The Windows 10 logo.

One of the first things you’ll need to learn as you become more familiar with Command Prompt on Windows 10 is how to change directories in the operating system’s file system. There are a few ways you can do this, so we’ll walk you through them.

First, type “cmd” in the Windows Search bar to open Command Prompt, and then select “Command Prompt” from the search results.

Click "Command Prompt" in the Windows 10 search results.

With Command Prompt opened, you’re ready to change directories.

Change Directories Using the Drag-and-Drop Method

If the folder you want to open in Command Prompt is on your desktop or already open in File Explorer, you can quickly change to that directory. Type cd followed by a space, drag and drop the folder into the window, and then press Enter.

An animated GIF showing a file being dragged and dropped in Command Prompt.

The directory you switched to will be reflected in the command line.

Change Directories Within Command Prompt

It’s not always convenient to open File Explorer and drag and drop. That’s why it’s cool that you can also type a command to change directories right in Command Prompt.

RELATED: 10 Useful Windows Commands You Should Know

Say, for example, you’re in your user folder, and there’s a “Documents” directory in the next file path. You can type the following command in Command Prompt to switch to that directory:

cd Documents

Note that this only works if you’re in the immediate file structure. In our case, that would be (user folder) > Documents. In our current directory, we wouldn’t be able to use this method to jump to a directory nested two levels down.

So, let’s say we’re currently in the user folder and want to go to the “How-To Geek” folder, which is nested in “Documents.” If we try to jump straight to “How-To Geek” without first going to “Documents,” we get the error shown in the image below.

"The System Cannot Find the Path Specified" error message in Command Prompt.

Let’s take things one directory at a time, for now. As we mentioned previously, we’re currently in our user folder. We type cd Documents in Command Prompt to visit “Documents.”

The "cd Documents" command in Command Prompt.

We’re now in the “Documents” folder. To move down another level, we type cd on the command line followed by the name of that directory.

The "cd How-To Geek" command in Command Prompt.

Now, let’s say we’re back in our user folder and want to skip that extra step and jump two directories down. In our case, this would be our “How-To Geek” folder. We type the following command:

cd Documents\How-To Geek

This allows us to move two directory levels with one command.

The "cd Documents\How-To Geek" command in Command Prompt.

If you ever go to the wrong directory and want to turn back, type the following command:

cd . . 

This allows you to move up a level.

The "cd . . " command in Command Prompt.

A Navigation Tip

If you want to be a bit more efficient with your directory changes, type cd on the command line, followed by the first few letters of the directory you want. Then, press Tab to autocomplete the directory name.

An Animated GIF showing autocomplete in Command Prompt.

Alternatively, you can type cd, followed by the first letter of the directory, and then press Tab multiple times until the correct directory appears.

An animated GIF showing directories being toggled in Command Prompt.

See Directory Contents

If you’re ever lost and not sure where to go next, you can view the contents of your current directory by typing dir on the command line.

The "dir" command and a directory's contents in Command Prompt.

This will give you a hint as to which directory to navigate to next.

Marshall Gunnell Marshall Gunnell
Marshall Gunnell is a writer with experience in the data storage industry. He worked at Synology, and most recently as CMO and technical staff writer at StorageReview. He's currently an API/Software Technical Writer at LINE Corporation in Tokyo, Japan.
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