Batch file

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Batch file
Command Line Interface For Windows OSes Icon.png
Filename extension.bat .cmd .btm
Type of formatScripting
Container forShell scripts
 
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Batch file
Command Line Interface For Windows OSes Icon.png
Filename extension.bat .cmd .btm
Type of formatScripting
Container forShell scripts

In DOS, OS/2, and also Microsoft Windows, batch file is the name given to a type of script file, a text file containing a series of commands to be executed by the command interpreter.

A batch file may contain any command the interpreter accepts interactively at the command prompt. A batch file may also have constructs (IF, GOTO, Labels, CALL, etc.) that enable conditional branching and looping within the batch file.

Similar to job control language and other systems on mainframe and minicomputer systems, batch files were added to ease the work required for certain regular tasks by allowing the user to set up a script to automate them. When a batch file is run, the shell program (usually COMMAND.COM or cmd.exe) reads the file and executes its commands, normally line-by-line.[1] Unix-like operating systems (such as Linux) have a similar, but more flexible, type of file called a shell script.[2]

The filename extension .bat was used in DOS, and the Windows 9x family of operating systems. The Microsoft Windows NT-family of operating systems and OS/2 added .cmd. Batch files for other environments may have different extensions, e.g. .btm in 4DOS, 4OS2 and 4NT related shells.

There have been changes to the detailed handling of batch files; some of the detail in this article is applicable to all batch files, while other details apply only to certain versions.

Variants[edit]

DOS[edit]

In MS-DOS, a batch file can be started from the command line by typing its name followed by any required parameters and pressing the "enter" key. When MS-DOS loads, the file AUTOEXEC.BAT is automatically executed, so any commands that need to be run to set up the MS-DOS environment for use could be placed in this file. Computer users would have the autoexec file set up the system date and time, initialize the MS-DOS environment, load any resident programs or device drivers, or initialize network connections and assignments.

In MS-DOS, the extension ".BAT" identified a file containing commands which could be executed by the command interpreter COMMAND.COM line by line as if it was a list of commands to be entered, with some extra batch-file-specific commands for basic programming functionality, including a GOTO command for changing flow of line execution.

Early Windows[edit]

Microsoft Windows was introduced in 1985 as a GUI-based alternative to text-based operating systems and was designed to run on MS-DOS. In order to start it, the WIN command was used and could be added to the end of the AUTOEXEC.BAT file to allow automatic loading of Windows. In the earlier versions one could run a .bat type file from Windows in the MS-DOS Prompt.

Windows was run from MS-DOS and used COMMAND.COM to run .bat files on the following operating systems:

OS/2[edit]

The IBM OS/2 operating system supported DOS-style batch files. It also included a version of REXX, which was a more advanced batch-file scripting language. IBM and Microsoft started developing this system, but during the construction of it broke up after a dispute; as a result of this, IBM referred to their MS-DOS-like console shell without mention of Microsoft, naming it just DOS, although this seemingly made no difference with regard to the way batch files worked from COMMAND.COM.

OS/2's batch file interpreter also supports an EXTPROC command. This passes the batch file to the program named on the EXTPROC file as a data file. The named program can be a script file; this is similar to the #! mechanism.

Windows NT[edit]

Windows versions other than the NT line of operating systems were run from MS-DOS and used the same command interpreter, COMMAND.COM, to execute batch files. However, the operating systems in the Windows NT series run directly upon booting the hard drive; they are true operating systems, not graphical user interfaces for underlying MS-DOS. An enhanced 32-bit command processor, cmd.exe, was introduced; it could execute scripts with either the .CMD or .BAT extension. Cmd.exe added additional commands, and implemented existing ones in a slightly different way, so that the same batch file (with different extension) might work differently with cmd.exe and COMMAND.COM. In most cases, operation is identical if the few unsupported commands are not used. Cmd.exe's extensions to COMMAND.COM can be disabled for compatibility.

Microsoft released a version of cmd.exe for Windows 9x and ME called WIN95CMD to allow users of older versions of Windows to use certain cmd.exe-style batch files.

As of Windows 8, cmd.exe is the normal command interpreter for batch files; the older COMMAND.COM can be run from within a cmd.exe window in 32-bit versions of Windows able to run 16-bit programs.[3]

Filename extensions[edit]

Differences between .cmd and .bat execution in the Windows NT family[edit]

Batch files may have either '.bat' or '.cmd' filename extensions. The only difference is that the commands set, path, assoc, and prompt, when executed from a file named with a '.bat' extension, alter the value of the environment variable errorlevel only upon an error, whereas the same commands, when executed from a file named with a '.cmd' extension, will alter errorlevel even when returning without an error. [5]

Example[edit]

This example batch file displays "Hello World!", prompts and waits for the user to press a key, and then terminates. (Note: It does not matter if commands are lowercase or uppercase unless working with variables)

 @ECHO off ECHO Hello World! PAUSE 

To execute the file, it must be saved with the extension .bat (or .cmd for Windows-NT type operating systems) in plain text format, typically created by using a text editor such as Notepad or a word processor in text mode.

