10 Windows 7 commands every administrator should know

The command line is often the best place to resolve Windows 7 desktop problems. These basic commands will help speed your troubleshooting tasks.

Holiday rerun: An oldie-but-a-goodie, these command-line basics topped the list of popular troubleshooter posts last year.

PC troubleshooting is becoming less common in larger organizations, but consultants and techs in smaller shops still have to get their hands dirty identifying and fixing desktop problems. Oftentimes, troubleshooting Windows 7 means delving into the command line. Here are 10 fundamental Windows 7 commands you might find helpful.

Before I begin...

This article is intended solely as an introduction to some useful troubleshooting commands. Many of them offer numerous optional switches, which I won't cover here due to space limitations. You can find out more about each command by checking out TechNet's command-line reference.

1: System File Checker

Malicious software will often attempt to replace core system files with modified versions in an effort to take control of the system. The System File Checker can be used to verify the integrity of the Windows system files. If any of the files are found to be missing or corrupt, they will be replaced. You can run the System File Checker by using this command:

sfc /scannow

2: File Signature Verification

One way to verify the integrity of a system is to make sure that all the system files are digitally signed. You can accomplish this with the File Signature Verification tool. This tool is launched from the command line but uses a GUI interface. It will tell you which system files are signed and which aren't. As a rule, all the system files should be digitally signed, although some hardware vendors don't sign driver files. The command used to launch the File Signature Verification tool is:


3: Driverquery

Incorrect device drivers can lead to any number of system problems. If you want to see which drivers are installed on a Windows 7 system, you can do so by running the driverquery tool. This simple command-line tool provides information about each driver that is being used. The command is:


If you need a bit more information, you can append the -v switch. Another option is to append the -si switch, which causes the tool to display signature information for the drivers. Here's how they look:

driverquery -v
driverquery -si

4: Nslookup

The nslookup tool can help you to verify that DNS name resolution is working correctly. When you run nslookup against a host name, the tool will show you how the name was resolved, as well as which DNS server was used during the lookup. This tool can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting problems related to legacy DNS records that still exist but that are no longer correct.

To use this tool, just enter the nslookup command, followed by the name of the host you want to resolve. For example:


5: Ping

Ping is probably the simplest of all diagnostic commands. It's used to verify basic TCP/IP connectivity to a network host. To use it, simply enter the command, followed by the name or IP address of the host you want to test. For example:


Keep in mind that this command will work only if Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) traffic is allowed to pass between the two machines. If at any point a firewall is blocking ICMP traffic, the ping will fail.

6: Pathping

Ping does a good job of telling you whether two machines can communicate with one another over TCP/IP, but if a ping does fail, you won't receive any information regarding the nature of the failure. This is where the pathping utility comes in.

Pathping is designed for environments in which one or more routers exist between hosts. It sends a series of packets to each router that's in the path to the destination host in an effort to determine whether the router is performing slowly or dropping packets. At its simplest, the syntax for pathping is identical to that of the ping command (although there are some optional switches you can use). The command looks like this:


7: Ipconfig

The ipconfig command is used to view or modify a computer's IP addresses. For example, if you wanted to view a Windows 7 system's full IP configuration, you could use the following command:

ipconfig /all

Assuming that the system has acquired its IP address from a DHCP server, you can use the ipconfig command to release and then renew the IP address. Doing so involves using the following commands:

ipconfig /release
ipconfig /renew

Another handy thing you can do with ipconfig is flush the DNS resolver cache. This can be helpful when a system is resolving DNS addresses incorrectly. You can flush the DNS cache by using this command:

ipconfig /flushdns

8: Repair-bde

If a drive that is encrypted with BitLocker has problems, you can sometimes recover the data using a utility called repair-bde. To use this command, you will need a destination drive to which the recovered data can be written, as well as your BitLocker recovery key or recovery password. The basic syntax for this command is:

repair-bde <source> <destination> -rk | rp <source>

You must specify the source drive, the destination drive, and either the rk (recovery key) or the rp (recovery password) switch, along with the path to the recovery key or the recovery password. Here are two examples of how to use this utility:

repair-bde c: d: -rk e:\recovery.bek
repair-bde c: d: -rp 111111-111111-111111-111111-111111-111111

