Microsoft: Don’t worry, MS-DOS will live on after all

ms dos screenshot

It sure looked like Microsoft was putting MS-DOS out to pasture. Now it’s saying that the MS-DOS command prompt cmd will continue to live on.

According to a Microsoft spokesperson, “Microsoft is not removing Cmd from Windows, but rather changing the default shell, launched via File Explorer and the [Win] + [X] power-user menu, from Cmd to PowerShell. Users can opt to change the default shell back to Cmd via Settings and can continue to launch whichever shell they prefer, be it Cmd, PowerShell, or Bash (if enabled) via the Start menu. The Windows Cmd shell has a long heritage and is an essential tool used by millions of businesses, users, and developers every day. It remains an integral part of Windows.”

Microsoft may be making this move because, while to most of us the last pieces of MS-DOS hidden within Windows 10 are a historical curiosity, others still use them. These people were not happy about cmd being replaced by PowerShell.

One Computerworld reader explained, “I use command prompt almost every day for small stuff. PowerShell does a lot more but for some reason every time I try to do some easy stuff with the old commands I know it doesn’t always work out and I end up in a long internet search about how to just get it to work.”

Some system administrators still like it as well. One wrote, “I have 5+ CMD windows open all the time. I’m hitting remote systems across the country with ease. No need to learn a bloated PS if I already have all the tools I need at my finger tips.”

On Reddit, a reader added, “the convenience of a .BAT [MS-DOS Batch file] is unparalleled by a PS1 {PowerShell Script]. Not in functionality, but in usability and ‘quick and dirty is fine — just do it’ kind of way. Kind of like how inherently glue is more diverse, more rugged, more specialized than duct tape.”

Another Computerworld reader added, “If they don’t implement some kind of emulation environment they are going to really tick off businesses with DOS based software; backwards compatability (or lack of it) is why so many still use Windows XP.

XP? Yes, XP is still alive, albeit sickly, in China, the U.S. Navy and healthcare.

XP, however, really is heading out the door. But MS-DOS, or its final bits, will still be living on. They won’t be as easy to get to, but cmd will live on.

If you really, really love MS-DOS and still want to run WordStar, the first popular PC word processor, or play Doom, the first great first-person shooter game, you may want to look to FreeDOS. This is an open-source version of DOS. It’s compatible with most MS-DOS programs.

So, while Microsoft is keeping cmd around, albeit on the back burner, if you still must have the full MS-DOS and your floppy disks have long since given up their magnetic ghosts, FreeDOS will let you keep running your DOS programs for years, maybe decades, to come.

If, however, you want to manage modern Windows systems, it’s well past time that you picked up PowerShell. Sooner or later, cmd.exe is going to disappear into that great bit-farm in the sky.

This story, “Microsoft: Don’t worry, MS-DOS will live on after all” was originally published by Computerworld.

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