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Just What Is DOS?

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 by | Filed Under: File & Disk Management, I've Always Wanted To Know...

Lamar from Los Angeles writes:

Sometimes in your tips I see a reference to DOS. Please tell me what DOS is, it’s uses and benefits. Thank you.

DOS is an acronym for Disk Operating System. Most of the time, it also refers to MS-DOS or Microsoft Disk Operating System. This was originally developed as a standard operating system for all IBM-compatible computers which were created by Microsoft. 


This was the first operating system installed on almost all computers many years ago. It is pure text and command system which is not at all user-friendly to the average PC user. When you open the program, it would prompt you to enter a command:

The first-ever Microsoft Windows OS released was an application that runs on top of MS-DOS. Now, all Windows operating systems still continue to support DOS for different special purposes by emulating the system itself.

MS-DOS commands are simple to remember and use and it has proven to be a stable operating system.  MS-DOS is the underlying OS for all modern versions of Window. DOS  does not take much space on your hard drive and can help you resolve issues with a crashed drive or format and run old DOS apps that will never run with newer versions of DOS or Windows. More importantly, even if you have a relatively slow computer, you could still access it very fast.

You can easily access MS-DOS on a Windows 7 PC by clicking Start, click All Programs, then choose Accessories and choose Command Prompt.

For a Windows 8 or 8.1 system just type Command Prompt in the search charm.

You’ll see a window with a black background with “C:\>” or something similar to “C:\Documents and Settings\User Name>”. This is what’s called the command line and this shows what directory you’re currently in. 

 Here are some of the commands commonly used in MS-DOS or Command Prompt:

CD – this changes the current directory

COPY – used to copy files

DEL – used to delete files

DIR – provides list of all directory contents

HELP – displays information about the MS-DOS commands

MKDIR – used to create a new directory

RD – used to remove a directory

REN – used to rename a file

~ Heather Buford

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3 Responses to “Just What Is DOS?”

  1. Ronald vanderBosch says:

    Great seeing DOS again after all these years! (I still remembered most of the commands)

  2. MarkJ says:

    was the first operating system installed on almost all computers many years ago.

    Heather, Heather, Heather, there were so many different types of computers and operating systems before the IBM PC and PC-DOS/MS-DOS that I can’t even begin to list them all.

  3. an oldie says:

    Many inaccuracies including:
    PC DOS was the initial OS supplied on IBM PC’s but IBM did not have ownership of the OS structure and code, so a certain Mr. Gates, and associates marketed MS-DOS in competition, and then improved, and extended it (past what IBM could legally do) to eventually become the underlying code for windows (up to version 3, and then windows95.

    However AFAIK, until recently Microsoft have not made computers at all.
    And the OS was directed at computers running the Intel CPU’s 8086 80186 and upwards.
    Note much of the file structure and internals of PC/MS DOS are based on DR-DOS concept.

    And when mentioning the windows ‘cmd’ facility, why not mention the help that is available by entering help or entering a command with the /? operator, or going into windows help and entering a keyword of “command”, and then following that with a reference to the windows equivalent of DOS .BAT files – the CMD file type.

    Also may have been of particular value to mention the SET command that shows the users file pointers and other values, as well as the DIR option /N /R and /X that show bits the normal filemanager hides.

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