Top batch Questions

List of Tags
Chris Noe

What are some of the lesser know, but important and useful features of Windows batch files?


  • One feature per answer
  • Give both a short description of the feature and an example, not just a link to documentation
  • Limit answers to native funtionality, i.e., does not require additional software, like the Windows Resource Kit

Clarification: We refer here to scripts that are processed by cmd.exe, which is the default on WinNT variants.

(See also: Windows batch files: .bat vs .cmd?)

Answered By: Chris Noe ( 186)

Line continuation:

call C:\WINDOWS\system32\ntbackup.exe ^
    backup ^
    /V:yes ^
    /R:no ^
    /RS:no ^
    /HC:off ^
    /M normal ^
    /L:s ^
    @daily.bks ^
    /F daily.bkf
Chris Noe

As I understand it, .bat is the old 16-bit naming convention, and .cmd is for 32-bit Windows, i.e., starting with NT. But I continue to see .bat files everywhere, and they seem to work exactly the same using either suffix. Assuming that my code will never need to run on anything older than NT, does it really matter which way I name my batch files, or is there some gotcha awaiting me by using the wrong suffix?

Answered By: Chris Noe ( 143)

Here is a compilation of verified information from the various answers and cited references in this thread:

  1. is the 16-bit command processor introduced in MS-DOS and was also used in the Win9x series of operating systems.
  2. cmd.exe is the 32-bit command processor in Windows NT (64-bit Windows OSes also have a 64-bit version). cmd.exe was never part of Windows 9x. It originated in OS/2 version 1.0, and the OS/2 version of cmd began 16-bit (but was nonetheless a fully fledged protected mode program with commands like start). Windows NT inherited cmd from OS/2, but Windows NT's Win32 version started off 32-bit. Although OS/2 went 32-bit in 1992, its cmd remained a 16-bit OS/2 1.x program.
  3. The ComSpec env variable defines which program is launched by .bat and .cmd scripts. (Starting with WinNT this defaults to cmd.exe.)
  4. cmd.exe is backward compatible with
  5. A script that is designed for cmd.exe can be named .cmd to prevent accidental execution on Windows 9x. This filename extension also dates back to OS/2 version 1.0 and 1987.

Here is a list of cmd.exe features that are not supported by

  • Long filenames (exceeding the 8.3 format)
  • Command history
  • Tab completion
  • Escape character: ^ (Use for: \ & | > < ^)
  • Directory stack: PUSHD/POPD
  • Integer arithmetic: SET /A i+=1
  • Search/Replace/Substring: SET %varname:expression%
  • Command substitution: FOR /F (existed before, has been enhanced)
  • Functions: CALL :label

Order of Execution:

If both .bat and .cmd versions of a script (test.bat, test.cmd) are in the same folder and you run the script without the extension (test), by default the .bat version of the script will run, even on 64-bit Windows 7. The order of execution is controlled by the PATHEXT environment variable. See Order in which Command Prompt executes files for more details.


wikipedia: Comparison of command shells


I am looking for a way to delete all files older than 7 days in an MS-DOS batch file. I've searched around the web, and found some examples with hundreds of lines of code, and others that required installing extra command line utilities to accomplish the task. Similar things can be done in BASH in just a couple lines of code. It seems that something at least remotely easy could be done for batch files in Windows. I'm looking for a solution that works in a standard Windows command prompt, without any extra utilities. Please no PowerShell or Cygwin either.

Answered By: aku ( 265)


forfiles -p "C:\what\ever" -s -m *.* -d <number of days> -c "cmd /c del @path"

See forfile documentation for more details.

For more goodies refer to An A-Z Index of the Windows XP command line

If you don't have forfiles installed on your machine, get it from Microsoft FTP server. Place it to C:\WINDOWS\system32\forfiles.exe Recent versions of Windows and Windows Server have it installed by default.

Update Win7: Syntax has changed a little therefore the updated command is:

forfiles -p "C:\what\ever" -s -m *.* /D -<number of days> /C "cmd /c del @path"

I needed to pass id and password to a cmd (or bat) file at the time of running rather than hardcoding them into the file.

Here's how I do it.

@echo off
fake-command /u %1 /p %2

Here's what the command line looks like:

test.cmd admin P@55w0rd > test-log.txt

The %1 applies to the first parameter the %2 (and here's the tricky part) applies to the second. You can have up to 9 parameters passed in this way.

Afterward: This is my first attempt to answer my own question which, to hear Jeff discuss it is a "...perfectly acceptable...." way of using SO. I'm just not certain if there's already a format for doing it.

Answered By: Keng ( 24)

Here's my answer in the new correct 'answer your own question' format.

Here's how I do it.

@fake-command /u %1 /p %2

Here's what the command line looks like:

test.cmd admin P@55w0rd > test-log.txt

The %1 applies to the first parameter the %2 (and here's the tricky part) applies to the second. You can have up to 9 parameters passed in this way.