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I argued with my friend that the Command Prompt is just a GUI version of MS-DOS which works in the Windows forms environment. He totally disagrees with me.

Who is right?

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2  
What has your research told you so far? –  slhck Jul 20 '12 at 12:58
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cmd.exe is a whole different beast from MS-DOS. –  Sathya Jul 20 '12 at 12:59
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MS-DOS is an operating system. The Windows command prompt is an interface that looks like MS-DOS. –  Oliver Salzburg Jul 20 '12 at 12:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 7 down vote accepted

This was true once, but it isn't anymore.

From MS-DOS # Windows command-line interface - Wikipedia:

All versions of Microsoft Windows have had an MS-DOS like command-line interface (CLI). This could run many DOS and variously Win32, OS/2 1.x and Posix command line utilities in the same command-line session, allowing piping between commands. The user interface, and the icon up to Windows 2000, followed the native MS-DOS interface.

Consumer Windows (up to 3.11, Win9x, WinME) ran as a Graphical User Interface (GUI) running on top of MS-DOS. With Windows 95, 98, and ME the MS-DOS part was integrated, treating both operating systems as a complete package. The command line accessed the DOS command line (usually command.com), through a Windows module (winoldap.mod).

A new line of Windows, (Windows NT), boot through a kernel whose sole purpose is to load Windows. One can not run Win32 applications in the loader system in the manner that OS/2, UNIX or Consumer Windows can launch character mode sessions.

So no, in every Windows from the NT family (e.g., XP, Vista, 7, 8), the command prompt and MS-DOS are visually similar, but quite different.

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They are different things - The Command Prompt is Not MS-DOS - but as far as the user is concerned they could be the same thing as they do the same things.

So it depends on your point of view. From a technical point of view your friend it correct, but from a user perspective you are correct (sort of as there are differences that an expert would spot).

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I think you mean the opposite right? He is the one who is technically correct because they are not literally the same thing, the friend is the one who practically correct because they are the same thing to the user. –  Brad Jul 20 '12 at 17:34
    
@Brad - the way I read the question was that the OP said they were the same but his friend said they weren't. –  ChrisF Jul 20 '12 at 20:36

From what I understand, MS-DOS is the disk operating system that Microsoft released. The command prompt is a non-graphical interface that allows you to interact with your operating system.

Command Prompt is a command line interpreter application available in most Windows operating systems, officially called the Windows Command Processor but sometimes called the command shell. Command Prompt is a Windows program that emulates many of the command line abilities available in MS-DOS but it is not actually MS-DOS.

Command Prompt is a GUI version of command.com in MS-DOS. cmd.exe is a native Windows application usually running in a Win32 console. This allows it to take advantage of features available to native programs on the platform that are otherwise unavailable to DOS programs.

For example, since cmd.exe is a native text-mode application on OS/2, it can use real pipes in command pipelines, allowing both sides of the pipeline to run concurrently. As a result, it is possible to redirect the standard error in cmd.exe, unlike COMMAND.COM. (COMMAND.COM uses temporary files, and runs the two sides serially, one after the other.)

In reality, cmd.exe is a Windows program that acts as a DOS-like command line interpreter. It is generally compatible, but provides extensions which address some of the limitations of COMMAND.COM (above explanations are referred by Wikipedia).

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Your friend is right. MS-DOS is/was an Operating System (Microsoft Disk Operating System is what the acronym stands for.) The UI for DOS is called a (the) command prompt.

The first few versions of Windows ran on top of DOS (making them technically operating environments, though I'm not sure anybody makes that distinction anymore), but later OSes, starting with the NT Kernel, didn't - DOS was gone.

However, people still needed the functionality provided by the command prompt, and instead of command.com we got command.exe (and these days cmd.exe), which when run gives us a command prompt.

But, that's not the only (nor anywhere near the first) command prompt that people have used. Command Prompts are also called Shells, and Unix has many, and the commands are different and often very powerful. Speaking of Power, Microsoft has created a new command prompt for Windows called PowerShell which is incredibly powerful and interesting. See Wikipedia for more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Command-line_interface#Operating_System_Command-Line_Interfaces

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> The UI for DOS is called a (the) command prompt. Also “command-line”. –  Synetech Jul 20 '12 at 17:31
    
and CLI or command line interface. –  Mark Allen Jul 20 '12 at 17:41
    
Technically, CLI is a type of interface, not a particular instance of one. It would be like calling a Windows a GUI (e.g., I used the Windows GUI). You can say it, and it is technically true/accurate, but it would just be weird. –  Synetech Jul 20 '12 at 17:44
    
I just call it a command prompt. :) –  Mark Allen Jul 20 '12 at 18:51
    
I just call it DOS (at least I used to, for some time now, I have been reluctantly calling it pure DOS). –  Synetech Jul 20 '12 at 19:02

No.

(Unless your definition of equality does not extend past »It is a text interface and I can run programs from it.«)

What is run when you click Command Prompt in the Start Menu is the Windows Command Processor, a.k.a. cmd.exe. Its built-in commands and scripting syntax (including many quirks) are based on the ancient command.com from CP/M and later MS-DOS, but apart from that they are completely separate things. Also, command.com is a 16-bit program while cmd.exe is a native Windows console application.

Things were different in Windows 95, 98 and ME where command.com would be run in a MS-DOS VM with Windows acting as the hypervisor (yes, they had that sort of thing at the time already). There you had an entire virtual machine running DOS. But on Windows NT, 2000, XP, Vista and 7 – no. DOS only lives on there in ntvdm.exe which is the NT Virtual DOS Machine which is just a thin emulation layer capturing calls that the CPU cannot execute directly (which is why it works faster but worse than DOSBox).

In any case, even command.com was just a shell for DOS. It wasn't the operating system.

Inside, I actually cringe each time I see people referring to a window with gray-on-black text as MS-DOS. In the vast majority of cases they don't actually know what they're referring to.

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