How to Remove Spaces from an MS-DOS Filename or Subdirectory (65163)

The information in this article applies to:
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 3.1
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 3.2
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 3.21
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 3.3
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 3.3a
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 4.0
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 4.01
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 5.0
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 5.0a
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 6.0
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 6.2
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 6.21
    Microsoft MS-DOS operating system 6.22

This article was previously published under Q65163


Although your application program may allow you to enter a filename or directory name that contains a space character, MS-DOS does not allow filenames or directory names to have spaces in them.

If you create a filename containing a space, you cannot subsequently remove, load, or delete the file unless you first rename it.

For example, if the file appears in the directory as
   TEST CAR  TXT    4098  01-01-80  3:10pm
then MS-DOS does not allow you to manipulate the file unless you delete the space between "TEST" and "CAR."

If you create a directory name with a space in it, you must remove the directory.


When MS-DOS parses the command line, it separates the various parameters by looking for a space. MS-DOS commands and utilities view the filename "AUG 1990.DAT" as two parameters: "AUG" and "1990.DAT." Commands such as ERASE, COPY, and RENAME return an invalid parameter error because it appears that an extra parameter is supplied.

Also, certain operations that application software can request MS-DOS to perform require a filename. If the filename supplied to MS-DOS by the application contains a space, MS-DOS may be unable to process the request.

Modifying/Removing a File

Use the following procedure to rename and then modify a file with a space in its name:

    Use the MS-DOS RENAME command with a wildcard to replace the space with a legal filename character. For example:
          rename test?car.txt test_car.txt
    This example replaces the space with the underscore character.

    This method prevents MS-DOS from separating TEST and CAR.TXT as two separate parameters, but still allows MS-DOS to find the file. The file is renamed to TEST_CAR.TXT, which is a legal MS-DOS filename.
    Delete, read, or modify the file using normal procedures.

Removing a Directory

You can remove a directory that contains a space in its name by using the Basic interpreter, which is included in MS-DOS (GW-Basic, BASICA, or QBasic).

    Start GW-Basic, BASICA, or QBasic, by typing its name and pressing ENTER.
    In QBasic, press F6 to make the Immediate window active (this step is not necessary in GW-Basic or BASICA).
    Use the MS-DOS RMDIR command to remove the directory. For example, use the following command to remove a directory called "HI THERE":
          rmdir "hi there" (and press ENTER)
    GW-Basic or BASICA respond with "OK"; QBasic does not respond.
    To exit QBasic, choose Exit from the File menu; to exit GW-Basic or BASICA, type system and press ENTER.
NOTE: If you are using MS-DOS 6.0, 6.2, or 6.21, you can use MOVE to rename illegal directories. For example, type the following at the MS-DOS command prompt:

move "my work" my_work


The user's guides for all Microsoft MS-DOS versions contain a section on valid MS-DOS filenames.

"Microsoft MS-DOS User's Guide and User's Reference version 4.0," page 16
"Microsoft MS-DOS User's Guide and Reference version 5.0," page 69
"Microsoft MS-DOS User's Guide versions 6.0-6.21," page 35
"Microsoft MS-DOS Upgrade User's Guide version 6.22," page 35

Modification Type: Major Last Reviewed: 5/12/2003
Keywords: KB65163