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Pop Quiz: The syntax of the command is incorrect.

Had a hair pulling ten minutes just now. A simple batch script code fails to run. And I had a difficult time figuring it out. The following is a much simplified brain teaser for you. Can you figure out what's wrong?

@echo off

set f=%SystemDrive%\test\file.txt"

echo 1
if exist "%f%" (
echo 2
copy "%f%" "%SystemDrive%\file.txt"
echo 3

The code above produces the following output:

The syntax of the command is incorrect.

Why? What's wrong with the if statement? Let see if you know the answer. I'll post the lesson learned in a few days.

Thu, 07 Nov 2013 02:52:56 +0300

The error actually occurred before the if statement, which was why I was pulling my hair out. In the set variable statement, before the echo statement, there was an extra double-quote at the end of the statement. That caused the failure in the if statement.

Lesson learned in this case is that DOS/Windows batch interpreter is quite rudimentary in its error messages. So, just looking at the line that produces the error message may not be sufficient. You have to look at surrounding statements. In more complex batch scripts, digging deep into the variable value could be a speedier way of debugging.

Fri, 22 Nov 2013 03:07:16 +0300

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