IOS Help Commands

Let’s say that we decide to enter the copy command. After pressing Enter, the output tells us that the command is incomplete. In other words, it needs additional information in order to do anything useful.

% Incomplete command.

To find out what we should enter next, we can again use the help command. In this case, enter copy ? (be sure to leave a space between copy and the question mark). There is no need to press Enter – after typing ?, the router will provide output immediately.

toronto-1#copy ?
/erase Erase destination file system.
flash: Copy from flash: file system
flh: Copy from flh: file system
ftp: Copy from ftp: file system
null: Copy from null: file system
nvram: Copy from nvram: file system
rcp: Copy from rcp: file system
running-config Copy from current system configuration
startup-config Copy from startup configuration
system: Copy from system: file system
tftp: Copy from tftp: file system

The help function presents us with a list of additional commands that can be used with copy. To determine what should come next, just add one of the additional commands, leave a space, and again enter the question mark.

toronto-1#copy flash: ?
flash: Copy to flash: file system
ftp: Copy to ftp: file system
lex: Copy to lex: file system
null: Copy to null: file system
nvram: Copy to nvram: file system
rcp: Copy to rcp: file system
running-config Update (merge with) current system configuration
startup-config Copy to startup configuration
system: Copy to system: file system
tftp: Copy to tftp: file system

Using the help function one last time yields the output shown below.

toronto-1#copy flash: tftp: ?

The output represents a carriage return, and means that the next step is simply hitting Enter to execute the command. Do not bother hitting enter this time – we haven’t learned anything about copying to a TFTP server yet, so you’re better off just erasing the line using a shortcut just recently learned. In case you forgot, try Ctrl+U.

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.