What is Microsoft PowerShell? How Does PowerShell Work?

What is Microsoft PowerShell? How Does PowerShell Work? PowerShell is a task automation and configuration management program from Microsoft, consisting of a command-line shell and the associated scripting language. Initially a Windows component only, known as Windows PowerShell, it was made open-source and cross-platform on August 18, 2016, with the introduction of PowerShell Core. The former is built on the .NET Framework, the latter on .NET (previously .NET Core).

Since Windows 10 build 14971, PowerShell replaced Command Prompt and became the default command shell for File Explorer.

In PowerShell, administrative tasks are generally performed via cmdlets (pronounced command-lets), which are specialized .NET classes implementing a particular operation. These work by accessing data in different data stores, like the file system or Windows Registry, which are made available to PowerShell via providers. Third-party developers can add cmdlets and providers to PowerShell. Cmdlets may be used by scripts, which may in turn be packaged into modules. Cmdlets work in tandem with the .NET API.

Microsoft PowerShell

What is Microsoft PowerShell?

PowerShell is an open-source, command-line interface (CLI) based tool that allows developers, IT admins, and DevOps professionals to automate tasks and configurations using code.

PowerShell is a bifunctional attribute built on Microsoft .NET technology. PowerShell can be used as an open-source shell or as a scripting language. PowerShell is used as a shell to control the computer with commands from a command-line interface related to the operating system. The command-line interface is another interrelation preference aside from the graphic user interface (GUI), which is used to convey commands from a user to an operating system.

With this shell functionality, one can use PowerShell to automate processes that require repetitions. This makes work easier and reduces the possibility of errors. In addition, each command line can be easily reproduced whenever necessary because they are always saved immediately.

As a scripting language, PowerShell is a form of programming language that is used to pass instructions from a parent software to another software. Unlike other programming languages like Ruby, Python, etc., scripting languages like PowerShell are interpreted to machine code differently.

PowerShell commands are interpreted line by line with an interpreter instead of a compiler. This feature makes it possible to improve the functionality of the parent software, automate tasks, extract data from data sets, configure management, etc.

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Jeffery Snover created PowerShell but with Monad as its initial name. In the whitepaper released in August 2002, Jefferey said PowerShell needed to be developed as the Windows structure did not permit Unix tools. Monad was to work as an extensible command-line interface (CLI) with fresh designs that can host Unix tools.

This was first illustrated in October 2003 at the Professional Development Conference in Los Angeles. A private beta followed this, then three public betas in June 2005, September 2005, and January 2006, respectively.

In April 2006, the name was changed from Monad to Windows PowerShell. This went through five different revisions; by 2016, Windows PowerShell version 5.1 was launched. The limitation of these versions is that users cannot use them on other operating systems like Linux and Mac.

As a solution, Windows PowerShell was made an open-source program in 2016. This is the sixth version of Windows PowerShell but has changed its name to PowerShell core and is an open-source program. One can use this version across macOS, Ubuntu, and CentOS because it runs on .NET Core.

The PowerShell project is thriving for Windows as the program still manifests every essential point in the 2002 manifesto. Microsoft and the open-source IT community maintain the program.

Microsoft PowerShell

How Does PowerShell Work?

Generally, PowerShell functions more like a programming language than a command-line program because it was built on the .NET framework. Power shell works with objects; in fact, everything in PowerShell is an object. These objects represent attributes (properties) or instructions (methods). They can even be made continuous to work through the program as an input or output. PowerShell manipulates objects with four different types of commands which are:

Cmdlets

Cmdlets, pronounced as command-lets, are the basic single-function commands of PowerShell. If PowerShell is a paragraph, cmdlets are letters of every word in the section. One can use them singly to carry out a function and combined to carry out more significant functions. Note that each cmdlet still works as an individual function to contribute to the cmdlet output in the combined function.

However, cmdlets are not written in PowerShell. They are written in another language, compiled, and made available in PowerShell. Cmdlets is a critical command in PowerShell as their function limit depends on the developer’s creativity. Developers and DevOps engineers may use “pipes” to pass a cmdlet output into another cmdlet’s input as an object.

