Sometimes when you’re installing Windows, you might need to perform a minor task (e.g., check the available disk space) or a more important one (e.g., search all disks for a driver’s .sys file). You might think that performing such tasks while Windows is installing is impossible, but that’s not the case. What many people don’t realize is that you can access a command prompt window while installing Windows. All you have to do is press Shift+F10 when you reach the Installing Windows phase. This trick works with Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP.

Being able to access the command prompt window during installation can be a godsend. For example, one time Windows prompted me for a driver’s .dll file during installation, but I couldn’t remember where that file was stored on my disks. Clicking Browse would’ve been a hassle because I would’ve had to look through all the folders and subfolders to find the .dll file. Instead, all I did was press Shift+F10 and run a Find command to discover exactly where the file was located.

Apostolos Fotakelis, systems
administrator, NATO, and
freelance IT consultant