5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting
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Most users have never heard of PowerShell, let alone touched it and tried it out. This is perhaps because of the name, which sounds like something only used by hardcore IT geeks. Or perhaps because the benefits of PowerShell are unclear. Maybe it’s because of the initial learning curve.

Truth is, yes, most casual computer users won’t need the power of PowerShell. But if you have any programming experience at all, or if you prefer the command line over graphical windows, or if you love to automate tasks using scripts, then you’ll love what PowerShell can offer.

In short, PowerShell is what you’d get if you crossed the Command Prompt with Batch Scripting, threw in some extra features, and kicked it all up several notches. Intrigued? Here are several solid reasons why you should try it.

1. PowerShell Scripting Is Improved

Like batch scripts, PowerShell scripts are just lines of instructions written to a plain-text file, except the file uses a .PS1 extension instead of a .BAT or .CMD extension. But that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Batch scripts have one huge limitation: the only commands available to you are the commands you can use in the Command Prompt. Or in other words, a batch script is just a series of Command Prompt commands (with some conditional logic thrown in How to Write a Simple Batch (BAT) File How to Write a Simple Batch (BAT) File Batch files can automate everyday computer tasks. We'll show you how batch files work and teach you the basics. By the end of this article, you'll have written your first batch file. Read More ). This is fine for primitive tasks and simple automation, but a real hindrance when you want to do something complex.

5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting powershell batch too complex

On the other hand, PowerShell scripts are written using the PowerShell scripting language, which is a real programming language that’s capable of elaborate logic for truly advanced tasks. The language itself is simple to learn, especially if you have programming experience How To Learn Programming Without All The Stress How To Learn Programming Without All The Stress Maybe you've decided to pursue programming, whether for a career or just as a hobby. Great! But maybe you're starting to feel overwhelmed. Not so great. Here's help to ease your journey. Read More , but it supports variables, functions, loops, exception handling, and more.

One more thing to note here is that PowerShell ISE (Integrated Scripting Environment) is much improved over regular Command Prompt. It has a few nifty quality-of-life features that come in handy when writing your scripts, such as syntax highlighting, autocompletion, tabbed editing, and context-sensitive help.

All in all, not only does PowerShell allow you to write better scripts, it allows you to write them faster.

2. PowerShell Supports the Full .NET API

The bulk of PowerShell’s capability and flexibility comes from its integration with the .NET Framework. Every PowerShell command (called a cmdlet) is actually a .NET class that gets invoked at runtime, which simply means that cmdlets can be written in any .NET language (which, as of this writing, include Visual Basic, Visual C++, and C#).

So what’s the benefit of .NET API support?

Well, the .NET API is packed full of amazing utilities and functions that are organized as a set of standard class libraries. You can tap into these aspects of the API to help you do things like gather inputs or manage data without having to rewrite all of those helpers yourself.

PowerShell, in conjunction with the .NET API and various providers that come built into PowerShell itself, also allows you to tap into the deepest parts of the Windows ecosystem Boost Your Productivity With Windows PowerShell Scripts Boost Your Productivity With Windows PowerShell Scripts What if you could bring the productivity of Linux over to Windows? Most Linux distros come packaged with the powerful Bash shell. PowerShell is an equally powerful terminal for Windows. Read More , including the filesystem, the registry, and the certificate store. As such, PowerShell cmdlets and scripts can do so much more than batch scripts.

And perhaps most interesting is that PowerShell lets you pipe the output of one cmdlet as the input to another cmdlet as objects. Most other shells, including Bash, can only pipe information from one command to another as plain text. PowerShell’s method is cleaner, tighter, and less prone to errors.

3. PowerShell Can Run Batch Scripts

If the above reasons haven’t convinced you, then I believe this one will.

PowerShell isn’t built on top of Command Prompt. The two shells are completely different with separate underlying architectures, so it’s technically wrong to think of PowerShell as “Command Prompt 2.0” or what have you. However, PowerShell is designed to be backwards-compatible.

Most of the common commands you’d use in Command Prompt can be used in PowerShell. Under the hood, PowerShell actually has built-in cmdlet equivalents that were scripted to do exactly the same things as those commands, but uses aliases to “connect” the old command names to the new cmdlets.

5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting powershell backwards compatible

For example, when you run cd in PowerShell, you’re actually running the Set-Location cmdlet. In this case, “cd” is just an alias for “Set-Location” and this makes life easier for you. Similarly, when you use rename in PowerShell, it’s secretly running the Rename-Item cmdlet.

