Windows 8 : Using other management tools remotely (part 2) - Windows PowerShell

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Windows PowerShell

Windows PowerShell is a command shell and scripting language designed to help you achieve all you can from the Windows GUI at the command line. Windows PowerShell is not new in Windows 8, but it is becoming more prevalent within the management of the operating system. You can run cmdlets (pronounced command-lets) to view and manipulate Windows systems all the way down to Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) configurations or run scripts to accomplish its management tasks in batches. Because Windows PowerShell is object-based, items that it returns can be treated and manipulated as objects for greater flexibility in how actions can be performed when managing systems.

What can Windows PowerShell do for administrators that the GUI cannot?

The GUI can accomplish many things, from modifying user information to adding mailboxes in Exchange. These tasks can also be accomplished from within Windows PowerShell. In many cases, for newer versions of Microsoft technologies, even the tasks performed in the GUI-based Management utility are actually running Windows PowerShell commands behind the scenes. In some cases, certain attributes of an object are not visible within the GUI, so they cannot be managed or accessed this way. However, Windows PowerShell can access additional attributes of these objects and populate them with data, providing administrators with greater access and control within their Windows environments.



If you want to learn more about Windows PowerShell, there are several good sources for the IT professional, including:

  • Windows PowerShell 2.0 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant by William R. Stanek (Microsoft Press, 2009).

  • Windows PowerShell 2.0 Best Practices by Ed Wilson (Microsoft Press, 2009).

Putting Windows PowerShell to work

The following example illustrates how Windows PowerShell can help you work with items on a certain system and determine which applications are running.

Fred works for Contoso as an IT help desk employee. He has noticed that many help desk calls center on applications just do not seem to start properly; they either present no error or information to the user or they produce a message stating that an instance of the application is already running on the computer. He wants to generate a list of running applications on the user’s computer to see whether he can help the user close previously running applications before trying to start new instances of them.

The next time Fred receives a call about this problem, he opens an Administrator command prompt, types PowerShell.exe, and then runs the following Windows PowerShell commands to see which applications are running:

$computer "computername"Get-Process -computername $computer

This brief use of Windows PowerShell displays all the processes running on the specified computer on Fred’s computer screen. The $computer variable is set to the name of a computer that causes the get-process cmdlet to run on that computer.

After Fred has the list of processes, he can work with the person on the phone to close applications that might not be needed. The user might be able to do this, or, if an application is frozen and needs help closing, Fred can use Windows PowerShell to close the application.

$computer = computername
Get-process -computername $computer -process notepad.exe | kill

This command pipes (or passes) any instances of the Notepad.exe process to the kill alias, which runs the stop-process cmdlet, to stop the process.



Forcing processes to close on a computer can cause data loss because it will not gracefully terminate the process.

Windows PowerShell is meant to be an intuitive experience, and it includes an intuitive (and now online) help system for the cmdlets that do the behind-the-scenes work. Comment-based help enables authors of cmdlets, functions, and scripts to include commented lines about how to interact with their code, which ensures that help is available whenever needed by just entering the following on the command line, and then tapping or clicking Enter:

Help <cmdlet|function|script>name

For example, the help get-process cmdlet displays the help for the get-process cmdlet. This provides not only information about the syntax of the cmdlet but also example cases about how the item works. This is how Windows PowerShell teaches its users as they go. Because this technique is comment help–based, administrators can ask the shell for help. It does not force them to do a lot of preparation to get started.

Windows 8 includes Windows PowerShell 3.0, which brings many updates to the code; one of those is online help. This enables Windows PowerShell to check in with servers at Microsoft to see whether updates are available to the help files for a cmdlet. When Help is called, it prompts you to use local help or online help when used online. The help within Windows PowerShell can provide more information about cmdlets as its help items are modified.

  •  Windows 8 : Configuring, managing, and troubleshooting connections (part 3) - Connecting to VPNs in Windows 8
  •  Windows 8 : Configuring, managing, and troubleshooting connections (part 2) - Using Troubleshooter
  •  Windows 8 : Configuring, managing, and troubleshooting connections (part 1) - Troubleshooting network problems
  •  Windows 8 : Configuring and using Remote Desktop (part 3) - Programs, Experience, Advanced
  •  Windows 8 : Configuring and using Remote Desktop (part 2) - Opening the Remote Desktop application - General, Display, Local Resources
  •  Windows 8 : Configuring and using Remote Desktop (part 1) - Configuring Remote Desktop
  •  Windows 8 : Working with Remote Assistance - Initiating Remote Assistance, Providing remote assistance
  •  Windows 8 : Managing authorization and access rights (part 4) - Run As,Using and managing certificates
  •  Windows 8 : Managing authorization and access rights (part 3) - Running tasks as administrator and user account control
  •  Windows 8 : Managing authorization and access rights (part 2) - Local Security Policy console
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