Windows PowerShell Quick Reference

How to Access Arguments

To access command-line arguments used when starting a script use the automatic variable $args. You can cycle through the individual arguments in the $args collection by using code similar to this:

foreach ($i in $args) {$i}

To access a particular argument use the collection index number, with 0 representing the first item in the collection, 1 representing the second item, etc:


You can reference the last item in a collection by using the index number –1:


How to Use Colored Text

To display text in a different color use the Write-Host cmdlet and specify a foreground color:

How to Get More Information

You can also specify a different background color:

Write-Host "test" -backgroundcolor "red"

How to Insert a Paragraph Return

To insert a paragraph return in your output use the newline character `n:

Write-Host "Line 1.`nLine 2."

How to Write in Reverse Video

To echo a message in reverse video use the Write-Warning cmdlet:

Write-Warning "An error has occurred."

How to Insert Comments

To insert a comment, use the pound sign (#):

# This is a comment, not a line to be run.

How to Solicit Input

To solicit input from a user, use the Read-Host cmdlet, followed by the prompt to be displayed:

$a = Read-Host "Please enter your name"

How to Insert Line Breaks

To insert a line break into a Windows PowerShell script use the backtick (`) :

Write-Host `

"This is a continuation of the line."

You can also break a line at the pipe separator (|) character (assuming your line uses the pipeline):

Get-ChildItem C:\Scripts |

Sort-Object Length –Descending

How to Create Multi-Command Lines

To put multiple commands on a single line, separate those commands using a semicolon:

$a = 1,2,3,4,5; $b = $a[2]; Write-Host $b

How to Make Comparisons

Windows PowerShell cmdlets (like Where-Object) use a special set of comparison operators, including those shown in the following table.

Each of these operators can be made case sensitive by adding a c immediately after the hyphen. For example,   -ceq represents the case-sensitive equals operator; -clt is the case-sensitive less than operator.

-lt Less than
-le Less than or equal to
-gt Greater than
-ge Greater than or equal to
-eq Equal to
-ne Not equal to
-like Like (uses wildcards for matching)
-notlike Not like (uses wildcards for matching)

How to Read a Text File

To read the contents of a text file into a variable, call the Get-Content cmdlet followed by the path to the text file:

$a = Get-Content C:\Scripts\Test.txt

Each line in the file ends up as an item in the array $a. If you want to access a single line in the file you can simply specify the index number corresponding to that line:


This command echoes back the last line in $a:


Bonus. To determine the number of lines, words, and characters in a text file use this command:

get-content c:\scripts\test.txt |

measure-object -line -word -character

How to Write to a Text File

To save data to a text file use the Out-File cmdlet:

Get-Process | Out-File C:\Scripts\Test.txt

To append data to an existing file, add the –append parameter:

Get-Process | Out-File C:\Test.txt –append

You can also use the MS-DOS redirection characters (> for write, >> for append) when using Windows PowerShell. This command writes data to the file C:\Scripts\Test.txt:

Get-Process > C:\Scripts\Test.txt

Another option is to use the Export-CSV cmdlet to save data as a comma-separated-values file:

Get-Process | Export-CSV C:\Test.csv

How to Print Data

To print data to the default printer use the Out-Printer cmdlet:

Get-Process | Out-Printer

How to Write Conditional Statements

To write an If statement use code similar to this:

$a = "white"

if ($a -eq "red")
   {"The color is red."}
elseif ($a -eq "white")
   {"The color is white."}
   {"The color is blue."}

Instead of writing a series of If statements you can use a Switch statement, which is equivalent to VBScript’s Select Case statement:

$a = 2

switch ($a)

       1 {"The color is red."}
       2 {"The color is blue."}
       3 {"The color is green."}
       4 {"The color is yellow."}
       default {"Other."}

How to Write For and For Each Loops

To write a For statement use code similar to this:

for ($a = 1; $a -le 10; $a++) {$a}

By comparison, a For Each statement might look like this:

foreach ($i in get-childitem c:\scripts)

How to Write Do Loops

To write a Do loop use code like the following, replacing the code between the curly braces with the code to be executed on each iteration of the loop. Oh: and replacing the code inside the parentheses with the loop condition:

$a = 1

do {$a; $a++}
while ($a -lt 10)

$a = 1

do {$a; $a++}

until ($a –gt 10)

How to Create a COM Object

To work with a COM object use the New-Object cmdlet followed by the –comobject parameter and the appropriate ProgID:

$a = New-Object -comobject `


$a.Visible = $True

How to Create a .NET Object

To instantiate and use a .NET Framework object enclose the class name in square brackets, then separate the class name and the method using a pair of colons:


To create an object reference to a .NET Framework object use the New-Object cmdlet:

$a = new-object `

-type system.diagnostics.eventlog `

-argumentlist system

Note. This is a cursory overview of working with .NET. The two techniques shown here will not necessarily work with all .NET classes.

