Many people believe DOS to be an antiquated,
useless operating system with few features and
capabilities. This is clearly wrong. Such persons are
usually not aware of the full capabilities of even older
versions of DOS, nor of the newer utilities and upgrades
that have now become available since they last used DOS.
They do not realise that the limiting factor was not DOS in most
cases; it was the computer's hardware that was not up to the job due
to the lack of processor speed, inadequate memory, a slow video card,
and so on. Few too, are aware of the power of the latest DOS versions
and the newest applications and utilities obtainable. Nor are they
aware of the potency of the most up-to-date batch language.
Understand that not everything here may apply
to your manufacturer or version of DOS.
NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED
WITHOUT PERMISSION FROM THE AUTHOR ©
- 1/ Those Using DOS Exclusively
This popular misconception comes from the wrong idea that DOS has
never progressed beyond a simple text interface. Hobbyists of classic
computers aside, modern DOS users are far from being Luddites. They too,
want the latest capabilities being used by others to be available with
their chosen operating system. Today's DOS user wants a speedy hard drive,
fast & capable video, quick communications and the latest software.
He or she uses DOS because of a preference for having the great power
and unpretentiousness of this established and stable operating system. The
direct access that DOS provides is desired along with the complete control
it affords, but without the hand-holding and excessive supervision so
prevalent in other systems.
- 2/ DOS is Dead.
If this is true, why does every modern operating system either
come with DOS, have a DOS-style command interface, or provide a DOS
emulator? Dell and Hewlett-Packard currently offer models that come with
DOS. By itself, DOS is available from a variety of manufacturers not bundled
with any other operating system. 4DOS (8.0) came out in 2009 and the
DR-DOS 7.01.08 upgrade was released in July of 2011. The latest FreeDOS
update was in 2016. (Note that "DR-DOS" is pronounced "Dee-Arr DOS".)
- 3/ DOS is Obsolete.
This is a ploy by computer companies to make you spend
money to switch to their systems. Unknown to many computer users, DOS has
continued to be developed. Myriads applications are available to do the
latest computing assignments, as are updates to DOS and its utilities.
Companies other than Microsoft continue to market new, modern versions of
DOS. As mentioned in Fallacy #2, major operating systems include DOS or a
DOS emulator: Linux, Macintosh, OS/2, Unix and Windows. In particular, users
of Microsoft's Windows can use the included DOS or DOS-style command line
to automate Windows functions.
- 4/ DOS is Slow.
This seems to come from those persons that only ever used DOS on
older, slower computers. Regardless, DOS is much faster than a GUI (Graphic
User Interface) on an equivalent system. This is because without all those
icons and excessive colour depth to describe, it occupies a smaller amount
of RAM and requires much less processing power to do the same job. As a
consequence, it also takes up far less room on your hard drive. DOS
programmers tend to try to condense their code, in part so their programs
will run quickly on older computers with older DOS versions. All of this
means a system that runs very fast, and ultra fast on recent processors.
- 5/ DOS Users Can't Run Programs
Larger than 640K (655,360 bytes).
Many DOS programs have long been able to make use of Upper Memory
along with Expanded & Extended memory. Two of the best known ones to
first do so were Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect. All newer, major programs are
designed to make use of memory outside of the lower, 640K range.
- 6/ DOS Users Can't Load More
Programs into Memory than will fit into 640K
This is related to Fallacy #5, above, and has to do with loading
programs at startup so they are at the ready when a DOS user needs them. By
using DOS' RAM drive capability, one may set aside an area of memory in
which to place programs. Although these programs are not active, they are
in memory and can be made active in milliseconds due to the speed at which
Another typical purpose is to have overlays, library files, batch
files, etc. on the RAM drive so they are instantly accessible. In
operation, it is indistinguishable from a multitasking setup except that
the programs do not operate at exactly the same time. (See Fallacies #7
and #8, next.)
