Understanding Commands

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If you’re planning to take the SY0-501 exam, you should have a good understanding of command-line tools.  These include some relevant commands that you can run on your primary computer or within a virtual machine.

For example, can you answer this practice test question?

Q. Ned is not able to access any network resources from his Linux-based computer. Which of the following commands would he use to view the network configuration of his system?

A. ifconfig

B. ipconfig

C. netstat

D. tracert

More, do you know why the correct answer is correct and the incorrect answers are incorrect? The answer and explanation are available at the end of this post.

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Windows Command Line

Before you can use the command line in Windows, you first need to launch the Windows Command Prompt window. The simplest way to launch the Command Prompt window is to right- click the Start button and select Command Prompt, as shown in the figure. The Start button is at the lower left of your screen and clicking it displays the Start menu with links to many commonly used applications.

Understanding Commands

Launching the Windows Command Prompt window

In some situations, you need to start the Command Prompt window with elevated permissions as an administrator. To do this, right-click the Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).

If you’re using a different version of Windows (or Microsoft decides to modify the function of the Start button again), a quick search with your favorite search engine should help you identify how to open the Command Prompt window.

Understanding Switches and Getting Help

Almost every command you’ll run across has options available that you can invoke with a switch. A Windows command-line switch uses a forward slash (/) or a dash (-) after the command and includes an option that modifies the command to perform a different function.

Linux commands use switches too, but they typically only use a dash. If you use a forward slash, you will typically get unexpected results or an error.

The most used switch in Windows systems is the help switch identified with a question mark. For example, you can use the help switch to get help using these commands:

• ping /? or ping -?
• ipconfig /? or ipconfig -?
• netstat /? or netstat -?

Although Linux terminal commands use switches too, they don’t use the question mark for help. Instead, if you want basic help on a command, you can often just type the command without any switch, or use the pipe symbol (|) and the word help:

• ping
• ping | help

Most Linux distributions include a built-in user manual that you can query. The manual is organized by man pages and you query them with the man command. For example, you can use the following command to get help on ping:

• man ping

Unfortunately, there isn’t a consistent standard to get help for all commands in Linux. Sometimes, one method works, but another one doesn’t. The key is to know the different methods so that you can use an alternate method if necessary.

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Understanding Case

Most Windows commands are not case sensitive. In other words, you can type in a command using uppercase characters, lowercase characters, or any combination. For example, each of the following commands will ping the localhost IPv6 address (::1) and provide the same output:

• ping -6 localhost
• PiNg -6 localHOST
• PING -6 LocalHost

However, this is not true in the Linux terminal. Instead, commands are typically lowercase and if you use uppercase letters, you’ll find that the command is not recognized. Of the three commands shown for the Windows command line, only ping -6 localhost will work within the Linux terminal.

As you go through these commands, note that many of them support both IPv4 addresses and IPv6 addresses. By querying help, you can see how to do each.


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Q. Ned is not able to access any network resources from his Linux-based computer. Which of the following commands would he use to view the network configuration of his system?

A. ifconfig

B. ipconfig

C. netstat

D. tracert

Answer is. A. The ifconfig command displays network settings on a Linux This includes the IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway assigned to the network interface card (NIC).

The ipconfig command performs similar checks on Windows computers, but not on Linux systems.

Netstat shows network statistics and active connections but not the network settings.

The tracert command traces the route of data and can help determine which network devices are failing.

See Chapter 1 of the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide for more information on command line tools.

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