I don't want to boot into Windows for certain tasks.

How can I boot my machine straight to a C:/> Prompt?

  • Does the F8 menu still have the Command Prompt as a boot option now-a-days? Dec 11, 2009 at 21:27
  • 2
    What Windows version are you running?
    – Beaner
    Dec 11, 2009 at 21:28

6 Answers 6


If you mean bring up a command prompt when you start Windows, you can always put a shortcut to cmd in the Startup group.

If you are talking about ONLY having the command prompt when you start -

Go in to the registry and go to:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

Look for a Key called Shell and change it's value to cmd.exe

As others have said in the comments, by doing the first, it will simply load a command prompt after explorer has loaded. If you do the second, you will need to type explorer at the command prompt in order to load explorer as only the command prompt will load.

  • Would he run explorer.exe to get into Windows when he wants a Windows session?
    – Beaner
    Dec 11, 2009 at 21:44
  • Would be good to note how to start windows normal shell from cmd.exe.
    – C. Ross
    Dec 11, 2009 at 21:50

You can boot into Safe Mode with a Command Prompt. Not quite the same, but you're loading the absolute minimum windows needs to run.

Unlike Windows 98, XP+ are completely seperate kernels that no longer run on top of DOS, so this behaviour is no longer possible.


Depending on what you want to do you can use Windows to make a DOS boot disk and boot with that instead of the normal boot. You can also install network drivers and there are drivers such as NTFS4DOS that allow you to read and write NTFS partitions, but it will take some more research to build your disk.


This is not actually possible on consumer Windows, and until recently, Windows Server.

So unless you are using Windows Server 2008, you cannot do this.


Windows 98 definitely could do this. I used the F8 trick to open a real mode dos prompt all the time, back then. In XP and later, however, that no longer exists. Thus, if you're running anything more recent than 98, which you almost certainly are, Windows just won't let you do this, you have to load Windows before you can get an (emulated) dos prompt.

The obvious solution, of course, would be to go find a copy of dos 6 (or FreeDos, or etc.), make yourself a partition, and dual-boot. But that's not perfect, either - my experience is, any form of real-mode dos prompt is likely going to be able to support either ntfs file systems (with some fiddling), or long file names, but not both.

(The safe mode that's been mentioned might also be a possibility... but I recall it being intentionally horribly crippled, as far as what you can run in it.)

  • Win9x could do this because Win9x still had 16bit and MS-DOS underpinning (albeit bypassed for some key device (like HDD) access). WinNT and successors (including Windows XP, Vista, and 7) do not have such underpinnings -- 32/64bits all the way down.
    – Richard
    Dec 12, 2009 at 13:09

In Later Windows XP+ versions you could boot into safe mode with Command prompt and then run C:.

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