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Windows Powershell vs CMD: Differences and Similarities

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Introduction

This short guide compares Windows PowerShell vs CMD (Windows command prompt). I will cover the history and nature of the two tools, their command name format and scripting capabilities.

For the remaining part of this guide, I will use PowerShell, Windows PowerShell and PS interchangeably. I will also use CMD and Command Prompt interchangeably.

What is Windows PowerShell vs CMD?

Windows PowerShell is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language built on .NET. PowerShell helps with task automation via PowerShell Scripting.

CMD (Command Prompt) is a Windows command line interpreter used to execute CMD commands. CMD can also be used to automate tasks via batch scripting.

In the next 3 sections, I will be comparing PowerShell vs CMD in 3 different areas: History, Command name format and how both compare for ease of task automation (scripting).

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Windows PowerShell vs CMD: History

CMD have been part of the Windows Operating System while PowerShell is relatively new. PowerShell version 1 was released on September 26, 2006.

Another major difference between PS and CMD is how they are built. While CMD is a native Windows console application, PowerShell is built on .NET Framework.

Tip
On 18 August 2016, Microsoft introduced .NET Core and made PowerShell an open source tool.

Windows PowerShell vs CMD: Command Name Format

One other way you can differentiate CMD and PS is in their command name format. Command prompt commands are usually one word, while PowerSell commands are two words.

PS commands are structured in Verb-Noun format, called cmdlets. The first part of a PowerShell cmdlet is usually a verb, while the second part is a Noun.

An example of a PS command is Get-Help. In CMD, this is simply Help. Another example is the Dir CMD command. In PowerShell, it is Get-ChildItem.

Windows PowerShell vs CMD: Scripting Capabilities

You can use both PowerShell and CMD for scripting. But do they have the same level of scripting capabilities? No. I have scripted in both CMD and PowerShell and I can clearly say that PS gives you more options. Did I say more options? No, it is way better!

PS even allows you to create your own Functions and Modules. This gives you power to go beyond scripting (a collection of PowerShell commands). Batch scripting is very limited when compared with PowerShell scripting.

Windows PowerShell vs CMD: PS Commands for Common CMD Commands

If you want to get started with basic PS commands, below I have some common CMD commands and their PowerShell equivalent.

S/NCMD CommandWhat It DoesPS Equivalent
1CDChange DirectorySet-Location
2RENAME Renames a FileRename-Item
3DIRList files and folders in a DirectoryGet-ChildItem
4 HELPProvides help information for Windows commands.*Get-Help
5FORMATFormats a disk for use with WindowsFormat-Volume
*Info
The Get-Help cmdlet displays information about Windows PowerShell commands and concepts.

To learn more about PowerShell visit our Windows PowerShell page.

Windows PowerShell vs CMD: Summary

The table below summarizes the differences between PowerShell vs CMD:

S/NFeatureCMDPowerShell
1HistoryHave been around since Windows OS was launched*Became available in 2006
2Command Name FormatOne word commandstwo-word commands (Verb-Noun format)
4Scripting CapabilitiesLimited capabilitiesProvides more advanced scripting capabilities including ability to create PS Functions and Modules
5BuildNative Windows ApplicationBuilt on Microsoft .NET Framework and later .NET Core

* This excludes MS-DOS.

Conclusion

If you are comparing PowerShell vs CMD to decide which is better, you have your answer. CMD is great but PowerShell takes task automation to the next level. Every Windows Administrator should know PS!

If you have any question or comment, use the “Leave a Reply” form at the end of this guide. You could also share your experience with PowerShell and CMD so other readers can benefit from it.

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