Result[edit]

When executed (either from Windows Explorer or Command Prompt), this is displayed:

 Hello World! Press any key to continue . . . 

Explanation[edit]

The interpreter executes each line in turn, starting with the first. The @ symbol at the start of the line prevents the prompt from displaying that command. The command ECHO off turns off the prompt permanently, or until it is turned on again. Then the next line is executed and the ECHO Hello World! command outputs Hello World!, as only off and on have special functions. Then the next line is executed and the PAUSE command displays Press any key to continue . . . and pauses the script's execution. After a key is pressed, the script terminates, as there are no more commands. In Windows, if the script is run within a Command Prompt window, the window remains open at the prompt as in MS-DOS, otherwise the command prompt window closes on termination (unless the batch file has a command to prevent this).

Advanced Windows batch example (using CMD.EXE) - conditional shutdown[edit]

 @echo off color 0E title Conditional Shutdown.   :start echo Welcome, %USERNAME% echo What would you like to do? echo. echo 1. Shut down within specified number of minutes echo 2. Shut down at a specified time echo 3. Shut down now echo 4. Restart now echo 5. Log off now echo 6. Hibernate now echo 7. Cancel shutdown echo.  echo 0. Quit echo.   set /p choice="Enter your choice: " if "%choice%"=="1" goto shutdown if "%choice%"=="2" goto shutdown-clock if "%choice%"=="3" shutdown.exe -s -f if "%choice%"=="4" shutdown.exe -r -f if "%choice%"=="5" shutdown.exe -l -f if "%choice%"=="6" shutdown.exe -h -f if "%choice%"=="7" goto cancel_now if "%choice%"=="0" exit echo Invalid choice: %choice% echo. pause cls goto start   :shutdown cls set /p min="Minutes until shutdown: " set /a sec=60*%min% shutdown.exe -s -f -t %sec% echo Shutdown initiated at %time% echo. goto cancel   :shutdown-clock echo. echo The time format is HH:MM:SS (24 hour time) echo Example: 14:30:00 for 2:30 PM echo. set /p tmg=Enter the time at which you wish the computer to shut down:  schtasks.exe /create /sc ONCE /tn shutdown /st %tmg% /tr "shutdown.exe -s -t 00" echo Shutdown initiated at %tmg% echo.   :cancel set /p cancel="Type cancel to stop shutdown: " if not "%cancel%"=="cancel" exit :cancel_now shutdown.exe -a cls schtasks.exe /end /tn shutdown cls schtasks.exe /delete /tn shutdown cls echo Any impending shutdown has been cancelled. echo. pause exit 

When doing conditions with IF command, batch commands can use:

   EQU : Equal (=)   NEQ : Not equal (≠) 
   LSS : Less than (<)   LEQ : Less than or Equal (≤) 
   GTR : Greater than (>)   GEQ : Greater than or Equal (≥) 


In cmd.exe the IF command syntax is more strict. On older systems using command.com double quotes were not required, so any delimeter like round brackets "()" could be used :

 C:\>rem ans is set to a single space char C:\>set ans=  C:\>if (%ans%)==( ) echo match match 

Using cmd.exe the IF command must use double quotes to avoid a syntax error:

 C:\>rem ans is set to a single space char C:\>set ans=  C:\>if "%ans%"==" " echo match match 

Limitations and exceptions[edit]

Null values in variables[edit]

Variable expansions are substituted textually into the command, and thus variables which contain nothing simply disappear from the syntax, and variables which contain spaces turn into multiple tokens. This can lead to syntax errors or bugs.

For example, if %foo% is empty, this statement:

 IF %foo%==bar ECHO Equal 

parses as the erroneous construct:

 IF ==bar ECHO Equal 

Similarly, if %foo% contains "abc def", then a different syntax error results:

 IF abc def==bar ECHO Equal 

The usual way to prevent this problem is to surround variable expansions in quotes so that an empty variable expands into the valid expression IF ""=="bar" instead of the invalid IF ==bar. The text that is being compared to the variable must also be enclosed in quotes, because the quotes are not special delimiting syntax; these characters represent themselves.

