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Getting Started with Microsoft PowerShell

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Discover the Microsoft new command-line utility that provides powerful administration and configuration tools. Eric Geier introduces you to PowerShell, including the new 2.0 version, and covers some basic commands to get you started.

PowerShell is a relatively new command-line shell and scripting language created by Microsoft that uses the .NET platform. It provides administrators with more tools and methods to manage and configure Windows.

As you see in Figure 1, to the untrained eye it looks just like the command prompt but with dark blue instead of a black background.

The first version was released in 2006 and is currently available for Windows XP SP2/SP3, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Vista.

Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 sport the second version: PowerShell 2.0.

Understanding the PowerShell Basics

The brains behind the shell interface are made up of cmdlets (pronounced command-lets). They are simple utilities that you interact with using the PowerShell. They can be used independently for simple tasks or simultaneously for more functionality.

You enter commands starting with a verb (Get, Start, Set, Format, and so on), separated by a dash (-), and ending with a noun (Help, Process, Service, and so on). For example: Get-Help, Get-Process, and Start-Service.

Multiple commands can be entered by separating them with a pipeline character (|). On standard keyboards, you should find the pipeline character near the backspace key.

As with the PowerShell console, the pipeline character on the key may look differently from what it looks like in a text editor. It's not fully closed; it's like a colon that has been stretched vertically.

Each cmdlet has a help page, like that of MAN pages found in UNIX systems. You access help by entering get-help followed by the desired cmdlet name.

Adding -detailed usually tells you much more and gives you examples.

Like other command-line interfaces, PowerShell can run scripts or commands entered into a file with the extension of .ps1.

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