- 7/ DOS Programs are Limited and
Can Only Run in Real Mode.
The DOS Protected Mode Interface (DPMI) allows programs that have
been designed to do so, to run in protected mode. This allows them to
access more than 1 Mb of RAM, and thus removes any memory limitations. It
also allows multiple programs to be run simultaneously.
- 8/ Only One Program at a Time
May Be Used.
This is related to Fallacies #5, #6 and #7, above.
First, one may run as many programs as can fit into 640K (655,360 bytes)
and access them through each program's "Suspend" capability.
Second, any program that makes use of Expanded and\or Extended memory
can typically be run in tandem with other programs. This is the case for most
all modern DOS programs. These run in protected mode using Extended Memory,
as do programs of other operating systems.
Third, there are shell, or stand-alone task switcher programs and
multi-taskers that allow as many applications of any type to be run as
there is total available memory. These have been available since the
Last, there are modern DOS versions available that do true
- 9/ DOS is Limited to 16-Bit
DOS can run 32-bit programs because these programs are isolated from
the 16-bit operating system. They are designed to run in protected mode via
the "DOS Protected Mode Interface" (DPMI) or other similar interfaces. This
bridges the 16/32 bit systems by operating as 32-bit within the program, but
operating as 16-bit when DOS operations are required, then switching back to
32 bit for program operations. Thus, they run as do programs under other
operating systems and they can run in Extended Memory. This switching
between modes is seamless to the user.
- 10/ DOS Can't Handle Long File
DOS 95 and newer can handle long file names, and for those with
other versions, LFN interfaces are available or are built in. Before that,
WordPerfect could handle internally-generated long file names at least
since version 5.1 which was released in 1990. Even before that, after-market
programs allowed DOS itself to use and recognise long file names.
However, in a command-line setup, few want to use too long a file name
because of the extra typing involved. Also, directory listings must be in
a single column or, if in multiple columns, not show all file information
due to the room required to display just the file names. Regardless, long
file name capability is available to users of older DOS versions as
discussed above, and major new versions of DOS support long file names.
- 11/ The DOS Command Line is
Limited to 127 Characters.
This is true for older versions of DOS, although there are ways
to increase that for certain purposes using after-market utilities such
as XSET. Newer versions of DOS, though, support longer lines. This extends
to the PATH statement and batch files. As an example, 4DOS can handle
lengths of 511 characters. Also, by placing the PATH statement into
CONFIG.sys, newer DOS versions allow lengths up to the limit of memory.
- 12/ No New Stand-Alone Versions of
DOS have come out Since 1994.
No new Microsoft stand-alone versions have come out since
1994. Many other individuals and companies have brought out new DOSes and
upgrades for them in the ensuing years. Versions or updates of 4DOS and
DR-DOS were released in 2009. The newest FreeDOS version came out
in 2016. (Note that "DR-DOS" is pronounced "Dee-Arr DOS".)
- 13/ No One is Developing New
Programs for DOS.
Hmm, odd then how I have Compact Disc and Media Players, a Graphic
Internet Browser, USB Flash Drives, program updates that are less than two
years old, PC-Card services on my laptop, and utilities and drivers of
which ages are only months old. Yes, programmers still write for DOS
because it's often easier to do than for equivalent GUI operating systems,
and because DOS is so flexible. In particular, new DOS programs are coming
out of Europe.
- 14/ DOS is Hard
Basic DOS is easy to learn. GUI promoters want you to
believe its hard. An operating system is meant to interface the user
with the computer. Included in this are program starting and directory
maintenance, along with file creation, deletion and moving/copying. To
start a program, type its name. To make a directory, use the "Make Directory"
command, which has been conveniently abbreviated to "MD". Removing a
directory means using the "Remove Directory" command, again abbreviated
To copy a file, use COPY, to move a file use MOVE. A file's attributes
are added, removed or changed using the "Attribute" (ATTRIB) command; two
files may be compared using the "File Compare" command (FC); to find a file
containing specific text, use FIND, and so on. To create or change a file,
use the DOS editor called -- guess what? EDIT! Could it be any more logical
- 15/ There's Too Much Typing in
There can be, but I am amazed that these same complainers are
quite willing to text dozens of messages to someone's phone instead of
leaving a voice message, or type an eight-screen e-mail to a co-worker
seated only a few metres away.
