How to Boot a Computer in DOS Mode

By Darryl Brooks

Updated September 28, 2017

There are many times when you might want to boot a computer into DOS mode. If the Windows registry or some of the Windows startup files become corrupt, you or an experienced technician may be able to solve some of these problems from the DOS prompt. To access the DOS prompt, you need to reboot the computer and get to the “Boot Menu.”

Restart the computer and press the “F8” key when you see a small flashing cursor in the upper left corner. If the Windows screen comes up, then you’ve missed it and you will need to reboot again.

Choose “Safe Mode with Command Prompt” from the boot menu that comes up. A lot of data will flash by on the screen, eventually replaced by the “C:\” DOS prompt.

Use traditional DOS commands to navigate and troubleshoot the computer. When finished, enter “Exit” or reboot the computer back into Windows.


In older versions of Windows, you will not be able to type in folder names longer than eight characters. If you get errors when you try a “ChDir” command, shorten the folder name to six characters and append a “~1” on the end. For example, a folder called “Program Files” would become “Progra~1.”

There is no DOS mode in Windows 7. You can run “Cmd.exe” from the run menu to get to a DOS prompt, but this will not help troubleshoot Windows startup problems.


DOS commands such as "Erase" will not put the file into the Recycle Bin, so don’t use any DOS commands with which you are unfamiliar.