PowerShell vs. Command Prompt: Key Differences

PowerShell is relatively new compared with the command prompt, Microsoft is working on enhancing its features to flatten the learning curve.

PowerShell vs. Command Prompt

Windows command prompt (CMD) is a default application of windows used to interact with windows objects in the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS). It allows users to interact with the system directly, such as executing batch files or running simple tasks. PowerShell is an advanced version of CMD that was first shipped with Windows 7. It has a set of commands for operating system instructions.

Other than being an interface, PowerShell is a scripting language used to execute various administrative tasks efficiently. Typically, scripts written in PowerShell look like programs than batch files. Besides, PowerShell can perform most of the commands run on CMD while making it simpler for regular users to understand what the commands perform in Windows operating systems.

Windows Command Prompt

Windows Command Prompt is the original shell for Microsoft DOS operating system. It was the default shell until Windows 10 version 14791, when Microsoft introduced PowerShell as the default option. CMD is among the last remnants of the MS-DOS operating system replaced by Microsoft.

However, DOS commands are still handy for navigating the operating system to execute basic tasks. Placing DOS commands into a script is still a very common way to perform a series of tasks and create a custom utility. For example, you can use DOS commands to sequence standard admin tasks to be performed as timed jobs out of hours or on a regular schedule. Fortunately, PowerShell has all of the well-known DOS commands and utilities.

Windows PowerShell

PowerShell is a robust task automation scripting framework that includes a command-line shell as well as a scripting language. It incorporates the .NET framework and other tools that allow administrators to automate regular daily tasks. Additionally, it provides developers with a solid library of functions.

PowerShell also incorporates cmdlets (or command lets) to make .NET processes more accessible. Basically, cmdlets are utilities that developers use in PowerShell scripts. Although PowerShell comes with multiple cmdlets, developers can also design their own.

Additionally, PowerShell interfaces with the Component Object Model (COM) seamlessly. This enables developers to create more complex PowerShell scripts that can communicate with several Windows-based packages for data exchange, command issuance, and status updates.

The interface to Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is much more helpful for administrators. You can even query the statuses of a computing device or service running on Windows operating systems and incorporate the results into your PowerShell script. When it comes to conditional processing and branching in scripts, the status check is very vital. Moreover, it provides a great way to report back on the success or failure of any execution step.

PowerShell vs. CMD Differences

PowerShell and CMD are completely different interfaces. PowerShell uses cmdlets, which are basically self-contained programming objects that reveal the underlying administration options within Windows. Before PowerShell, system admins had to navigate the GUI to get these options. Besides, there was no way to reuse the workflow or click through the menus to configure options on a large scale.

PowerShell also uses pipes to tie together cmdlets and share input or output data with other shells, similar to bash in Linux. With these pipes, you can create complex scripts that channel parameters and data between different cmdlets. Moreover, you can create reusable scripts to automate tasks or make mass changes using variable data.

Another major difference between PowerShell and CMD is understanding what different command lines mean for an average user. By simply looking at the cmdlet, an average user can tell what the command does in Windows. Most of the cmdlets are straightforward to interpret since they follow an easy format of a verb followed by a noun. Typically, the first part of a cmdlet specifies the type of action it performs, such as to get, add, set, etc., while the second part denotes the noun it will perform.

PowerShell also features a Get-help command that helps users with all the necessary commands and their syntax and aliases. Common examples of cmdlets include Add-Content, Get-Content, and Get-Command.

PowerShell and CMD also differ in terms of their usage. While CMD is used to execute batch commands and carry out primary troubleshooting, PowerShell executes batch commands and runs various administrative tasks. Developers can also use PowerShell scripts to automate different tasks. Additionally, the ISE makes it simpler to write and debug scripts.

However, you cannot use CMD to interact with system objects within the core. PowerShell is built on a .net platform, making it possible to interact with different windows objects at the core level.

While CMD works only with text, PowerShell works with pipes, just like Linux. This enables users to pass the output of one cmdlet to another cmdlet, ensuring that interaction between various programs in an operating system occurs.

When to Use PowerShell

PowerShell is the go-to tool for systems administrators and IT professionals. Nearly every command line in CMD is available in PowerShell. Besides, PowerShell comes with cmdlets for any administration function you need. Third-party software vendors are already extending PowerShell with customized cmdlets, such as the NetApp PowerShell Toolkit that runs Data ONTAP. PowerShell knowledge is, therefore, an essential differentiator in the IT industry and a skill worth investing in.

Wrapping Up

Although PowerShell is relatively new compared with the command prompt, Microsoft is working on enhancing its features to flatten the learning curve. Powershell is built on a .net framework and has access to multiple libraries, making it easier to connect with multiple systems. Overall, PowerShell is the go-to tool for system administrators as it enables the automation of various mundane tasks.

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