In DOS, batch files and keyboard macros eliminate most typing. There
are also programs that allow usage of a pointer device such as a track ball,
touch pad, light pen, graphics tablet, or mouse to run the commands without
one having to type them.
Even at the command line, one may use the ` * ' and ` ? ' wildcards to
reduce typing. Plus, there are versions of DOS that will auto-complete
file and directory names, and there are utilities and upgrades for those
using versions without that capability. Many of these feature command
recall. The "Recall" feature allows one to select from a list of
previously-typed commands or to type the first few letters and allow the
program to auto-complete the rest. There are even utilities that allow one
to move around the directory tree at the command line without typing
Finally, a DOS accessory allows a user to highlight and copy on-screen
text on to an area of memory called the "Clipboard", and then retrieve it
for later usage. As an example. one might display a directory listing,
enter "CD", then highlight the directory name with the mouse. One click
copies the name to the clipboard and another click deposits that directory
name on to the command line. Pressing "Enter" changes to the selected
directory. Commands to run DOS or any of its programs may be copied to
the command line in the same way and be run with no name or command
typing involved. In addition, the clipboard text may be inserted into, and
passed among, programs.
- 16/ DOS Users Must Remember
Complicated Commands and Syntax.
This is related to #14 and #15 above. Yes, users have to remember
some commands and their structure, but users of any operating system
have to learn and remember how it works. Regardless, in DOS, the basic
commands are intuitive, as was described in #14, and they work in the same
manner as with point & click menu interfaces. Thus for either method,
to do a typical file copy or move operation, one must know or locate the
source drive and directory, know or figure out which operation to select,
and know or locate the target drive and directory.
For those that dislike the command line, DOS authors offer many GUI
desktops and file managers from which to choose. Of course, using one
supplants the power of the command line, the very reason of DOS' popularity
for many. Then again, one could use the command line for most operations
and the GUI interface for when it provides a clear advantage. As well,
some GUI desktops allow one to enter commands into a box without leaving
- 17/ DOS Users are Stuck with a Bland
Black & White Desktop.
DOS, using ANSI.sys or equivalent after-market replacements, can
easily be programmed for colour and on-screen menu-window setups. There are
dozens of menu and desktop programs available if one wishes to dress up DOS
beyond ANSI.sys capabilities. This includes the display of background
- 18/ Newer Printers and Modems
are not able to be Used.
There are Internet sites that have drivers available for recent
hardware. In fact, some manufacturers' sites will provide them.
- 19/ DOS Does Not Support Large
This is mainly a BIOS problem. Newer ones support larger drives if
they show a setting for "LBA" (Logical Block Addressing). Although older
DOS versions also imposed a limitation, starting with MS-DOS 5 (1991),
support for drives larger than 528 megabytes was introduced. As well,
after-market programs allowed for use of multi-gig drives with older
BIOS and DOS versions. Versions of DOS since the late 1990s offer
multi-gig drive capability built right in.
There is also a limitation imposed by the DOS file system. FAT 16
imposes a limit of just over 2 Gigabytes. Although DOS users can get
around that by partitioning, DOS versions since the late 1990s support
FAT 32 which allows drives in the Terabyte range.
- 20/ DOS Cannot
In one sense, DOS has multitasked from the beginning. It is
searching and writing in the background while the user or a program is
doing something else. However, to most users, "multitasking" means running
more than one program at a time and having more than one actively working
at the same time.
