Windows Cmd: Reports of my death are greatly exagerrated

26th January 2017

An essential part of every Windows-infrastructure was declared dead before Christmas, but you can relax. Cmd is alive and kicking.

I don’t know about you, but around the holidays I tend to miss some of the tech-news. That happened to me this Christmas.

I was happily ignorant about the apparent death of a long time friend which I have many fond – and sometimes frustrating – memories; the Windows Command-Line Shell.

Notes for Windows 10 Insiders build 14971 mentions that Powershell will be the defacto command shell from File Explorer

Apparently, it had executed its last command around December 6th and an obituary was duly written in Computerworld [1] and over the following days in Business Insider [2], Life Hacker [3] and other publications.

Alternative Facts – don’t trust them

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. It turned out that the stories were wrong – or as it is also known these days; alternative facts [4].

Shortly after New Year, maybe still with champagne bubbling through his veins (that could also be an alternative fact, as I have no way of knowing), Microsoft’s Rich Turner felt compelled to write a strong rebuttal of the rumours that were still flying around – just as the fireworks had done a few days earlier.

With an extra big font, underlining, capital letters and exclamation mark, Rich Turner was shouting on his blog:

“The Windows Cmd / Command-Line shell is NOT being removed from Windows in the near or distant future! [5]

Vital feature not going away

The reason for the shouting was there are millions of businesses, developers and IT professionals using the Cmd shell on a daily basis, and Rich Turner did not want them to worry about whether one of the essential Windows features would suddenly be discontinued. That would be a disaster for developers, system-administrators and businesses alike as well as a major PR-catastrophe for Microsoft.

As Rich Turner put it – now with normal font and without underlining and capital letters, so I assume he had calmed down a bit (but not completely, as there were still a couple of exclamation marks):

“Cmd is one of the most frequently run executables on Windows with a similar number of daily launches as File Explorer, Edge and Internet Explorer!

Many of our customers and partners are totally dependent on Cmd, and all it’s quirks, for their companies’ existence!

In short: Cmd is an absolutely vital feature of Windows and, until there’s almost nobody running Cmd scripts or tools, Cmd will remain within Windows.” [5]

Powershell as default

So where did this alternative fact come from?

It turns out that the release notes for the Windows 10 Insiders build 14971 [6] mentions that Powershell will be the defacto command shell from File Explorer:

“It replaces Command Prompt (aka, “cmd.exe”) in the WIN + X menu, in File Explorer’s File menu, and in the context menu that appears when you shift-right-click the whitespace in File Explorer. Typing “cmd” (or “PowerShell”) in File Explorer’s address bar will remain a quick way to launch the command shell at that location. For those who prefer to use Command Prompt, you can opt out of the WIN + X change by opening Settings > Personalization > Taskbar, and turning ‘Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell in the menu when I right-click the Start button or press Windows key+X’ to ‘Off’ “. [6]

So, please note that you can opt out of using Windows Powershell as defacto command shell and return to use Command Prompt as default. Even more important; Command Prompt is still available no matter what default command shell you choose. In Rich Turner’s words:

“So, to be ultra-clear here: All that’s happening is that, in the [Win] + [X] (“Power User’s menu”), or File Explorer’s File menu, PowerShell is presented instead of Cmd. That’s all! Nothing is being removed, your scripts will continue to run just as they always have, the sky is not falling! ?”
(He’s still on the exclamation mark, but now with a wry smile, so I think he is recovering).

Just say No

So, if your IT-manager – or maybe even some non-technical manager that has picked up some rumours about Cmd’s demise – starts asking questions, you should do as Rich Turner suggests:

“If you do see anyone claiming that Cmd is being removed from Windows, please reply with one or more of “No! Nope! Niet! Non! Negative! Nuh-huh! [Shake head vigorously], etc.”, and refer them to this post. Thanks!”

Well, I can only add you can also try the Danish “Nej!” for No if the message is not getting through.

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[1] Say goodbye to the MS-DOS command prompt
[2] A famous part of MS-DOS, the program that made Bill Gates, is finally being retired
[3] A famous part of MS-DOS, the program that made Bill Gates, is finally being retired
[4] Kellyanne Conway’s ‘alternative facts’ comment sparks internet memes
[5] Rumors of Cmd’s death have been greatly exaggerated
[6] Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 14971 for PC

Dan Mygind

Author: Dan Mygind

Dan Mygind is a Journalist and Computer Scientist with a strong interest in technology, technology-related businesses, and the transforming effect source code can have on society.
He has worked for startups, SMEs and global IT-organisations such as IBM as a developer, consultant, and IT-architect. With a solid technology background, he has written extensively for a wide variety of publications such as Computerworld as well as writing technical white papers for Microsoft and other companies.

Contact Dan Mygind: mygind{at}writeit{dot}dk

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view and opinion of Curo Talent.

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