Command-prompt wizardry

Windows 2000 offers a vast toolkit full of impressive utilities and applets. In the December 2000 Top 10, I looked at Win2K's most valuable graphical utilities. This time, I unveil the 10 most useful Win2K utilities that you run from the command line.

10. FTP (ftp.exe) remains the workhorse of Win2K command-line utilities. When you type ftp at a command prompt, you open the FTP command shell, which you can use to send files to and receive files from remote systems. Using the —s switch, you can run FTP in batch mode, in which the FTP client reads all the FTP subcommands from the contents of a text file.

9. The Telnet client (telnet.exe), a graphical utility in Windows NT, is a character-based tool in Win2K. Although this change might not seem like a step forward, Microsoft has also enhanced Win2K's Telnet client with NT LAN Manager (NTLM) authentication support.

8. Microsoft System Information (msinfo32.exe) lets you use the command line to obtain system information. Although Windows Microsoft Diagnostics (WinMSD—winmsd.exe) is the primary NT 4.0 tool for retrieving system information, Microsoft has converted Win2K's version of WinMSD into a graphical Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-in. To retain command-line functionality, remember to include the full path to the executable file when you run msinfo32.exe:

"C:\Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\MSInfo\msinfo32.exe" /?

Otherwise, the system will bring up the new WinMSD snap-in.

7. The Infrared File Transfer Program (IRFTP—irftp.exe) utility gives you the opportunity to fire up your system's dormant infrared port. Irftp establishes a wireless infrared connection with another computer so that you can, for example, exchange files between a PC and your laptop.

6. The msiexec.exe component of Windows Installer gives you a command-line interface to the Windows 2000 Installer so that you can perform installation-related tasks such as copying files, updating the registry, and creating shortcuts. Msiexec.exe reads its installation information from an installation package (i.e., an .msi file) that contains specific instructions for installing, updating, or uninstalling a Windows application.

5. The Application Compatibility utility (apcompat.exe) lets you run applications written for earlier Windows versions. Simply fire up the tool, identify the legacy program you want to run, and enter the Windows version that you want the OS to report to the application.

4. The System File Checker (sfc.exe) scans and verifies all protected system files. If someone has changed a system file, sfc.exe can replace the modified file with the version of the system file that is saved in the \%systemroot%\system32\dllcache folder.

3. The Cipher command-line tool (cipher.exe) lets you encrypt, decrypt, or display a file or folder's encryption information. You can also use cipher.exe to find out who has encrypted a specific file or folder.

2. PathPing (pathping.exe) is a new tool that combines features of NT 4.0's Ping and Tracert commands. PathPing can tell you whether you're experiencing data loss at one or more router hops on the way to a target host. To do so, the utility sends Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) packets to each router in the path.

1. The Recovery Console (RC) lets you recover your system from DLL corruption errors and other file-related system problems. You can boot your system to a command window with complete NTFS support. The RC doesn't install by default; you install the utility by running the \i386winnt32.exe /cmdcons command. To run the RC, select the Recovery Console option from the system boot options menu, which displays at system startup.