In this sense, DOS could actually multitask before Windows via DOS
extender technology. In fact, when Microsoft put multitasking capability
into Windows, they used DOS extenders to do it! They did not put
that capability into their MS-DOS, presumably so as to not compete with
As for DOS itself, Concurrent DOS from Digital Research and DOS 4
(Europe release) featured multitasking, but the latter was not marketed
in North America. Today's latest versions allow true multitasking from
within DOS. In addition, programs such as DESQview and SWORD allow most
any DOS system to multitask. However, since one can only input data or
interact with one program at a time, most "multitasking" is really about
having programs at the ready in memory, which DOS is capable of anyway. To
that end, there have been programs available since the 1980s that allow
task switching by DOS. "Software Carousel" and "Back & Forth" come to
- 21/ DOS Can't Display More than
This is one of the harder fallacies to overcome in people's
minds. Most DOS versions place colour on the screen through ANSI.SYS or
equivalent, and those colours are limited to 16 shades at any one time.
Now, these 16 colours may be selected from a larger palette (typically
256 colours), so that DOS users may choose which 16 shades to use. That
capability is available through after-market programs or is built into
some versions of DOS.
Regardless, this is only for the DOS display itself. If a user has a
shell, or any other DOS program, it may be, and often is, written to display
a wider colour range. These programs will present themselves, or any graphic
image, in the colour depth of which that program is designed, and of which
the video card and monitor are capable. Thus, DOS users can see a 24-bit
(~=16 million colours) picture on their screens, if the video system is
capable. Some can display up to 32-bit targa (.tga) very high quality
graphics, which are suitable for large-scale photo reproduction.
- 22/ DOS Cannot Do
Graphic Work. or
DOS is Text Only.
This fallacy probably came about because either people were used
to seeing DOS on slow, memory-lacking systems, and/or people assumed that
not much could be done with graphics in the 640K (655,360 bytes) of RAM
limit. However, DOS graphic applications are written to place the program
kernel in lower memory while overlay and image files are placed into
expanded or extended memory. Others are 32-bit, protected-mode programs
that run in extended memory. There are many DOS Viewer, Image Manipulation,
Paint, and CAD (Computer Assisted Design) softwares available. Modern, fast
computers make DOS graphics a reality, just as they do for other major
- 23/ DOS Cannot Do
This is related to Fallacies #20 & #21. DOS multimedia
programs are available that can do animations and audio. Many can run media
presentations from other systems such as MacIntosh and Windows. The best of
these programs use 32-bit, Protected Mode and thus, can run in extended
memory. This is best for resource-hungry presentations such as MPEGs and
- 24/ DOS Users Can't Access More
Than 64 Mb of RAM.
There have been memory extenders around for over a decade. They
allow DOS applications to access gigabytes of memory, although for most
users, 64 Mb will run 10 or 15 applications easily because DOS programs
are so much smaller than their GUI equivalents.
- 25/ DOS is Not Y2K
I suspect this was started by computer companies and perpetuated
by computer sales stores in order to get people to spend money to upgrade.
Computer companies certainly had time to fix the problem, but software as
late as 1998 still had not been changed.
Regardless, modern DOS is Y2K compliant. However, please realise that
older DOS versions are actually not affected by Y2K problems -- if
one uses four-digit years. I have not checked every DOS version, but there
does not seem to be a problem with any one with which I have come in
contact, nor is it with most programs I use -- and some are as old as the
early 1990s. According to Microsoft's DOS manuals, using a four-digit
year allows dates through 2079 for MS-DOS versions 3.x & 4.x, and
through 2099 for Microsoft versions 5 & up. It appears that at least
PC and DR DOS follow this as well. In 2100, the last year of this century,
I am sure some enterprising DOS user will have authored a Y2.1K patch. (-:
The only difficulty seems to be with those few programs that keep
track of the year using just two place positions. They were programmed to
add "1" to the last two digits of the previous year's date on January 1st.