And so, unsurprisingly, you can run batch scripts within PowerShell, which means you can transition from batch scripting to PowerShell scripting without having to drop everything cold turkey.

4. PowerShell Is Microsoft’s Intended Future

PowerShell first debuted back in 2006. Now, over a decade later, it has risen to become one of Microsoft’s most important projects. The team behind it is working hard to make it the best shell it can be and Microsoft is really doing its utmost to push its adoption, especially among IT professionals.

Going forward, PowerShell is going to be the main method for automating tasks and applications in Windows and Microsoft enterprise products. It’s such a serious move that even third-party vendors have started to provide PowerShell libraries to help manage and troubleshoot their software.

But most importantly, Microsoft has been increasing the number of PowerShell-related questions that are asked in some of their certification exams. In fact, according to a 2009 interview in TechNet Magazine, Microsoft said that “the single most important skill a Windows administrator will need in the coming years is proficiency with Windows PowerShell.”

So whether you’re just an advanced home user or an IT specialist who manages Windows systems, it’s time to accept that batch scripting is obsolete and PowerShell is the future.

5. PowerShell Can Be Used on Linux

Over the last few years, Microsoft has made a number of surprising moves related to the realm of open source software. In 2014, they open sourced the .NET Framework A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us A GNU Beginning For Microsoft: What An Open Source .NET Framework Means For The Rest Of Us Microsoft just released a significant part of its code under a permissive open source license. This move breaks with years of tradition. But why and what does it mean for you? Read More and made it available across multiple platforms. Then in 2016, they natively integrated the Bash shell into Windows 10 A Quick Guide to Linux Bash Shell in Windows 10 A Quick Guide to Linux Bash Shell in Windows 10 You can now run Linux on Windows. Learn more about Bash on Windows, from how and why you should install it, to hidden features you probably didn't know about. Read More .

5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting powershell windows on linux

And in 2017, PowerShell became easier than ever to install on Linux. As of this writing, Microsoft now has package repositories that you can use to install PowerShell Core on most mainstream versions of Linux. If your system supports apt-get or yum, then you can most likely install it hassle-free. If not, you can still use the old installation instructions How to Install and Use PowerShell on Linux How to Install and Use PowerShell on Linux In 2016, Microsoft open-sourced PowerShell and debuted a cross-platform iteration. In this article I'm going to show you how to install, run, and use PowerShell on Linux! Read More .

Why is this good news? Because your PowerShell knowledge won’t be limited to one operating system anymore. Batch scripts can only run on Windows (or through Wine on Linux, which we don’t recommend) so it’s restrictive, whereas PowerShell can now be helpful in broadening your expertise.

Getting Started With Windows PowerShell

Convinced yet? If not, that’s okay. As I  said above, PowerShell isn’t for everyone, and if you’re happy enough using batch scripts for personal use, feel free to keep using them. But if you want to stay on top of evolving technologies and if you intend to become a certified IT specialist, learning PowerShell is more a matter of when, not if.

If you do want to get started, then start with these basic PowerShell commands 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows 6 Basic PowerShell Commands to Get More out of Windows PowerShell is what you get when you give steroids to the Windows Command Prompt. It grants you control of nearly every aspect of the Windows system. We help you leap up its learning curve. Read More which are simple and straightforward. Once you grasp those, continue on with these tasks you can automate with PowerShell 15 Advanced Tasks PowerShell Can Handle in Windows 10 15 Advanced Tasks PowerShell Can Handle in Windows 10 PowerShell is similar to the command prompt, but better. It's a powerful system administration tool. We have compiled 15 tasks, some simple, some complex, that benefit from the magic of PowerShell. Read More . That should be enough to get you started.

What kind of stuff do you use batch scripts for? Will you be switching to PowerShell? If not, what would get you to switch? Share your thoughts with us below!

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  1. dan
    February 17, 2017 at 6:57 am

    I was told that PowerShell was mainly for system administrators in a corporate environment - not for home users. Can you point us to some scripts that a home user would benefit from?

  2. likefunbutnot
    February 9, 2017 at 12:30 pm

    I've been writing batch files for 25 years. I know PowerShell too, but bit every task needs PowerShell, just like not every script on a Unix host needs to be Perl.

    Additionally, as a scripting language, I've found that most tasks in PowerShell run much slower than equivalent batch or VBA scripts, which is a really good reason to find other ways to do nontrivial administration tasks.