DOS Introduction

What is DOS?

MS-DOS is a “Disk Operating System”. That means it is simply: “a System for Operating the Disks”, (but MS-SOD doesn’t sound as nice). In practice however, just as Windows does more than just print windows, DOS does more than just operate the disks: It enables the user to organize data files, load and execute (run) program files, and control the input and output devices attached to the computer. There are other brands of DOS besides the most well known “MS-DOS”, i.e.: PC-DOS, DR-DOS/OPENDOS. Generally speaking, they will all function in the same way, especially at the most simple level.

What is Booting?

To run DOS on a computer, it should be the first program to be executed when the computer is switched on. This led to a problem for the designers: “How can DOS be loaded and executed when there is no DOS program running to load and execute *it*??!!”. Well, just as the fictional Baron Munchausen managed to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, the computer manages this seemingly impossible trick, and the term “bootstrapping”, or “booting up” is applied to this process.


How do you communicate with DOS?

DOS is an entirely text based system. All it provides for the user is a prompt: “C:>” or “A:>”, where the user can type in commands from the keyboard. The system is entirely case insensitive: so either “ForMAt C:” or “format c:” would erase your hard disk…

The latter example is of course a small warning: with DOS comes power, you can very easily mess up your system if you use powerful commands in the wrong way. The commands you should be careful of are: “Format”, “Recover”, and “Del”. All of these perform useful functions, when used correctly, and all the others are pretty much safe to use.


How does DOS organize disks?

DOS works within a file, directory and disk drive structure. This means that all program and data files are named, and grouped together in named directories on disks. ‘Directories’ are just lists of files.

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Akash Padhiyar

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