Thus December 31, 1999, which showed as "12-31-99", became "01-01-100" on
January 1st, 2000. Since there were only two place positions available for
the year, it was truncated to "10". ProComm Plus by Datastorm Technologies
exhibits this. Even so, it does not affect the running of the program at
all, and files created under it show the correct year in a DOS "DIR"
Some other exceptions are the MS-DOS BACKUP command and XCOPY. The
former does not recognise dates after 1999 as being in this century. So
a file created in 1991 will have the same file name as one created in
2001. This can be gotten around by simply placing backup files in
separate "Year" directories, which is a good practice anyway. As for
XCOPY, it won't recognise dates that the user inputs if they are before
1980 or after 1999. (This is likely not a problem with newer XCOPY
versions.) In addition, one could use REPLACE which can recognise
newer files regardless of the date format used, or use the modern,
after-market version of XCOPY: XXCOPY.
Any of you who are suffering with old dates because your DOS version
does not have Y2K compliancy built in, or are trying to lessen the confusion
by using a pre-2000 year (such as 1999, which was the last 20th-century
year to coincide with the 2021 calendar), then simply invoke the DOS
"DATE" command and enter the current month, day, and four-digit year. With
few exceptions, you'll be home, free!
- 26/ DOS Can't Do GUI.
DOS is a TUI (Text User Interface) system, so by nature, it
doesn't interface with computer programs via point & click. However,
that's not to say that someone using DOS cannot interface via GUI (Graphic
User Interface). DOS graphic shells have been around since the mid 1980s for
those that want the advantages of the command line but may still wish to
click icons to get some computer work done. In fact, the most famous
graphic shell for DOS was Windows. One of the most sophisticated is SWORD.
- 27/ One Can't Access The Graphic
Internet with DOS.
There have been DOS graphic browsers since the mid 1990s, with
Arachne probably being the best of them. DOS users may access The Internet
via dial-up, cable modem, or high-speed wireless, and with features
including add-ons and plug-ins.
- 28/ The DOS Screen is Stuck with
That One IBM VGA Font.
DOS users can select from scores of different fonts supplied by
a variety of applications. A simple program loads the font at bootup or
from the command line. DOS users have had this capability for over a
decade. There is even a program that allows multiple fonts on the DOS
screen at the same time.
- 29/ I have a Card Bus Slot
on my Laptop which DOS doesn't Support
PC-Card (PCMCIA) slots for DOS have been supported by
card manufacturers since their inception and DOS versions such as
PC-DOS 7.0 include card bus support. One need only load the drivers
to access memory, modem, network and other card features. For users
of different DOS versions, drivers are available from the card
manufacturers and third-party suppliers. (Note that some drivers
require a specific memory location. If you can't get card services
to work, read the driver manual and pay attention to the instructions
- 30/ Hardware has Adopted the
USB Standard, Which DOS Can't Support.
One only needs a computer that is USB (Universal Serial Bus)
capable and suitable DOS USB drivers to be able to operate USB devices
under DOS. This is no different from any other operating system.
- 31/ DOS is Unable to Connect to
As above, all that is needed is the proper card, such as a
WaveLAN or ORiNOCO card, and suitable drivers and software in order for
DOS to be able to connect to a wireless network. This has been available
for over a decade and a half.
- 32/ DOS Can't Display Modern
This is mainly related to the "Euro" currency symbol, but applies
to others. PC-DOS 2000, DR-DOS 7.02, and other new versions of DOS
are "Euro" compatible. For those with older versions, drivers are
available that will allow DOS programs to display it and other symbols.
- 33/ DOS Users Can't Copy/Cut &
Paste at the Command Line or Between Applications.
One only need get a console program that has a DOS Clipboard to
enable copy/cut & paste. ANSIPLUS is one such software. Using any
pointer device, one highlights a word, line or even a block of text. One
click places it on to the DOS clipboard. As mentioned in #15 farther back,
a usage for this might be to place a DOS or program command, or a name from
a directory listing on to the command line or into a program instead of
typing it out.
