144

Sometimes I forget how the exact syntax of a CMD command looks and then I would like to search my own CMD history. Clearly, within the same session, you can browse it with the up and down arrow keys but what about the history of former CMD sessions? Is there a file, a log the history gets written to or does it all go to digital Nirvana?

Thanks!

2
  • 4
    You can hijack the exit command to automatically save a log before exiting: doskey exit=doskey /history ^>^> C:\path\to\cmdhistory.log $T exit $* but you'll need to figure out how to execute this automatically at each command prompt session startup. PS: Make sure the path of the log file is writable. C:\ is not writable for a non-admin command prompt.
    – ADTC
    Jan 7 '18 at 5:00
  • 4
    @ADTC: AutoRun should handle 'each startup': superuser.com/a/302553/333316 or stackoverflow.com/a/17405182/2868801 Jun 3 '18 at 20:40

10 Answers 10

56

No, Windows command prompt history can't be saved when a session ends.

11
  • 3
    for real? how do you know this? Sorry for questioning you, I guess you are right but how can u know unless u programmed the damn thing ;)
    – raoulsson
    Dec 18 '09 at 0:08
  • 9
    Ok, let me rephrase :-) The Windows command interpreter ("cmd.exe") doesn't provide any support for saving/exporting/keeping history, of, if it does, Microsoft didn't document it and nobody was ever able to find it. You can of course try to work around that, like Sean suggested, but there's (or does appear to be) no built-in support for this.
    – Massimo
    Dec 18 '09 at 6:17
  • 26
    You can press F7 to see a history list of the current session.
    – jftuga
    Feb 14 '11 at 13:20
  • 7
    CURRENT session is the keyword here.
    – Massimo
    Aug 24 '15 at 5:42
  • 9
    You can see / save the history by running doskey.exe /history (that's also where the F7 shortcut comes from, BTW) but there's no way to load it back up in your next session.
    – Coderer
    Feb 19 '16 at 9:45
86

Not natively but check out: http://mridgers.github.io/clink/ , makes cmd.exe much more productive. Quoting features from the project page:

Powerful Bash-like line editing from GNU's Readline library.
Superior path completion (TAB).
Paste from clipboard (Ctrl-V).
Support for the completion of executables/commands, and environment variables.
Undo/Redo (Ctrl-_ or Ctrl-X, Ctrl-U)
Improved command line history.
Persists across sessions.
Searchable (Ctrl-R and Ctrl-S).
History expansion (e.g. !!, !<string>, and !$).
Scriptable completion using Lua.
7
  • 5
    clink solved everything
    – Still.Tony
    Jan 20 '15 at 16:27
  • 8
    Any plans to include it by default in Windows? :D Mar 1 '15 at 22:40
  • Can you set a ~/.inputrc when using clink? (and do you know whether it can be used Console or anything?)
    – Mike H-R
    Apr 20 '15 at 17:39
  • Apparently, see the doc github.com/mridgers/clink/blob/master/docs/clink.md. Dec 18 '15 at 9:29
  • ... except aliases. clink hates doskey; forget all of your years-long and carefully-assigned aliases. that's why i stopped to use it. though i miss all the features.
    – user246890
    Jul 3 '17 at 17:31
22

Massimo is correct that your command prompt history does not persist across sessions. You could manually grab this before closing your prompt by typing doskey /history > history.txt

Or... you could use PowerShell as your CMD prompt, and follow this post to persist your history across sessions.

0
18

You can use clink.

Clink combines the native Windows shell cmd.exe with the powerful command line editing features of the GNU Readline library, which provides rich completion, history, and line-editing capabilities.

Easiest way to install clink is using chocolatey. Once you install chocolatey, you can install clink by typing

choco install clink

Starting from the next time you start cmd.exe, it should store history across sessions.

2
  • 2
    Finally decided to give Chocolatey a shot because of this post. Installation was as easy as of brew in macOS. And now I have a Bash-like command prompt in Windows! Sep 23 '16 at 7:39
  • Yes must say Chocolatey is definitely awesome, takes some of the worry about downloading the 'proper' installation file Aug 4 '20 at 9:12
7

It is possible to save the current history to file,

`$ doskey /history > somefile.txt`

But it seems there is no way to load it back as history. It is possible only to use a command line argument to load and execute all lines,

cmd.exe /K somefile.txt

, what can be useful to load a list of doskey macros. This invocation could be included in a shortcut so you don't need to type it everytime; this reference has some additional info on this approach.

There is a similar question on Superuser that bring some alternatives, including clink, as suggested by @RobertBak.

