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What is MS-DOS?

This section introduces MS-DOS and shows how it helps you to use your computer easily. MS-DOS has a number of powerful features.

MS-DOS – is one of the first operating systems that look after the running of your computer; and like other operating systems, manages the flow of information to and from the various parts of your computer systems. It lets you create and keep track of files, run and link programs, and make use of peripheral devices (for example, printers and disk drives) attached to your computer.

Because your computer can run with one of several different operating systems (for example, MS-DOS, CP/M) the operating system is not built into the computer. Instead, it is loaded from disk when the computer is started up.

Once the operating system has been loaded into the computer's memory the disk from which it was loaded may be removed if required. The operating system needs to be reloaded only if part has been overwritten (when using very large programs, for example) or when the computer is restarted. You work with MS-DOS by typing or choosing commands, which direct your system to perform these tasks:

- Manage files and directories;

- Maintain disks;

- Configure hardware;

- Optimize the use of memory;

- Speed up programs;

- Customize MS-DOS;

There are two ways you can work with MS-DOS – by using MS-DOS Shell or by typing commands at the command prompt.

MS-DOS Command Line.The MS-DOS command line is where you type commands. The command prompt indicates that you are at the command line. The prompt may be the drive letter followed by a backslash (C:\or A:\, for example) or a backslash and the name directory (C; \STATUS, for example).

The letter indicates which disk drive is the current drive. MS-DOS searches the current drive for the information it needs to process the commands you type.

To direct MS-DOS to perform a task, you type a command and then press ENTER. Characters appear to the right of the command prompt as you type.

Entering MS-DOS commands.You have to follow a number of rules when entering MS-DOS commands. You must type everything exactly including all punctuation, such as commas, colons, slash symbols and equal signs. Some commands need extra information that you supply. This is shown in italics.

A typical example of how to use a command looks like this:

- enter TYPE filename

This means you must enter TYPE followed by a space, exactly as shown. Then you must enter a filename of your choice and press the Enter key. TYPE is the name of the command and filename is a parameter that varies.

There are several other rules that you must follow, these are described in detail at the beginning of the section on MS-DOS commands.

MS-DOS Shell.In addition to the command line, you can use MS-DOS Shell to work with many of the MS-DOS commands. MS-DOS Shell offers a visual way of working with MS-DOS. It displays drives, directories, files, and programs available for your use.

The commands in MS-DOS Shell are listed in menus; the names of these menus are located across the top of the screen. You use a command in MS-DOS Shell by choosing it from a menu with the keyboard or a mouse. Keep in mind that not all MS-DOS commands can be used in MS-DOS Shell; you must type some commands at the command prompt.

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