 IF "%foo%"=="bar" ECHO Equal 

The delayed !VARIABLE! expansion available in Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 may be used to avoid these syntactical errors. In this case, null or multi-word variables will not fail syntactically because the value will be expanded after the IF command is parsed:

 IF !foo!==bar ECHO Equal 

Another difference in Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 or higher is that an empty variable (undefined) is not substituted. As described in previous examples, previous batch interpreter behaviour would have resulted in an empty string. Example:

 C:\>set MyVar=   C:\>echo %MyVar% %MyVar%   C:\>if "%MyVar%"=="" (echo MyVar is Not defined) else (echo MyVar is %MyVar%) MyVar is %MyVar% 

Batch interpreters prior to Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 would have displayed result "MyVar is Not defined"

Quotation marks and spaces in passed strings[edit]

This can cause conflicts where a string contains quotation marks, and is to be inserted into another line of text that must also be enclosed in quotation marks:

 C:\> Set foo="this string is enclosed in quotation marks"   C:\> Echo "test 1 %foo%" "test 1 "this string is enclosed in quotation marks""   C:\> Eventcreate /T Warning /ID 1 /L System /SO "Source" /D "Example: %foo%" ERROR: Invalid Argument/Option - 'string'. Type "EVENTCREATE /?" for usage. 

Under Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7, the solution is to replace each occurrence of a quote character within a value by a series of three quote characters:

 C:\> Set foo="this string is enclosed in quotes"   C:\> Set foo=%foo:"="""%   C:\> Echo "test 1 %foo%" "test 1 """this string is enclosed in quotes""""   C:\> Eventcreate /T Warning /ID 1 /L System /SO "Source" /D "Example: %foo%" SUCCESS: A 'Warning' type event is created in the 'Source' log/source. 

Escaped characters in strings[edit]

Some characters, such as pipe ("|") characters, have special meaning to the command line. They cannot be printed as text using the ECHO command unless escaped using the caret ^ symbol:

 C:\> Echo foo | bar 'bar' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.   C:\> Echo foo ^| bar foo | bar 

However, escaping does not work as expected when inserting the escaped character into an environment variable. The variable ends up containing a live pipe command when merely echoed. It is necessary to escape both the caret itself and the escaped character for the character display as text in the variable:

 C:\> set foo=bar | baz 'baz' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.   C:\> set foo=bar ^| baz C:\> echo %foo% 'baz' is not recognized as an internal or external command, operable program or batch file.   C:\> set foo=bar ^^^| baz C:\> echo %foo% bar | baz 

The delayed !VARIABLE! expansion available in Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 may be used to show special characters stored in environment variables because the variable value will be expanded after the command was parsed:

 C:\> set foo=bar ^| baz C:\> echo !foo! bar | baz 

Sleep or scripted delay[edit]

The PAUSE command halts script activity indefinitely until a key is pressed; small programs and workarounds were written to implement a timed pause.[6] Many workarounds using scripting commands only worked in some environments: the CHOICE command was not available in older DOS versions, PING was only available if TCP/IP was installed, and so on. Simple small programs were readily available; a typical example is the 94-byte WAIT.COM[7] executable. WAIT 5 would wait for 5 seconds, then return control to the script. Most such programs are 16-bit .COM files incompatible with 64-bit Windows, but they have not been needed since Windows Vista introduced the TIMEOUT command.

Text output with stripped CR/LF[edit]

Normally all printed text automatically has the control characters for "carriage return" and "line feed" appended to the end of each line.

 batchtest.bat: @echo foo @echo bar   C:\>batchtest.bat foo bar 

It does not matter if the two echo commands share the same command line; the CR/LF codes are inserted to break the output onto separate lines:

 C:\> @echo foo&@echo bar foo bar 

A trick discovered with Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 is to use the special prompt for input to output text without CR/LF trailing the text. In this example, the CR/LF does not follow Line 1, but does follow Line 2 and Line 3:

 batchtest.bat: @echo off set foo=Line 1 set /p bar="%foo%"<nul echo Line 2 echo Line 3   C:\>batchtest.bat Line 1Line 2 Line 3   C:\> 

This can be used to output data to a text file without CR/LF appended to the end:

 set /p foo="Line 1"<nul >data.txt set /p foo="Line 2"<nul >>data.txt set /p foo="Line 3"<nul >>data.txt type data.txt Line 1Line 2Line 3 

However, there is no way to inject this stripped CR/LF prompt output directly into an environment variable.

