipboard.

For example, executing ping | clip will copy the results of the ping command to the clipboard, which you can then paste into any program.

How to Use a Redirection Operator

The redirection operator is added after the normal command is written.

The ipconfig command is a common way to find various network settings through Command Prompt. One way to execute it is by entering ipconfig /all in the Command Prompt window.

When you do that, the results are displayed within Command Prompt and are then only useful elsewhere if you copy them from the Command Prompt screen. That is unless you use a redirection operator to redirect the results to a different place like a file.

Ipconfig Command Redirection Operator

ipconfig /all > networksettings.txt
ipconfig redirection operator

If we look at the first redirection operator in the table above, we can see that the greater-than sign can be used to send the command's results to a file. This example command above is how you'd send the results of ipconfig /all to a text file called networksettings.txt.

Dir Command Redirection Operator

The dir command is another situation where a redirection operator is really useful. Since that command often produces results too long to read comfortably in a Command Prompt window, exporting all of it to a text document is wise.

dir C:\Users\Tim\Downloads > downloads.txt

In that example, all files and folders in that user's Downloads folder will be shown in the downloads.txt file.

The TXT file is saved in the same folder the command is executed from, not necessarily the folder used in the command. In this example, if the command runs from Users\Tim, the downloads.txt file will be saved there, not in Tim\Downloads.

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