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Run... Command

The Run command in Windows is one of the most unused, yet powerful features (in terms of productivity) in the operating system.

keyboard mouse

Basic Run Command Information

It is accessible in one of two ways: through the start menu (Figure 1) and through the keyboard shortcut Win+R. The dialog itself looks very unassuming, and quite user unfriendly if you ask me (Figure 2). Its main purpose, as you can see from the dialog information, is to open a program, folder, document, or Internet resource which Windows will then open.

Figure 1 - Run on the Start Menu

Figure 2 - The Run Dialog

Common Tasks with Run

Below are a list of commands you can type into the Run dialog:

Run Calculatorcalc
Run Command Promptcmd
Run Firefox (if installed)firefox
Run Internet Exploreriexplore
Run Microsoft Word (if installed)winword
Run Microsoft Excel (if installed)excel
Run Microsoft Outlook (if installed)outlook
Run Notepadnotepad
Run Wordpadwordpad
Open Control Panelcontrol panel
Open Program Files folder%programfiles%
Shutdown Windowsshutdown
Restart Windowsshutdown -r
Log Off Windowslogoff
Registry Editorregedit
Task Managertaskmgr
Windows Update Launcheswupdmgr

Creating Your Own Run Commands

If you are like me, you will use a few programs very frequently. One way to make them start faster is to give them their own Run command:

  1. Win+R to open the Run dialog
  2. Enter %windir% to open the Windows directory
  3. Alt+F W S to open the File menu, choose the New menu item, then the Shortcut menu item
  4. Go through the wizard to create a shortcut to the desired program
  5. The name you give the shortcut is what you type in the Run dialog to start the program

Infrequently Used Run Commands

Below are a list of commands you can type into the Run dialog, split into several categories: programs, control panels, computer administration tools, and special folders.


Character Mapcharmap
Check Disk Utilitychkdsk
Clipboard Viewerclipbrd
Free Cellfreecell
Hearts Cardmshearts
Microsoft Chatwinchat
On Screen Keyboardosk
Remote Desktopmstsc
Spider Solitarespider
Telnet Clienttelnet
Windows Magnifiermagnify

Control Panels

Accessibility Controlsaccess.cpl
Add Hardware Wizardhdwwiz.cpl
Add/Remove Programsappwiz.cpl
Administrative Toolscontrol admintools
Automatic Updateswuaucpl.cpl
Date and Timetimedate.cpl
Display Propertiesdesk.cpl
Folders Propertiescontrol folders
Fontscontrol fonts
Fonts Folderfonts
Game Controllersjoy.cpl
Internet Propertiesinetcpl.cpl
Keyboard Propertiescontrol keyboard
Mouse Propertiescontrol mouse
Network Connectionscontrol netconnections
Network Setup Wizardnetsetup.cpl
ODBC Data Source Administratorodbccp32.cpl
Password Propertiespassword.cpl
Phone and Modem Optionstelephon.cpl
Power Configurationpowercfg.cpl
Printers and Faxescontrol printers
Printers Folderprinters
Regional Settingsintl.cpl
Scanners and Camerassticpl.cpl
Security Centerwscui.cpl
Sounds and Audiommsys.cpl
User Account Managementnusrmgr.cpl
Windows Firewallfirewall.cpl

Computer Administration Tools

Computer Managementcompmgmt.msc
Device Managerdevmgmt.msc
Disk Cleanup Utilitycleanmgr
Disk Defragmentdfrg.msc
Disk Managementdiskmgmt.msc
Disk Partition Managerdiskpart
Dr. Watson System Troubleshootingdrwtsn32
Driver Verifier Utilityverifier
Event Viewereventvwr.msc
Group Policy Editor (XP Prof)gpedit.msc
Local Security Settingssecpol.msc
Local Users and Groupslusrmgr.msc
Performance Monitorperfmon
Resultant Set of Policyrsop.msc
Scheduled Taskscontrol schedtasks
Shared Foldersfsmgmt.msc
System Configuration Editorsysedit
System Configuration Utilitymsconfig
Utility Managerutilman
Windows System Security Toolsyskey

Computer Administration Tools

Application Data Folder%appdata%
Home Directory Drive%homedrive%
Home Directory%homepath%
Shared Home Directory%homeshare%
Temporary Folder%temp%
Windows Root Drive%systemdrive%
Windows Root Directory%windir%

For an even more exhaustive list, check out 156 Useful Run Commands.

Using Run as a Command Prompt

One of the strengths of the Run command is its ability to do almost everything the command line can do. You should note, however, that if you're running a program that outputs something and exits, that the output will only show up for a few seconds and then disappear.

Take the ipconfig command for example. If you were to type that into Run, it would open a command prompt, run the ipconfig command, and then close because the command finished running! To fix this, type cmd into the Run dialog, and then type ipconfig into the command prompt.