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PowerShell Beginner’s Guide

If you are new to PowerShell, this document will walk you through a few examples to give you some basic ideas of PowerShell. We recommend that you open a PowerShell console/session and type along with the instructions in this document to get most out of this exercise.

Launch PowerShell Console/Session

First you need to launch a PowerShell session by following the Installing PowerShell Guide.

Getting Familiar with PowerShell Commands

In this section, you will learn how to

  • create a file, delete a file and change file directory
  • discover what version of PowerShell you are currently using
  • exit a PowerShell session
  • get help if you needed
  • find syntax of PowerShell cmdlets
  • and more

As mentioned above, PowerShell commands are designed to have Verb-Noun structure, for instance Get-Process, Set-Location, Clear-Host, etc. Let’s exercise some of the basic PowerShell commands, also known as cmdlets.

Please note that we will use the PowerShell prompt sign PS /> as it appears on Linux in the following examples. It is shown as PS C:\> on Windows.

  1. Get-Process: Gets the processes that are running on the local computer or a remote computer.

By default, you will get data back similar to the following:

PS /> Get-Process

Handles   NPM(K)    PM(K)     WS(K)     CPU(s)     Id    ProcessName
-------  ------     -----     -----     ------     --    -----------
    -      -          -           1      0.012     12    bash
    -      -          -          21     20.220    449    powershell
    -      -          -          11     61.630   8620    code
    -      -          -          74    403.150   1209    firefox

…

Only interested in the instance of Firefox process that is running on your computer?

Try this:

PS /> Get-Process -Name firefox

Handles   NPM(K)    PM(K)     WS(K)    CPU(s)     Id   ProcessName
-------  ------     -----     -----    ------     --   -----------
    -      -          -          74   403.150   1209   firefox

Want to get back more than one process? Then just specify process names and separate them with commas.

PS /> Get-Process -Name firefox, powershell
Handles   NPM(K)    PM(K)     WS(K)    CPU(s)     Id   ProcessName
-------  ------     -----     -----    ------     --   -----------
    -      -          -          74   403.150   1209   firefox
    -      -          -          21    20.220    449   powershell
  1. Clear-Host: Clears the display in the host program.
PS /> Get-Process
PS /> Clear-Host

Type too much just for clearing the screen?

Here is how the alias can help.

  1. Get-Alias: Gets the aliases for the current session.
Get-Alias

CommandType     Name
-----------     ----
…

Alias           cd -> Set-Location
Alias           cls -> Clear-Host
Alias           clear -> Clear-Host
Alias           copy -> Copy-Item
Alias           dir -> Get-ChildItem
Alias           gc -> Get-Content
Alias           gmo -> Get-Module
Alias           ri -> Remove-Item
Alias           type -> Get-Content

As you can see cls or clear is an alias of Clear-Host.

Now try it:

PS /> Get-Process
PS /> cls
  1. cd -> Set-Location: Sets the current working location to a specified location.
PS /> Set-Location /home
PS /home>
  1. dir -> Get-ChildItem: Gets the items and child items in one or more specified locations.
# Get all files under the current directory:
PS /> Get-ChildItem

# Get all files under the current directory as well as its subdirectories:
PS /> cd $home
PS /home/jen> dir -Recurse

# List all files with "txt" file extension.
PS /> cd $home
PS /home/jen> dir –Path *.txt -Recurse

*6. New-Item: Creates a new item.

# An empty file is created if you type the following:
PS /home/jen> New-Item -Path ./test.txt


    Directory: /home/jen


Mode                LastWriteTime         Length  Name
----                -------------         ------  ----
-a----         7/7/2016   7:17 PM              0  test.txt

You can use the -Value parameter to add some data to your file.

For example, the following command adds the phrase Hello world! as a file content to the test.txt.

Because the test.txt file exists already, we use -Force parameter to replace the existing content.

PS /home/jen> New-Item -Path ./test.txt -Value "Hello world!" -Force

    Directory: /home/jen


Mode                LastWriteTime         Length  Name
----                -------------         ------  ----
-a----         7/7/2016   7:19 PM             24  test.txt

There are other ways to add some data to a file.

For example, you can use Set-Content to set the file contents:

PS /home/jen>Set-Content -Path ./test.txt -Value "Hello world again!"

Or simply use > as below:

# create an empty file
"" > test.txt

# set "Hello world!" as content of test.txt file
"Hello world!!!" > test.txt

The pound sign # above is used for comments in PowerShell.

  1. type -> Get-Content: Gets the content of the item at the specified location.
PS /home/jen> Get-Content -Path ./test.txt
PS /home/jen> type -Path ./test.txt

Hello world again!
  1. del -> Remove-Item: Deletes the specified items.

This cmdlet will delete the file /home/jen/test.txt:

PS /home/jen> Remove-Item ./test.txt
  1. $PSVersionTable: Displays the version of PowerShell you are currently using.

Type $PSVersionTable in your PowerShell session, you will see something like below. "PSVersion" indicates the PowerShell version that you are using.

Name                           Value
----                           -----
PSVersion                      6.0.0-alpha
PSEdition                      Core
PSCompatibleVersions           {1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0...}
BuildVersion                   3.0.0.0
GitCommitId                    v6.0.0-alpha.12
CLRVersion
WSManStackVersion              3.0
PSRemotingProtocolVersion      2.3
SerializationVersion           1.1.0.1
  1. Exit: To exit the PowerShell session, type exit.
exit

Need Help?

The most important command in PowerShell is possibly the Get-Help, which allows you to quickly learn PowerShell without having to search around the internet.

The Get-Help cmdlet also shows you how PowerShell commands work with examples.

It shows the syntax and other technical information of the Get-Process cmdlet.

PS /> Get-Help -Name Get-Process

It displays the examples how to use the Get-Process cmdlet.

PS />Get-Help -Name Get-Process -Examples

If you use -Full parameter, for example, Get-Help -Name Get-Process -Full, it will display more technical information.

Discover Commands Available on Your System

You want to discover what PowerShell cmdlets available on your system? Just run Get-Command as below:

PS /> Get-Command

If you want to know whether a particular cmdlet exists on your system, you can do something like below:

PS /> Get-Command Get-Process

If you want to know the syntax of Get-Process cmdlet, type:

PS /> Get-Command Get-Process -Syntax

If you want to know how to use the Get-Process, type:

PS /> Get-Help Get-Process -Example

PowerShell Pipeline |

Sometimes when you run Get-ChildItem or "dir", you want to get a list of files and folders in a descending order. To achieve that, type:

PS /home/jen> dir | Sort-Object -Descending

Say you want to get the largest file in a directory

PS /home/jen> dir | Sort-Object -Property Length -Descending | Select-Object -First 1


    Directory: /home/jen


Mode                LastWriteTime       Length  Name
----                -------------       ------  ----
-a----        5/16/2016   1:15 PM        32972  test.log

How to Create and Run PowerShell scripts

You can use Visual Studio Code or your favorite editor to create a PowerShell script and save it with a .ps1 file extension. For more details, see Create and Run PowerShell Script Guide

Recommended Training and Reading

Commercial Resources

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