How to use Powershell without Google

Here are a few tips to use Powershell without using Google.

I know my way around Powershell quite OK. But I Googled a lot and when in a hurry I copied and pasted a lot. So I never took the time to be really in depth. Now is the time! And there is a way to write Powershell without Google! You need to know some very basics and how to study cmndlets, methods and properties.

Let’s go!

Suppose you want to check if there are any PST’s on a harddrive and let’s pretend you know nothing, just like John Snow.

Find out what cmdlets are available with Get-Command

Obviously we need to recurse directories to see if there are any files with a .pst extension. So let’s see if there’s a cmdlet (a function) with ‘dir’ in it.

Get-ChildItem looks like the cmdlet we need. Let’s see how it works with the help files.

Get the help files

The problem with command line interfaces: you can’t ‘guess’ which command to use and what the parameters are. So you will need to read the help files. And you will want to update them. Unfortunately, the help files are in c:\windows\system32, so you need to run the command as an Administrator. You can only update-help once a day unless you use the -Force parameter. So open a console as an Admin and run:

Needless to say an Internet connection is required. What if you don’t have one?


Saving help to an alternate location

In that case you can save the help files on an alternate location or on a netwerk share and then update-help.

and then (as an Administrator):

Now you can use the help files.

Using the help

Will display all there is to know about Get-Childitem. Like parameters and what kind of parameters it accepts (string, arrays and so on). If you scroll down the help you get to see the remarks:

The -examples are very convenient if you want to have a quick solution.

So now we can play a bit with Get-ChildItem. Let’s discover its syntax:

Here we see it accepts a -Path parameter which is an array because there are brackets: String[]. So we can input multiple search locations by creating an array of locations. Let’s see how we can define an array in Powershell.

And you will see you get very valuable information about how to create an array. I could create an array like this:

Notice the quotes around c:\temp because we’re dealing with strings.
The $env:HOMEPATH is already a variable which returns a string.

We can test the array like follows:

Now we can do a search ilke this:

I don’t want to look at all those red error messages, so let’s suppress them:

And now for real:

Let’s put the result in a variable, like so:

Investigating $pst with Get-Member

Like Get-Command and Get-Help, Get-Member is a really import cmdlet you should know about. With Get-Member we can investigate which properties and methods are available. How can I actually write a script or type a command-line command without having to memorize every object model found on MSDN?

Once you connect to an object you can pipe that object to Get-Member; in turn, Get-Member will enumerate the properties and methods of that object.

Scrolling down the list you will notice a Method GetType. Let’s run that:

So $pst is an Array (we already knew that..) but what is in the array?

So, we’ve got an array full of FileInfo objects. Each objects has a set of methods and properties, which we can query by using Get-Member.

Copying and renaming the PST’s to another location

Let’s copy the PST’s to another location and rename then so some admin can import the PST into a mailbox.

Just copying is not that hard:

But if I want to rename the file as well I have to be a bit more ‘developerish’:

Let’s debate on this script tomorrow.

Powershell Desired State Configuration simple example

While still in ‘Devop Mood’, let’s quickly figure out Desired State Configuration.

This image gives a nice overview of the DSC architecture:


If you have a Windows 2012 R2 Server with the latest updates and KB2883200 installed, you’re good to go. Check it like so:
wmic qfe | find "KB2883200"

What Powershell Modules are there installed anyway? Go ahead, open a Powershell console and type $env:PSModulePath -split ";"
This displays the locations on your PC where there are Powershell modules installed.

Now if you cd into C:\Windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules\ you get to see all the modules. If all is well, one of them is PSDesiredStateConfiguration. This is where the DSC commandlets are hidden.


A resource is an ‘object’ which you can configure with DSC. There are 3 sources for resources.

Out of the box resources
Out of the box with Powershell v4, there are modules for File, Registry, Services etcetera. To see the complete list, do:

PS C:\> Get-DscResource | select name

This outputs:


Community resources
The Powershell community has also written some modules for DSC resources, like DNS, Active Directory and Hyper-V. You can find them here and they are prefixed with a c.

Experimental resources
The Powershell team itself also provides some experimental resources which you can find here. These resources are prefixed with an x.

You can download these resources and add them to the $env.PSModulePath folder. Which is in my case: C:\Windows\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules\.

Create your first configuration

These steps describe the DSC process:

  • Add the required DSC resources
  • Create a configuration script
  • Execute the script to generate a MOF file
  • Apply the MOF to the target nodes

Now let’s start with adding a folder named “c:\Replica” on every node. That means we could use the File resource, which comes out of the box. Now, how to use this file resource? Luckily, the Powershell folks have made things very easy for us. We can just type get-dscresource File -syntax and lo and behold:

So this basically explains how to use the File resource.

Fire up Powershell ISE and start type:

If you execute this script a MOF file will be created in c:\DSC.

Apply the MOF

Now go ahead and type: Start-DscConfiguration -Path c:\DSC

This will output:

And if all is well there is indeed a folder named ‘replica’ on your C:\ drive.


This was a very simple example of Powershell DSC. I think it is quite nice and I am planning to explore its possibilities in the near future (like tomorrow or so).