3
  • Hmm, to load it back into history, wouldn't you simply need to save it to a .bat file and run it?
    – Pacerier
    Aug 23 '15 at 22:10
  • 1
    @Pacerier running the commands again would surely include them back in the history, but it likely would have large side-effects. Imagine that you delete some files through the shell and then recreate them outside the shell through a long and painful process. Reloading the history through your procedure would unexpectedly delete the files again.
    – mMontu
    Aug 24 '15 at 11:00
  • @Pacerier you realize "run it" does mean executing all those commands, right? It's not simply loading them into history, but actually letting them have some effects on your system.
    – ADTC
    Jan 7 '18 at 5:07
1

Command History: To enable a command history (that can be accessed using the up and down arrow keys) just execute doskey at the command prompt. For example, to create a command history of 100 elements:

doskey /listsize=100

ref:https://users.cs.jmu.edu/bernstdh/web/common/help/ntshell.php

2
  • 4
    That doesn't answer the question at all??
    – Chopper3
    Feb 14 '11 at 13:27
  • 1
    Not works on Windows 10. Sep 23 '16 at 7:27
1

clink is nice and the author publishes a chocolatey package on every release, however I would suggest DeepBlueCLI.

You can use https://github.com/sans-blue-team/DeepBlueCLI to set-up Windows Security Event ID 4688.

For PowerShell, DeepBlueCLI also uses module logging (PowerShell event 4013) and script block logging (4104). It does not use transcription.

The added benefit is that it logs the hash of the command line exe in AppLocker event log. Source: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/identity/ad-ds/manage/component-updates/command-line-process-auditing

Also, because this solution uses the Windows Event Log infrastructure, you can query it through WMI or PowerShell Get-EventLog. With clink, you have to learn another tool in order to detect system- or network-wide patterns of behavior.

1
  • 1
    event 4688 is the key, and that is the central store how Windows record all executed commands. all other tools is just reading looking for this event. thanks. But by default is it not enable: itprotoday.com/strategy/…
    – Peter Teoh
    May 7 '19 at 1:13
1

Yes, it's possible

If all you want to do is save your command line history at the end of every session, here's a simple way to do it:

As other answers indicated, doskey allows you to list the command line history for the current session. It also allows you to create macros.

This simple macro will save the command line history when you exit a CMD session:

doskey exit=(echo/ ^& echo **** %date% %time% ****) $g$g %USERPROFILE%\commands.log ^& doskey /history $g$g %USERPROFILE%\commands.log ^& ECHO Command history saved, exiting ^& exit $*

This creates a macro that remaps the EXIT command to copy the command line history into your user profile folder (e.g., C:\Users\yourname\commands.log). Unfortunately, you won't be able to easily go back to any of these entries by pressing the up arrow, but you can examine the file at any point to see what you did in the past.

Autoloading

So that's the easy part. The tricky part is autoloading that doskey macro when you start a new command session. The short and dangerous answer is to just add it to the REGISTRY in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Command Processor\AutoRun. Anything you put in this entry will be run when you start a CMD session.

While that will work, it will definitely create unexpected side effects when doing any kind of scripting*.

So here's how I do it:

Create a file called autoexec.bat and store it in your profile folder (e.g., C:\Users\yourname\autoexec.bat). Then change the value of HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Command Processor\AutoRun to this:

IF EXIST "%USERPROFILE%\autoexec.bat" (CALL "%USERPROFILE%\autoexec.bat")

So yes, this batch file will run every time a CMD session is opened, but we'll do a trick to make sure it doesn't run in any subprocesses. Here is what you put in the autoexec.bat file:

@echo off
if "%AUTOEXEC%" EQU "1" goto :eof
SET AUTOEXEC=1
echo Loading macros.

rem  remap exit command to save a copy of the command line history to a log before exiting.
DOSKEY exit=(echo/ ^& echo **** %date% %time% ****) $g$g %USERPROFILE%\commands.log ^& doskey /history $g$g %USERPROFILE%\commands.log ^& ECHO Command history saved, exiting ^& exit $*

How does this avoid those unexpected side effects?

All we're doing is creating an environment variable called AUTOEXEC. Then, when any subsequent subprocesses open a command session, they will run into the second line and immediately exit the script! This is because subprocesses automatically inherit the environment variables from the parent process.

But wait, there's more!

This allows you to add as many macros as you want to your command session. For example:

rem  review previous command line entries:
DOSKEY history=notepad %USERPROFILE%\commands.log

rem  copy the current directory to the clipboard
DOSKEY cc=cd^|clip ^& echo %%CD%% copied to clipboard

rem  etc!

Now you've got all the macros you can eat, and you're saving your command line session each time. But remember, if you don't explicitly type exit, the history won't be saved. Closing the window with the mouse won't work here.

Hope this helps!

* because batch subprocesses often open a second copy of CMD which will run this command again and again, from slowing everything down to other unforseen issues.

0

To save command history:

doskey /history > history.dos

To reference commands:

cls & type history.dos | find /v /n ""

This method won't change the command history of current session

To add the current session command history to the last save file:

doskey /history >> history.dos
0

Windows 10 now includes alternative and better shells ('terminals' as they call them).

  1. Windows Terminal, i think i installed it via the built in store. Once installed just press start and search for Terminal or do Start>Run>wt. This includes persistent command history.
  2. Ubuntu shell, You can install Windows Subsystem for Linux and Ubuntu, both of these come from the built in store. If you know unix then having access to all the usual bash utilities and syntax is very handy and of course command history is persistent.
1
  • How do you enable persistent command history in wt? Each time I start a new terminal session it starts with empty history (arror up doesn't yield anything). How to search that history (Ctrl+R doesn't work here)?
    – Stef
    Apr 22 at 12:52

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