What Is DOS and How to Use It? [MiniTool Wiki]

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What is DOS

DOS (Disk Operating System) is a kind of operation system on personal computer. Before Windows appeared, the mainstream operating system was DOS. From 1981 to 1995, DOS occupied a pivotal position in the IBM PC compatible machine market.

disk operating system

The family of DOS includes MS-DOS, PC-DOS, DR-DOS, PTS-DOS, ROM-DOS, Free-DOS, JM-OS, etc., among which MS-DOS developed by Microsoft is the most famous. Although these systems are often referred to as "DOS", few of them are simply named "DOS" (only one unrelated 1960s IBM mainframe operating system named after it).

After launching the Windows 95, Microsoft announced that MS-DOS would no longer release the new version separately. While Free-DOS etc., and other MS-DOS compatible DOS continue to develop.

DOS is a single user, single tasking, non-graphical command line operation system. As an operating system, it is simple, compact and very powerful, though it is overtaken by newer, more user-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) operating system Windows now.

About MS-DOS

As we mentioned before, MS-DOS is one of DOS family which is released by Microsoft and is the most famous DOS. Most computer users are only familiar with how to navigate Microsoft Windows with the mouse.

Unlike Windows, MS-DOS uses MS-DOS commands for navigation. For example, if you want to view all the files in a folder in Windows, double-click the folder to open it in Windows Explorer. In MS-DOS, you will use the cd command to navigate to the folder and then use the dir command to list the files in that folder.

Although MS-DOS stopped releasing new versions after 1997, the DOS operating system itself is still an important part of today’s computing world. Many enterprises and independent programmers still rely on DOS to deal with many embedded applications. DOS is still alive because it is a highly compact and efficient operating system that runs well with very little maintenance.

Technically, MS-DOS is no longer popular and Microsoft has made it clear that it will not update this operating system. But MS-DOS continues to be used around the world and is responsible for many embedded applications. MS-DOS may be not a very important operating system anymore, but it still has value and deserves programmer’s attention.

How to Use DOS?

When Windows 95/Windows 98 appeared, they were essentially based on DOS plus a graphical interface. And in the Windows 2000/Windows XP series, DOS is transformed into an embedded subsystem. On their desktop, DOS is equivalent to a command console that can input commands. Sometimes, problems that cannot be handled by the desktop system can be transferred to the DOS window.

Today, Windows operating systems continue to support DOS or in other words - a DOS-like user interface, for special purposes. It is now pretty much hidden but it still exists.

What does DOS do? For example, we need a computer commander to command, just as we human depend on the brain to command things like work and study. The commander of the computer is DOS. Of course, you become the commander-in-chief: you command the DOS to let the DOS manipulate the computer.

So, how to use DOS? The basic idea is to get into the command prompt window and enter the DOS commands.

If you are using a computer with DOS as the operating system, a command prompt is automatically displayed when you turn on your computer. If you are using a Windows computer, you will need to manually launch a command prompt. It can be accessed by typing Win button and R simultaneously. Then type cmd(short for the command) in the pop-out box and then you should be in DOS, also known as a Command Prompt.

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