Changes to the Start Command Functionality

Sometimes a change command line command occurs and no one really notices for a while, except that there is some oddity in the way the command executes. This is how I recently figured out a change to the Start command. Some update Microsoft provided changed the way it worked, but I have no idea of which one.

I have a batch file in the Startup folder that automatically loads all the sites I use in my favorite browser when I start my system in the morning. The old command looked like this:

Start "C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\Firefox" ""

This command starts a copy of Firefox and loads Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) for me. The interesting thing is that the command continued to work, despite the change in the Start command functionality. What changed was the fact that the command window didn’t go away once the sites were all loaded. The command window would remain in place until I closed the browser. I’ve had a lot of other things to worry about, so all I did was minimize the command window and let it disappear after I had looked over my sites in the morning.

Notice how the command is in quotes. This is a necessity because there are spaces in the command, so it won’t execute if you don’t place it in quotes. After some investigation, it turns out that the new behavior is treating the command as the Title argument for Start, rather than as the command. The Start command was opening the site based on the URL argument alone. Just why the command window wasn’t closing is something I haven’t figured out yet.

Recently I decided it was time to work out the problems with the Start command because I wanted to use Chrome to load some sites (in addition to those loaded by Firefox) and Chrome wasn’t loading them. The sites were all loading in Firefox. So, I wandered over to TechNet to see what Microsoft has to say on the Start command and that’s when I noticed that the documentation had been updated on April 17, 2012—about the time I started experiencing my little problem (it does sometimes take forever for me to get the time needed to fix an issue).

After thinking through the command for a little while and trying a few alternatives at the command line, I finally came up with a new command for the batch file. Here is the result:

Start /D"C:\Program Files (x86)\Mozilla Firefox\" Firefox.exe ""

The new version of the command uses the /D command line switch to specify the path to the command. There is nothing new about the /D command line switch—you simply didn’t need to use it in the past to get the desired result from the Start command. Notice that the command now includes the full executable name and extension. The argument appears after the command as before. Now the command executes properly and the command window closes after all the sites are loaded.

Make sure you use this new information when working with either Administering Windows Server 2008 Server Core and Windows Command-Line Administration Instant Reference to ensure you get the desired results from the examples. Also let me know about any issues you encounter with commands in either book at


Author: John

John Mueller is a freelance author and technical editor. He has writing in his blood, having produced 99 books and over 600 articles to date. The topics range from networking to artificial intelligence and from database management to heads-down programming. Some of his current books include a Web security book, discussions of how to manage big data using data science, a Windows command -line reference, and a book that shows how to build your own custom PC. His technical editing skills have helped over more than 67 authors refine the content of their manuscripts. John has provided technical editing services to both Data Based Advisor and Coast Compute magazines. He has also contributed articles to magazines such as Software Quality Connection, DevSource, InformIT, SQL Server Professional, Visual C++ Developer, Hard Core Visual Basic, asp.netPRO, Software Test and Performance, and Visual Basic Developer. Be sure to read John’s blog at

When John isn’t working at the computer, you can find him outside in the garden, cutting wood, or generally enjoying nature. John also likes making wine and knitting. When not occupied with anything else, he makes glycerin soap and candles, which comes in handy for gift baskets. You can reach John on the Internet at John is also setting up a website at Feel free to take a look and make suggestions on how he can improve it.