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Harness the power behind Microsoft's PowerShell framework

IT admins can use PowerShell cmdlets in addition to other Windows features to simplify administrative tasks, as well as to discover, install and manage software.

The PowerShell framework is a key piece of Windows operating system management because it provides automation to help alleviate common tasks.

PowerShell not only provides the programming language behind the functionality of Windows, but it also provides a command line for IT to automate desktop management and application tasks. The PowerShell framework is meant to make life easier for IT admins, so that they can focus on other management responsibilities, rather than the repetitive tasks of manual coding and scripting. That's why it is important for IT to understand what PowerShell is, what it does, how to keep it secure and the latest tricks of the trade to try.

What is PowerShell?

PowerShell is an interactive command-line shell that uses object-oriented programming language -- the fuel that allows Windows to run. This means that instead of adjusting the logic of objects the language is focused on the objects themselves. PowerShell transforms system tasks, such as cmdlets, scripts and executables that used to be written by IT and automates them.

PowerShell comes with plenty of cmdlets so that IT can automate more complex tasks.

PowerShell comes with plenty of cmdlets so that IT can automate more complex tasks if they choose to. Windows users also have the option to develop their own cmdlets and share them with others.

The PowerShell framework works within multiple environments, including .NET and other embedded applications.

How do WMI and CIM work with PowerShell?

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) has been the system for gathering information about Windows endpoints since the very beginning. PowerShell was invented to support this system, allowing IT to create and use cmdlets based on data from WMI.

With PowerShell 3 came a new set of cmdlets that redesigned the Common Information Model (CIM) to make remote Windows management run smoother. Any CIM-enabled system can understand and accept the cmdlets, allowing administrators to connect with remote computers that are not Windows devices. It also provides the option of connecting to computers that run older versions of Windows and PowerShell.

Can IT departments protect against PowerShell misuse?

Due to the vital role the PowerShell framework plays in Windows, IT admins are watchful against potential threats. There is no need to panic, however; there are six execution policies in PowerShell that were created to prevent someone from using the language against an organization. The four most common ones are Restricted, AllSigned, RemoteSigned and Unrestricted. IT admins can set the selected policy from the PowerShell prompt.

Quiz: How well do you know the PowerShell command line?

Quiz yourself on the nuances of PowerShell version 3, as the command-line shell becomes the management standard for much more than just Hyper-V.

Restricted policies deny access to users without permission by not allowing files to load properly or cmdlets to respond. AllSigned means that configuration files and scripts from PowerShell must be signed by a publisher that is deemed safe for use. RemoteSigned is similar to AllSigned, except that local scripts and files are open, and it is the remotely downloaded files and scripts that must be signed. Unrestricted is a free for all that requires no code signing. It is also possible to add further policies through Group Policy and User Configuration.

What are some secret tips for PowerShell mastery?

Windows 10 brought with it PackageManagement. This system uses PowerShell 5 cmdlets to manage and update software using installers. Microsoft released a preview of PackageManagement in PowerShell 3 and 4, meaning that the technology can run on other versions prior to Windows 10. Typically, an IT admin would use multiple installers to run software, but that is condensed with the dynamic duo of PackageManagement and PowerShell.

There are 13 PackageManagement cmdlets for PowerShell. These cmdlets help IT run, uninstall or otherwise maintain software with much more ease. The APIs that PackageManagement provides allow the PowerShell cmdlets to communicate with software packages. 

Next Steps

Why PowerShell security is vital

How PowerShell can boost mailbox tasks

Be aware of PowerShell script permissions

This was last published in April 2017

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