How to Select Properties

To work with or display specified properties of a collection, pipe the returned results to the Select-Object cmdlet:

Get-Process | Select-Object Name, Company

How to Sort Data

To sort data returned by Windows PowerShell simply pipe that data to the Sort-Object cmdlet, specifying the property you want to sort by:

Get-Process | Sort-Object ID

You can also add the –descending or -ascending parameters to specify a sort order:

Get-Process | Sort-Object ID –descending

You can even sort by multiple properties:

Get-Process | Sort-Object ProcessName, ID

How to Work with WMI

To get computer information using WMI call the Get-WMIObject cmdlet followed by the class name:

Get-WMIObject Win32_BIOS

If the class you are interested in does not reside in the cimv2 namespace simply include the –namespace parameter:

Get-WMIObject SystemRestore `

   -namespace root\default


To access data on another computer use the

computername parameter:

Get-WMIObject Win32_BIOS `

   –computername atl-ws-01

To limit returned data, use a WQL query and the –query parameter:

Get-WMIObject -query `

   "Select * From Win32_Service `

       Where State = 'Stopped'"

How to Bind to Active Directory

To bind to an Active Directory account use the LDAP provider:

$a = [adsi] "LDAP://cn=kenmyer, `

   ou=Finance, dc=fabrikam, dc=com"

Listing all the objects in an OU is a little more complicated; however, one relatively easy way to accomplish this task is to bind to the OU and then use the PSBase_GetChildren() method to retrieve a collection of items stored in that OU:

$objOU = [ADSI]`


$users = $objOU.PSBase.Get_Children()

$users | Select-Object displayName

How to Bind to Local Accounts

To bind to a local account, use the WinNT provider:

$objOU = [ADSI]`


$users = $objOU.PSBase.Get_Children()

$users | Select-Object displayName

How to Get Help

To get complete help information for a Windows PowerShell cmdlet, use the Get-Help cmdlet along with the –full parameter. For example, to view the help information for the Get-Process cmdlet type the following:

Get-Help Get-Process –full

To view the example commands for a cmdlet use the

examples parameter:

Get-Help Get-Process –examples

If you can’t remember the exact name for a cmdlet use Get-Command to retrieve a list of all the cmdlets available to you:


For a list of available aliases, use the Get-Alias cmdlet:


How to Change Security Settings

To run scripts from within Windows PowerShell you will need to change your security settings; by default, PowerShell only runs scripts signed by a trusted authority. To enable PowerShell to run all locally-created scripts (regardless of whether or not they have been signed) use the following command:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

How to “Interrogate” an Object

To get information about the properties and methods of an object retrieve an instance of that object and then “pipe” the object to the Get-Member cmdlet. For example, this command returns the properties and methods available when working with processes:

Get-Process | Get-Member

How to Clear the Console Window

To clear the PowerShell window, use the Clear-Host function (or its alias, cls).

How to Copy and Paste

To enable simple copying and pasting in the Windows PowerShell console do the following:

Start Windows PowerShell, then click the icon in the upper left-hand corner and choose Properties.
In the Windows PowerShell Properties dialog box, on the Options tab, select QuickEdit Mode and then click OK.

To copy text in the console window select the text and then press ENTER. To paste text into the window click the right mouse button.

How to Run a Script

To run a script from within Windows PowerShell, type the full path to the script (or type the script name if the script is stored in a folder that is part of your Windows path):


If the path name includes blank spaces you must preface the path with an ampersand and enclose the path in double quotes. For example:

&"C:\Scripts\My Scripts\test.ps1"

From outside Windows PowerShell (e.g., from the Run dialog box or from a Cmd.exe window) you must call Windows PowerShell and then pass the script path as an argument to that call:

powershell.exe –noexit C:\Scripts\Test.ps1

The -noexit parameter ensures that the PowerShell window remains open after the script finishes running.

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