Command Line & Batch Options In XP

While trying to create a batch file which redirected all output from its commands to a log file, I needed to redirect both standard and erroroutput to the same file. I couldn’t remember how to do it, and was searching the web for help. All the while, I was muttering to myself about Windows XP not having decent help with command-line stuff. I happened to come up on a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation on Microsoft’s site which mentioned that there *is* a help file in Windows XP for command-line stuff.

BTW, I have XP Pro – I don’t know if this file, or many of the commands it documents, is available to XP Home users. You can open the file from a command prompt thus:
hh ntcmds.chm

This command reference contains an absolute goldmine of information on XP’s very rich collection of command-line utilities.

For example, here’s one I’ll bet not many people know about

fsutil hardlink create <new filename> <existing filename>

On an NTFS partition, this command creates a duplicate link and name (possibly in another folder) for an existing file. The two files are actually the same physical file on disk, but are available by two different names in (possibly) two different folders. You can create as many of these as you want, and, if you delete a file by one of these names, the file won’t actually be deleted until the last hardlink is deleted. (Note this is *not* just a Windows-style shortcut. This is an actual file-system object which has duplicate file-system entries, and can be opened and manipulated by any program from any of the "hardlinks".)

I have been amazed at… the plethora of commands available to the XP command-line junkie. Hopefully you and your readers can find something worthwhile here. Your faithful reader and Plus subscriber, Patrick Mills

Thanks, Patrick. Alas, XP Home lacks the full version of the command reference file; in XP Home, ntcmds.chm and many other standalone help files are just placeholders that point you back to the general Help and Support  system. However, in both Home and Pro, many of the individual commands— like FSUTIL— are separately included in the main Help system. So, you can learn about command options in the Home edition— it’s just harder than it needs to be.

Get our unique weekly Newsletter with tips and techniques, how to's and critical updates on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows XP, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Google, etc. Join our 480,000 subscribers!

The Windows 7, Vol 3 (Excerpt)

Subscribe and get our monthly bonuses - free!

The Windows 7 Guide, Volume 3: Advanced maintenance and troubleshooting provides advanced tools for keeping Microsoft's premier operating system up and running smoothly. Get this excerpt and other 4 bonuses if you subscribe FREE now!

Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.