PowerShell functions

Functions are one of the many commands used to execute codes in PowerShell. Unlike cmdlets, functions are written in PowerShell language. They are a sequence of instructions that are formed and are to be achieved simply by invoking them. Its input is parameters, but the output can either appear on the user’s screen or be piped to another function or cmdlet input.

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There are two functions in the power shell: basic and advanced. The basic function is the simplest form of the function used in PowerShell. With basic functions, there are no built-in features of inherited features. There’s only a set of curly brackets containing the function’s body. Advanced functions are functions that have properties of a basic function as its core, but have additional features. These functions carry built-in features which give it more functionality.

PowerShell scripts

PowerShell scripts are written with cmdlets. These scripts are used to create automation for different tasks. There are three types of commands in a PowerShell script. The “get” command is the first one used to retrieve data from a file system. The “set” command is used to edit the windows component information. This includes assigning properties to different components. The “remove” command is used to delete operations completely. PowerShell scripts reduce code complexity while writing codes and other use cases of automation.

Why Is PowerShell Used?

As mentioned, PowerShell is a double-function attribute. However, the two main functions of PowerShell embed more modalities, and these modalities (or use cases) are the reasons for PowerShell’s rising popularity.

Enabling task automation

The first of these reasons is task automation in DevOps. As a scripting language, PowerShell is mainly used to create automation. Automation spans every use case of PowerShell. Automations are made on other scripting languages but mostly on PowerShell because of the unique format system. PowerShell is also a better option because the program is extensible with functions, classes, cmdlets, and modules.

Driving data accessibility

Another reason for PowerShell’s popularity is data accessibility. A significant part of PowerShell use cases is administrative activities. In large computer networks, many services work independently and are controlled by a central IT admin. PowerShell offers the IT admin easy access to different data stores of network services such as file systems or registries.

Managing “infrastructure as code”

As a third reason, PowerShell employs a management framework that enables users to manage their company’s infrastructure with configuration as a code. This framework is called Desired State Configuration (DSC). Managers or IT admins obtain PowerShell skills to know how to push or pull configuration models in PowerShell for smooth composability as the need may be. They also need these skills to enforce configuration settings, obtain repeatable deployments and create declarative configurations.

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Facilitating remote commands

Finally, PowerShell has such a wide acceptance rate and use case because of its ability to facilitate remote command. Remote use is the new gold rush and software or tools that allow remote work to gain widespread popularity. With PowerShell, administrators can perform remote operations on multiple systems. This is possible through Windows Management instrumentation and WS-management protocol.

What can you do with PowerShell?

Now that you have some basic knowledge of what PowerShell is and how it’s used, let’s explore what you can do with it.

First, it’s important to note that PowerShell is not going away. Despite the move from the olden days of green screens and the CLI to graphical user interfaces for almost everything we do, there is a trend toward moving things back to the CLI. There are many reasons for this, but one centers around the development lifecycle.

GUIs are usually the form of a wrapper that ultimately is running code or commands on the backend when an action occurs like clicking a button. This means that the underlying code still needs to be written for the GUI to function. By cutting out the graphical piece and just using the PowerShell code, companies can more quickly roll out changes and updates without having to worry about also updating and testing a GUI in addition to the code, which is often time consuming.

PowerShell is tightly integrated into almost all of Microsoft’s products. In fact, there are certain actions in popular products like Microsoft 365 and Server 2016 that cannot be done with a GUI and can only be done with PowerShell. Along with being 100% necessary for certain tasks, the ability to automate with PowerShell makes understanding it a worthwhile skill for many IT professionals.

Second, once you start understanding all that can be done with PowerShell, it opens a whole new set of capabilities. From basic automation, to advanced scripting, PowerShell can provide an abundance of opportunities for simplifying tasks and saving time.

In future entries we will look at in-depth uses of PowerShell scripting and how it can be used to simplify many areas of an IT environment including: server configuration and deployment, user creation and auditing and administrative tasks in M365. In the meantime, these resources are a great launching point for learning more about PowerShell.

Microsoft PowerShell

Above is information about What is Microsoft PowerShell? How Does PowerShell Work? that we have compiled. Hopefully, through the above content, you have a more detailed understanding of Microsoft PowerShell. Thank you for reading our post.

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