How To Use Windows PowerShell

If you have familiarity with command line tools, Windows PowerShell won’t be out of reach to get up to speed on.

PowerShell allows users to interact with the computer’s operating system via an interface, or “shell.” It is a multi-purpose, command-line shell and programming language. It can be used for very small administrative tasks or full-blown enterprise level automation.

Scripting Languages and PowerShell

PowerShell is not just a command line tool but also has an associated scripting language.

  • A scripting language is a specific type of programming language that allows programmers or developers to write scripts that allow tasks to be automated.
  • That automation is valuable because it saves time and money.
  • That’s why System Administrators use Windows PowerShell, and why corporations find it so valuable.

History of Windows PowerShell

The architect behind PowerShell is Jeffrey Snover. In 2002 Snover authored the Monad Manifesto. In this whitepaper, Snover wrote, “Monad is the next generation platform for administration automation. Monad solves traditional management problems by leveraging the .NET Platform.” Snover’s whitepaper is what started development efforts, and the result of those years of efforts is what led to what we now know as Windows PowerShell.

Prerequisite Knowledge Needed in Order to Learn PowerShell

There are no specific prerequisites for learning PowerShell that are absolutely necessary before getting started. A programming background obviously is helpful, but PowerShell is otherwise easy to learn and can be a good option for those without a lot of programming skills.

There were tremendous differences between Version 1 and Version 2 of PowerShell. But the differences between PowerShell Versions 2 and 3 were pretty minor. So, make sure that when running a PowerShell script, or in a Windows PowerShell tutorial, you take into account what version it was written in.

Types of People Who Use PowerShell

PowerShell is used by a wide variety of computer professionals including Systems Administrators, database administrators (for automating database tasks), SharePoint Professionals, and automation engineers.

Uses of PowerShell

  • PowerShell is primarily used for automation.
  • Another use of PowerShell is for configuration management. Keep in mind it’s only available for Windows, but for some configuration management analysts and engineers, PowerShell fits the bill.
  • PowerShell is also capable of evaluating simple mathematical expressions and returning a result.

Advantages of Windows PowerShell

Using Windows PowerShell frees up time as it is:

  • Easy (quicker) to learn
  • Automates repetitive tasks that are otherwise time consuming.
  • That ability to automate saves money, increasing the bottom line.

PowerShell is object-oriented, and that’s beneficial because it helps to speed up programming.

Another benefit of PowerShell is the active community that surrounds it. In addition to bloggers, this community includes PowerShell MVPs, or Most Valuable Professionals, along with active forums and podcasts on relevant topics.

Cmdlets and Executables

A cmdlet, pronounced command let, is a command in PowerShell that performs a single or specific function. There are thousands of cmdlets in Windows Server 2016, so it’s advisable to learn a few dozens of the most useful cmdlets relative to the work you do, and maintain a list of references to use when you need to quickly find a cmdlet that you aren’t familiar with.

PowerShell Aliases

In PowerShell, aliases are supported and can shorten the necessary code for both cmdlets and executables. However, aliases will not work for cmdlets and executables used with a parameter. While aliases are beneficial in PowerShell for reducing code, don’t overuse aliases.

Variables

Due to its advanced nature, PowerShell variables can store just about any type of data. Variables in PowerShell always begin with a $, which is common for scripting languages.

Limitations

While the benefits of PowerShell are clear, it is not without limitations. There are some oddities or quirks to PowerShell that make it undesirable for some users. For example, PowerShell is integrated with several third-party companies and also includes several third-party tools.

A programmer can call a PowerShell function without using parentheses. This is not unusual for scripting languages; however, since it’s possible to use .NET code directly in PowerShell, and parentheses are required to call functions in .NET, some users find this to be an annoying limitation at worst, and a bit confusing at least.

Avoid this One Common Error to Stand Out from Your Coworkers

What I’m about to share with you in this Windows PowerShell tutorial will help you ace that trick interview question or help you stand out from your colleagues at work.

When you’re writing a PowerShell script, it won’t run unless you set the execution policy for it to “remote sign.” It’s actually pretty common for programmers and developers to neglect to even select a signing option before trying to run the script. Keep this in mind when you’re live on the job, and you’ll avoid unnecessary aggravation and be able to devote valuable time where it’s needed most.

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About the Author: AddisonAlbert

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