9: Tasklist

The tasklist command is designed to provide information about the tasks that are running on a Windows 7 system. At its most basic, you can enter the following command:


The tasklist command has numerous optional switches, but there are a couple I want to mention. One is the -m switch, which causes tasklist to display all the DLL modules associated with a task. The other is the -svc switch, which lists the services that support each task. Here's how they look:

tasklist -m
tasklist -svc

10: Taskkill

The taskkill command terminates a task, either by name (which is referred to as the image name) or by process ID. The syntax for this command is simple. You must follow the taskkill command with -pid (process ID) or -im (image name) and the name or process ID of the task that you want to terminate. Here are two examples of how this command works:

taskkill -pid 4104
taskkill -im iexplore.exe


Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.


Hi, I have been writing some articles on windows commands on this blog  It has both trivial and some non trivial tips for people interested to do stuff from cmd. Hope it helps.


i think msconfig is important one , everyone should know it for startup setting


Nice article post and very help for me, but i have an another way to recover data files and folder from hard drive, Kernel for windows data recovery software to recover all over data documents from corrupted and formatted hard disk.


6. Pathping is very similar to tracert, but with less information

papa blogger
papa blogger

Sir but these commands very from the interface we use like wise some of them will be friendly with win 7 but they will not work with wista or older versioon so i wanna ask just 1 thing that the command prompt remain same in all version of windows or just vary with interface and one more thing that this command will also work with any linux os or not ??


I use the command prompt all day. Another tip I can give people is to use CMD+ from (I hope that link isn't considered spam here, just trying pass on something useful I've found recently).


I tested these commands on Windows XP command line and it works too. Thanks to make this list and to share it!


msconfig - surprised it wasn't mentioned. I usually use it disable/enable start up programs, remove my boot screen animation and reduce the time at the boot options. Has a lot more uses but check it out if you haven't.


All these commands are available at least back to XP SP3, if not earlier versions, and several were available in Win 2000. I remember a few from Win 98, Driverquery is handy but don't forget to pipe it to "more" (driverquery | more) otherwise you'll be scrolling back a lot.


Thanks very much for this article. Years ago I used to do a great deal more from the command line.(I am basically talking about the old days in dos) Yesy I am getting a little longer in the tooth and the memory is not quite as sharp as it used to be! Time for a defrag. It is great to find an article like this that I can find these commands. I used to pull out my old Amstrad manual when I needed to reference a command. Kudos to TechRepublic for all your great content!


Good standard list of commands that most sysadmins SHOULD know. Heck, the majority of vanilla techs should know these as well. What I would really like to see is a "10 Things" list, as well as explanations and uses of Windows Powershell for systems administration. Forgive me, (and enlighten me on its location... ;-P ) if there is already such an article in existence.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Did they change the name of tracert.exe or is there something different between pathping and the normal traceroute that everyone knows already?


But I will try. All the commands may not work on all OS's. Even within Windows. Off the top of my head. The system file checker is XP and greater. File Signature Verification and driver query is Vista or better. nslookup, NT4 I believe, I'm probably wrong. Ping, no idea, older than me I think Pathping, its the first I ever heard of it, but tracert which does the same thing is really old. ipconfig, no idea, but I miss winipcfg :( Repair-bde, Vista or better. Tasklist, I think Win95 but my last 95 machine died last year so I cant test it. Taskkill. same, I think win95 again. And no, these will not work in Linux. Well maybe ping will :)


Pathping has been available for quite some time, alongside the majority of what is in the aforementioned list.


Yes, I have thumbed through a lot of the content offered via technet. I was just suggesting that Tech Republic contribute a piece that would introduce a lot of the readers to the management features of Powershell. We are getting ready to update all of our PC's to Windows 7 and I plan on delving into the finer details of powershell soon to hopefully make more use of it in my day to day tasks.

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