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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Changing the start up directory of command prompt -- The safe and simple way

By default, the command prompt window (cmd.exe) starts in a particular directory which depends on quite a few factors. Specifically, the env varibales %HOMEDIR% and %HOMEPATH% matter the most or these are the ones which ultimately decide the location. There are some registry values also, but they are not in the game by default. This leads to the command window to start up in something like C:\Documents and Settings\<username>\ which is not particularly useful as this location is rarely used for anything useful. It can get worse. In a corporate environment it might so happen, more often than not, that your home directory is set to a shared network drive using a group policy and the command prompt starts in that remove drive location.. ! The pain can be aggravated if you are on VPN or something similar.

I personally feel that command prompt, which is mainly programmers tool, should not start in %HOMEDIR% as there are rarely (mostly never) any programming related files are kept. Anyways, there are many ways to solve this problem.

The first of them and the most dangerous is fiddling with the registry. It is mentioned here : http://windowsxp.mvps.org/autoruncmd.htm
The problem with this is that it will screw up make based build environments which spawn multiple child shells (aka command prompts), because the command prompt will start in this changed default location instead of the location where the make had to run.

The next is fairly simple and also elegant. You can create a shortcut to the main exe (C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe) and in the properties of the shortcut you can provide the directory to start in. This good for mouse users. However for those (most programmers) who start command prompt from the run dialog (by typing cmd) this will fail.

The third solution is to deal with the previous solutions shortcoming. You can just create a batch fail in any of the locations where the run dialog looks into. I prefer C:\Windows\systme32\. Put the following line in the batch file: C:\Windows\system32\cmd.exe /K "cd <path-to-dir>" . Just replace the <path-to-dir> with the path where you want the command to start. I generally put it as C:\.
This will start a command window and execute cd <path-to-folder> and will stay for further inputs. I have named this batch file as sh.bat (obviously to get a linux feel :P ). So now when I press the Windows + R key and type sh, I get the command prompt started in C:\.
And yes, this is totally safe and will not affect any other application using cmd.exe. :)

1 comment:

  1. Excellent. And so simple. Makes sense. One minor improvement I'd suggest though is have the batch file as

    %windir%\system32\cmd.exe /K "cd %windir%"