I use PowerShell everyday, and I use it for many different things, from scripting, to tool creation, to automation. Check out this article for a full list of uses, and how it stacks up against Python. Let’s get into it and see what else PowerShell can do for you, and why its worth learning.
We will answer the most commonly asked questions, and help you to get started with PowerShell. Let’s get started.
What is PowerShell Used for?
Windows PowerShell use can be broken down into the following categories: system administration, configuration management, application deployment and automation. It’s primarily a command line shell with additional scripting capabilities that are designed to ease administrative tasks by automating routine procedures.
The most common way of using it is in an administrative or support role. From PowerShell you can perform Active Directory operations like managing users, you can monitor disks and clusters, you can can perform network operations, automation- it really is a massive help to anyone that needs to perform repetitive tasks.
By automating common tasks with PowerShell you free up time to spend on more important, or creative work.
Do Hackers Use PowerShell?
The answer to this question is yes. A hammer can be used by a craftsman to build something beautiful and unique, and that same hammer can be used to break into somebody’s house to steal valuables. PowerShell is a computer system equivalent of a trusty tool, and how it is wielded is up to the operator.
Hackers can use PowerShell for the same reasons that system administrators and every day users do, but their intentions are often malicious in nature. They may try to get information about your machine or even take it over by secretly installing a backdoor on it.
That’s why we encourage everyone to follow some basic safety best practices to ensure that the attack surface of your network is not large enough for hackers to leverage PowerShell against you.
Is PowerShell Dangerous?
Windows PowerShell can be a great tool for managing your computer in various ways, but it’s important that you know what this software is very powerful, hence the name ‘PowerShell’. This means that it has the potential to be dangerous if you are not careful.
Windows PowerShell has access to a wide range of different functions that allow for tasks such as managing your computer’s network settings or running scripts on all connected computers in your environment. It uses hooks, C#, Dot Net and a variety of other integrations that allow it to communicate with the various Windows Sub Systems on any given Microsoft Windows Operating System.
This means that automation tasks such as system backups, auto configurations, checking performance on your computer or any other task can be automated by a PowerShell script. System administrators can create tools and scripts to automate and simplify the administration of their environment.
There is another element of danger when using PowerShell that we need to discuss too: if you have the wrong permissions, then you could unintentionally damage your system unintentionally. This means it’s always important to make sure you’re not giving people with administrator access to the system access to your PowerShell script.
Some people worry that it is difficult to learn PowerShell and they think Python is easier, but if you’re new to scripting then I would recommend starting with Windows PowerShell. However, just because some find learning PowerShell easier than others, it doesn’t mean that it is easy. Learning PowerShell can be tricky, and it requires practice and patience.
Is Python Better than PowerShell?
That depends on how you define ‘better’. Python is a programming language which has been around for over two decades, meaning that it will probably be more difficult to learn than PowerShell if you are starting from scratch. Having said that, Python is an easier language to learn than traditional programming languages such as C.
Python offers a few benefits over PowerShell, especially where speed is concerned. Python scripts and apps can be compiled as stand alone tools without having to be interpreted by the Python runtime. This means that running your scripts will take up less resources and are arguably are easier for some people to use because of their readability.
Python also allows you more access than PowerShell, primarily because it has tons of libraries that you can get to use from the Python Command Line Interpreter. This means that for many of your simple tasks, there will be a library already available in order to take care of it quickly and without having to do too much work on your own. It’s kind of like a puzzle or Lego set with pieces that fit in easily.
Python also has some more powerful features than PowerShell does because as an open source language it is developed by many more people. PowerShell is also limited in what it can do to some degree because of its closed source nature with only about a dozen or so developers working on it.
In the past, this meant that if you were looking for compatibility and needed your programs to work across many platforms then Python would probably have been the better choice compared to PowerShell. Since PowerShell Core came onto the scene this has changed, however.
Primarily because PowerShell is cross platform and can also run on Linux. This is worth considering when you are thinking about learning PowerShell because it opens many new opportunities to write scripts and simple apps with PowerShell across multiple platforms.
Should I Use PowerShell?
On it’s own, PowerShell is worth using, even before you consider the cross compatibility that PowerShell Core offers users. Any tool that you can use that offers you the opportunity to work with many different platforms is worth considering, and PowerShell Core does just that.
Another benefit of using PowerShell are the communities out there who have created modules for it to make various tasks easier than they would be if you were only working in Python.
For the most part, PowerShell is a tool that has been designed to help end-users and IT Professionals alike. The learning curve for it may not be as steep as you think but there are still tools out there like Python which might make your life easier in some instances where PowerShell would just get in the way.
There are hundreds and thousands of scripts, modules and cmdlets out there that will help you to minimize the effort that it takes to get hard administration tasks done.
Each tool has its place in your inventory of skills, so if you think that Python is also worth pursuing then don’t be afraid to learn that at the same time. There are many different reasons to use PowerShell which you can find out more about by searching the internet or reading books that are available on PowerShell.
Below is a list of reasons why it might be worth your time to learn and start using PowerShell:
- It’s free, open sourced and cross platform!
- You can automate complex tasks with ease because of its powerful scripting
- It is well documented and there are many examples to help you learn
- You can save time by automating tasks to make them quicker and easier
If you can imagine a use for it, then there is probably a way of doing it with PowerShell!
Where Can I get PowerShell from?
PowerShell ships with Windows 10 and Windows Server, so if you are running one of those then you already have PowerShell.
Otherwise, if you are running Windows Server 2012 or later, then there is a download link for it on the Microsoft website. PowerShell Core can be downloaded from the Microsoft site, and there are different versions of it available. Check it out here.
Linux users can also install PowerShell. If you run Ubuntu then you can install it by simply typing sudo apt-get install powershell from the terminal. Other installation methods are covered in great detail here.
MacOS users can also install PowerShell through Homebrew, direct download or by using the binary libraries that are available. Full instructions can be found right here.
We’ve looked at some basic PowerShell commands, and how they can be used on a daily basis to get your work done. We have only scratched the surface of what PowerShell can do, and we’ll be looking at more commands in the future. PowerShell is a powerful tool that can make your life easier so it’s worth taking some time to learn how best to use it.