CMD or Command Prompt is the default Command-line Interface of Windows. It is extremely helpful for diagnosing or troubleshooting your computer. But like any interface, its main job is to automate tasks and run the system more efficiently.
While using the GUI may be more convenient, there are many cases where you need to use CMD. For instance, when your File explorer stops responding or you need to run certain scripts.
This article explains how you can change directory using CMD in different cases.
Changing the Working Directory in CMD
You can open Command Prompt by searching for it on the search bar. Or you can open Run (Win + R) and enter
cmd. Additionally, pressing Ctrl + Shift + Enter after typing
cmd on Run opens the elevated CMD.
The normal CMD opens to your user profile folder, and the elevated one opens up to the System32 folder. This folder is your Current Working Directory (CWD) and it shows up before the ‘>’ symbol.
The syntax for changing directory is
cd [/d] [<drive>:][path] or
cd [..]. You can also use
chdir instead of
Change to Sub-folder in CMD
The command to change to a sub-folder is
cd [<relative path>]. For instance,
C:\Windows>cd System32 will take you to
You can also directly change to the sub-folder within the sub-folder. For example,
C:\Windows>cd System32\Boot takes you to
If you have trouble remembering all the files inside a directory, enter the
dir command. It lists all the folders and files in your Current Working Directory.
You don’t need to type the full name of the folders in the command. Pressing the Tab key after typing the initial characters will auto-complete the folder name.
You can also use the ? or * wildcard characters while entering a folder name. ? replaces a character while * replaces a bunch of characters at once.
Change to Parent Folder in CMD
There is a simple command to change to the parent directory:
You can use it together with another folder in the parent directory to change to the folder directly. For instance,
C:\Windows\System32\Boot>cd..\backup changes your CWD to
You can also enter
cd / to go to the root directory directly.
Change to Another Directory of the Current Drive
We have already mentioned how you can change to another directory using the path relative to the CWD. However, you can also use the command
cd [<full path of a folder>] to change to the folder.
It is also possible to use the keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste the folder paths as commands. You can enable/disable this option from the Command Prompt setting by using the following method:
- Right-click on the Title bar of CMD and select Properties.
- In the Options tab, check/uncheck Enable Ctrl key shortcuts and click Ok.
If the option is On, you can directly copy a folder and paste it to the CLI using Ctrl + V hotkey. Also, in the Command Prompt, using the direction keys while holding Shift selects the text, and pressing Ctrl + C copies the contents.
Change Drive Partition
You can’t directly change to a directory in another partition using the above commands. You need to use the
/d flag (e.g.,
cd /d D:) or enter the drive letter and a colon (e.g.,
While using the
/d flag, you can directly change to the full path of a directory. Also, changing the drive (not the full path) changes the CWD to the location where you left the drive.
cd C:\Users\defaultwhile in
D:\>. After that, changing the drive to
C:takes you to
C:\Users\defaulteven if it had another working directory when you left it.
Using Environment Variables
Your system stores environment variables that represent path to particular locations. You can directly use such variables with the
cd command to change to the relevant folders. Some common variables are:
%systemdrive% - C:\ %windir% - C:\Windows %programfiles% - C:\Program Files %userprofile% - C:\Users\<Current User> %localappdata% - C:\Users\<Current User>\AppData\Local %temp% - C:\Users\<Current User>\AppData\Local\Temp
Open Particular Directory in CMD From File Explorer
You can also enter
cmd on your file explorer’s address bar to open Command Prompt. Your current folder will load as the CWD in such cases.
This method is the easiest way to run a script or program that needs CLI from the directory.
Drag and Drop Folder to CMD
Command Prompt also allows you to drag and drop a folder in the interface. Doing so will paste the folder path to the CLI. So you can type
cd along with space, drag a folder to the interface, and press Enter to change your CWD to the folder.
However, keep in mind that this method is not possible on the elevated Command Prompt.
Can’t Change Directory in CMD. What to Do?
It should not happen if your syntax and the path are correct. Ensure that you are using the cd or chdir command and double-check the drive and the path.
If any problems occur, try changing the directory one folder at a time while using
dir to list out the contents.
Also, some folders may need admin privileges to access.
How to Change Directory on Mac or Linux Terminal?
The command to change the directory for Mac and Linux Terminal is the same as CMD, i.e.,
cd. Most of the ways to use the command are the same.
To return to your home directory, use
cd ~. The command to list out the folder contents is
ls. Also, don’t forget that these Terminals are case-sensitive, unlike Windows CMD.
How to Create or Delete a Directory in CMD?
The commands to create a folder in CMD is
md <folder name> or
mkdir <folder name>. Similarly, you need to enter
rmdir <folder name> to delete a folder. These commands will make or delete a folder inside the Current Working Directory. You can also enter a folder’s full path for the <folder name> to create/delete it from any working directory.