As an example at the command line might be to copy a long command that
could be brought up at the touch of a button rather than dealing with the
command history. Another example is if one wants to paste a URL from a text
file on one's computer into an e-mail. Highlight the URL, invoke the
Copy-to-Clipboard command, open an e-mail program and invoke the Paste
- 34/ DOS is Case
This is mostly true, but not universally. Of course, case
insensitivity can be handy when one does not know the exact case of a
file or directory or name. Regardless, some DOS versions and programs
are case sensitive at certain times. The IF command is case sensitive,
although in some DOS versions, this may be turned off. ANSI.sys codes
are case sensitive. The variable designation in the FOR command can
be upper or lower case but must be the same case within a given FOR
operation. The CHOICE command's choices are case sensitive when
the `/S' switch is used. SET will make environmental variables in upper
and/or lower case as typed at the command line or as directed in a batch
file. The FIND command is case sensitive unless the `/I' (Ignore Case)
switch is used. 4DOS' "@REPLACE" and "@STRIP" are case sensitive. Its
FFIND is not case sensitive but is if the `/C' switch is used.
Some DOS programs are case sensitive at times. As an example, a
few of PKZIP's command-line switches change meaning depending on
whether they are capitalised or not. The `t' and `T' switches come
- 35/ I Require a Recycle Bin
Which DOS Doesn't Provide.
DOS had a Recycle Bin before Windows. DR-DOS called it "Delete
Watch", while MS-DOS had "Delete Sentry". As with a Recycle Bin, files
are not deleted but are moved to a hidden directory and kept as per
default or user settings.
- 36/ The DOS Batch Language
is Brain Dead.
As with so much else regarding modern DOS, the DOS batch
language has continued to be developed. Even Microsoft has improved the
DOS batch language, although for DOS only as it runs under Windows and
for the Command Line Interface under the NT series of Windows. DR-DOS has
had better batch file commands than Microsoft's DOS since at least version
DR-DOS 6, which was released in 1991. 4DOS has had improved batch file
commands for two decades. The most recent version has a myriad of new
commands, switches, and internal functions that allow the user to do
very complicated DOS chores that were once only the realm of higher
For DOS itself, all new versions have updated batch commands and
features. Plus, many third-party software authors have improved upon the
batch language. As well, many of them have also devised batch utilities
to further extend DOS' automation capabilities.
- 37/ Hardware Power Management
is Unavailable to DOS Users.
DOS long ago had the "POWER" command which was designed to
conserve laptop battery life. It is rarely used today because modern
laptops have power management built in. That aside, programs such as
ANSIPLUS can use VESA management to shut down monitors, but again it
is not as necessary today because even desktop computers have built-in
power management. For those that want software management, there are
after-market programs besides those just mentioned that can give DOS
users power management.
- 38/ DOS has no
While not at the level of Unix, DOS has some security available.
One is data encryption, which has been around since the early days of DOS.
Another is password protection. This is done either through after-market
programs or directly within versions such as DR-DOS 6 and higher. It
offers protection of files, directories, or complete drives. This can be
structured to allow only certain users access to certain files,
directories or drives -- or to an entire system.
- 39/ DOS Can Only Deal with
the Global Environment.
It is possible for DOS users to save an environment and then set
up another one for a task or series of operations, then to restore the
original environment. That can all be written into a batch file. However
programs such as XSET, a replacement for the DOS "SET" command, have
built-in methods that can be used to manipulate the environment to achieve
the same end.
A more powerful method is to employ 4DOS's "SETLOCAL". It remembers more
than just environment settings. It includes current disk drive and path,
aliases, and many other parameters. Values can be changed and then restored
to their original values with "ENDLOCAL".
Many of the above mentioned capabilities are
discussed at websites. They usually contain
the programs, utilities, and drivers used
by DOS to overcome the imagined
limitations detailed here.
Get to them from this site via