Setting a UNC working directory from a shortcut[edit]

It is not possible to have a command prompt that uses a UNC file path as the current working directory, like this:

 \\server\share\directory\> 

The command prompt requires the use of drive letters to assign a working directory, which makes running complex batch files stored on a server UNC share more difficult. While a batch file can be run from a UNC file path, the working directory will default to "C:\windows\system32\"

In Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7, a workaround is to use the PUSHD and POPD command with command extensions. Quoting the help for PUSHD in Windows 7, If Command Extensions are enabled the PUSHD command accepts network paths in addition to the normal drive letter and path. If a network path is specified, PUSHD will create a temporary drive letter that points to that specified network resource and then change the current drive and directory, using the newly defined drive letter. Temporary drive letters are allocated from Z: on down, using the first unused drive letter found.

If not enabled by default, command extensions can be temporarily enabled using the "/E:ON" switch for the command interpreter.

So to run a batch file on a UNC share, assign a temporary drive letter to the UNC share, and use the UNC share as the working directory of the batch file, a Windows shortcut can be constructed that looks like this:

 Target: %COMSPEC% /E:ON /C "PUSHD """\\SERVER\SHARE\DIR1\DIR2\""" & BATCHFILE.BAT & POPD" 

The working directory attribute of this shortcut is ignored.

The following syntax does correctly expand to the path of the current batch script.

  %~dp0 

Character set[edit]

Batch files use a DOS character set, as defined by the computer, e.g. Code page 437. The non-ASCII parts of these are incompatible with the Unicode or Windows character sets otherwise used in Windows so care needs to be taken.[8] Non-English file names work only if entered through a DOS character set compatible editor. File names with characters outside this set won't work in batch files.

To get output in Unicode into file pipes from an internal command such as dir, one can use the cmd /U command. For example cmd /U /C dir > files.txt will create a file containing a directory listing with correct Windows characters, in the UTF-16LE encoding.

Batch viruses and malware[edit]

Batch files can be used to write malware and viruses, with some well-known examples in the hacking community being the window bomber (also called fork bomb) malware which opens the same program so many times the computer is exhausted from resources, the neverending copying of the batch file all over the disk, or the DNS poisoning malware in which the batch file modifies the hosts file file to make a Windows computer connect to an IP address specified by the batch file's programmer when the user attempts to visit the website of a well-known internet site unrelated to the malware, and batch viruses can also spread themselves via USB flash drives by using Windows' Autorun capability.[9]

The following is the code of the folder flooder batch file malware which creates directories in a never-ending loop by using the random Windows command thus naming each directory with a random number:[9]

 @echo off :x md %random% // makes directory/folder.  goto x 

Other Windows scripting languages[edit]

The cmd.exe command processor that interprets .cmd files is supported in all 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows up to at least the 2011 Windows 8 preview. COMMAND.EXE, which interprets .BAT files, was supported in all 16- and 32-bit versions up to at least Windows 8 preview.[10]

While the more powerful 2006 Windows PowerShell is favored in later versions of Windows that support it, Microsoft was also using .cmd files as far as, at least, Windows Server 2008. An example is servermanagercmd.exe[11] which incorporates the entire set of Server Manager functions for Windows Server 2008.

There are other, later and more powerful, scripting languages available for Windows. However, these require the scripting language interpreter to be installed before they can be used:

Script files will run if the filename without extension is entered. There are rules of precedence governing interpretation of, say, DoThis if DoThis.cmd, DoThis.bat, DoThis.exe, etc. exist; by default DoThis.cmd has highest priority. This default order may be modified in newer operating systems by the user-settable PATHEXT environment variable.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Using batch files: Scripting; Management Services". Technet.microsoft.com. 2005-01-21. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  2. ^ "File extension BAT - How to open". File-extensions.org. 2006-08-08. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  3. ^ To verify that COMMAND.COM remains available (in the \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 directory), type "COMMAND.COM" at the 32-bit Windows 7 command prompt.
  4. ^ "btm file extension :: all about the .btm file type". Cryer.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  5. ^ "Difference between bat and cmd | WWoIT - Wayne's World of IT". http://waynes-world-it.blogspot.fr. 2012-11-15. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 
  6. ^ "How to do a delay", ericphelps.com
  7. ^ Utilities for DOS, linking to WAIT.ZIP (archive of WAIT.COM) and other programs
  8. ^ Chen, Raymond. "Keep your eye on the code page". Microsoft. 
  9. ^ a b http://www.explorehacking.com/2011/01/batch-files-art-of-creating-viruses.html
  10. ^ Availability of cmd.exe and COMMAND.COM can be confirmed by invoking them in any version of WIndows (COMMAND.COM not in 64-bit versions; probably only available in Win 8/32 if installed with option to support 16-bit programs)
  11. ^ [1][dead link]
  12. ^ "Windows PowerShell - Unix comes to Windows". Geekswithblogs.net. Retrieved 2012-11-30. 

External links[edit]