The reason you should know at least

Written by Monika Scott for a school paper in 1997


Many people buying computers today are under the impression they don't need to know anything about DOS. They feel that Windows (whatever version), takes care of anything and as long as they learn this part, they need not worry. That may be true, if you use your computer only for certain things and don't worry about deleting certain things, finding certain stuff, or fixing problems on your own. If you have plenty of money, then don't worry about DOS. Just call somebody that does know what in the world is going on and pay him good money to fix it. I for one, do not own a money tree, nor a golden Duck. I also like to use my computer extensively.

In the beginning, I also was under the impression that DOS was a waste of time to learn. I mean, after all, what did I buy a computer with Windows for? I felt this way until... well, until I tried to access certain programs I could not find in Windows, but was sure they existed somewhere. The next thing I noticed, was the deleting of files. Yes, I could make them vanish from Windows, but they were still in my startup and caused error messages to appear. So I decided to learn just a little about this Monster called DOS.

DOS was developed in 1980, has improved constantly ever since and to this day, is needed to run your computer. Without it, your PC would be as dumb as that guy next door who keeps beating himself up with a baseball bat.

Why DOS?

Even though we now have Windows 7 (updated), etc, it is still a good idea to know at least the basics of DOS. Not only does it come in handy when you're trying to look what exactly your computer is made up of, or to know what is in your Win.ini file (the stuff that comes up every time you start your computer), but it's also good for deleting certain items, especially when you don't have the original disk anymore and you cannot use it's delete. Why? Because even though you delete the items from windows, they may still be in your computer. Or Windows will not let you delete the item. Instead, Windows will display the message "Item is used by Windows" (or something to this effect). This means, that DOS has this program written somewhere, and because you don't know DOS, you will have to pay lots of money and call someone to fix it for you.

There are also reasons why you could consider DOS being better than Windows. Take for example it's size. Windows 95 takes up more than 30 times as much space as DOS did in it's original Operating System form. DOS takes a lot less memory to work properly and is a lot faster than Windows. The programs in DOS load faster, DOS upgrades were cheaper, and... DOS doesn't crash. Besides, even though many people think that Multitasking is not possible in DOS, think again.

Several things you are unable to do in Windows, you can in DOS. Take for example renaming a whole group of files. Windows will only let you rename one. With other tasks, Windows can get really complicated. When you want to copy a group of files, it takes 7 steps in Windows, where it only takes one in DOS. When renaming a files extension, you have to do it in DOS. And the reason DOS games still exist, is because DOS gives up more "control" than Windows. The only draw-back about DOS - it's undeniably in it's dying stage.

What to do with DOS!

There is one huge hang-up to DOS: It will respond with "Bad command or file name" if you don't know "DOS Language". "Gimmy that file I worked on yesterday" just won't do it. You need to know it's commands and type it accurately, before DOS will respond. Even a forgotten or extra space can throw this Monster out of his socks. So, be careful! Now, you know what a prompt is, so I won't get into that. However, did you know that you can change the prompt to whatever you want it to be? Let's have some fun with the prompt. At the DOS prompt, type "prompt Hey, what's up?", and see what happens. You can really get somebody going if you get to their computer and type "prompt Attention, your hard drive is being formatted... please wait...

Let's get to business: What do you do when you want to check your directory (the stuff on your hard drive)? You type DIR at the prompt. If you want to display one page at a time (cause your not that kind of a speed reader), type DIR/P to see page by page, or DIR/W to see a five-column short-name-only list. To look at a file, you type "TYPE FILENAME.EXT" after the prmpt.

Now, like I mentioned earlier, how in the world do you find a file when you lost it? Well, you can use the DIR explained up above. If you know the whole name of the file, you can type "DIR"/filename"/S" and DOS will search the entire hard drive for your file. I am aware that there is a feature in Windows which supposed to do the same, but I had no luck in Windows and did find it in DOS. So, if you can't find it in Windows, it's worth a try.

Ok, let's get to the Win.ini file. That's the file that tells you what your computer is supposed to do when you turn it on. It tells the computer "ok, now you will bring up the screen saver and if there is no action within 30 seconds, you will have the screen saver go into action." It tells about the sound, or your software that installed itself in the start-up. You can even make changes in Win.ini by typing "edit Win. ini". Just be careful and don't say I didn't warn you. Now about the deleting stuff I told you about: If it won't let you delete it in Windows, go to DOS, type "Attrib filename.extension -R" and whoopdidah, the file is gone.

Before we finish here, I really want to tell which words NEVER to type at the prompt. It could have effects you really don't want:

DEL*.* This would delete all the files in the drive, cause *.* is for any extension.
CITY This can disconnect your keyboard and monitor from DOS.
DELTREE This also deletes whatever Tree you have (could be the whole thing).
REPLACE This will replace all of your files on your hard drive with junk.

Like I said, don't say I didn't warn you. And don't come to me if you have problems. :-)


OK! We have talked about people who don't know anything about DOS. I gave you plenty of reasons to read on and learn a little about DOS, and you took the time and read about DOS language, what to do at the prompt for those certain things you want to accomplish, like deleting files, changing your start up, or checking what's going on or where a file went you know you have but cannot find. Now don't blame me when you get into your DOS, type some command I've never told you about and then wonder why your computer won't do anything. All I can say is: I hope you didn't format your Hard drive, cause if you don't know much, now is the time you will have to pay for that computer nerd you wanted to avoid in the first place. But if you did, try to put that disk in you got with your computer that says restore, turn on your computer and see what happens.

Have fun and don't delete stuff just because you don't know what it is and therefore think you don't need. :-)

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