Starting from Windows 7 through Windows 10, Microsoft supplied both Windows Command Prompt and Windows PowerShell options. They are two command line interfaces that help users to interact directly with the operating system. You can use most of the DOS commands in the command line interface.
Windows PowerShell Vs Command Prompt
The presence of these two command shells can be confusing for most of the Windows users. Interestingly, the PowerShell and Command Prompt have similar appearance and most of their commands are just the same. This article aims to draw a clear line between the two tools, as well as discuss which overrides the other.
What is Windows Command Prompt?
Windows Command Prompt (or shortly cmd) is command shell based on the 1980 MS-DOS operating system. It has been present in Microsoft OS starting with Windows NT onwards. It is simply a Win32 application that helps users to interact with the operating system using text-based instructions (commands) and parameters.
Users rely on CMD capability for interacting with all other Win32 objects and applications. It helps to complete various tasks in Windows like:
- Run various apps and utilities.
- Activate/ deactivate critical Windows settings.
- Create or modify scripts for task automation.
- Diagnose and fix various OS issues, for instance, scanning for errors.
Though widely used to perform the above and more tasks, Command Prompt interface has certain limitations.
- It cannot access most of the Windows system administration elements.
- It is not ideal for creating complex scripts among other shortcomings.
What is Windows PowerShell?
The Windows PowerShell is both a command shell and a scripting language that offers deeper integration with Windows OS. It is based on Microsoft’s .Net framework, enabling access to various pre-existing tools and functions. You can create better commands and complex scripts effortlessly using PowerShell.
It uses text-based commands known as cmdlets and C# programming language, helping the user to manage the Windows infrastructure more effectively. Simply put, the PowerShell combines Command Prompt functionality with a powerful scripting environment for easy system administration.
Over and above executing tasks similar to Command Prompt, the PowerShell enables users and system administrators to do the followings.
- Remotely access the file system, registry and WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation).
- Create complex scripts with multiple conditions.
- Remote task execution and automation by use of reusable scripts.
- Command piping among others.
Accessing Command Prompt and Windows PowerShell
You can access the Command Prompt in the following ways:
- Press “Win + R” shortcut keys to open Run prompt. Type CMD and hit enter to open Command Prompt.
- Type CMD on Windows Search or Cortana Search box and select Command Prompt desktop app.
- Right click on the Start button and select Command Prompt or Command Prompt (Admin) option. Remember, you need to run Command Prompt with admin access in order to carry out certain activities.
Use one of the below options to open Windows PowerShell.
- Type powershell in search box and select Windows PowerShell desktop app.
- Press “Win + R” to open Run prompt. Type powershell and hit enter.
- Right click on the Start button or press “Win + X” keys and choose Windows PowerShell or Windows PowerShell (Admin) option.
When you right click on Start button or press “Win + X” keys Windows will either show Command Prompt or Windows PowerShell related options. You can change the settings to choose which option you want to show in the menu.
- Press “Win + I” keys to open Windows Settings app.
- Click on “Personalization” option and go to “Taskbar” section.
- Enable or disable “Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell……..” option.
Comparison between PowerShell and Command Prompt
Though you can do most of the Command Prompt functions on Windows PowerShell, they are not the same. Here are some of the differences between the two interfaces.
- While Cmd uses DOS commands, the PowerShell uses commands known as cmdlets, which are independent programming objects that allow access to core administration options in Windows. These options are not accessible from the Cmd meaning users have to navigate the GUI to access them.
- Cmd is just a shell system, which limits users to do only simple and basic scripts for the batch file execution. However, PowerShell is both a shell and a scripting environment that supports the creation of large and complex files for managing the Windows system.
- The Command Prompt was not designed for system administration and users require extra utilities to extend its functionality. On the contrary, Windows PowerShell has many cmdlets that simplify life for system administrators. It enables a wide range of task execution and automation including users and permissions management, security configurations, data extraction, and Active Directory administration.
- Another interesting PowerShell feature that lacks in Cmd is “Aliases”. This is a very critical function that allow users to configure custom names for different scripts or cmdlets. PowerShell uses Aliases to interpret old DOS commands and run them as PowerShell cmdlets. For instance, the alias for ‘cd’ (DOS) is ‘Set-Location’ (cmdlet).
- PowerShell also supports pipes (similar to variables) that enable chaining several cmdlets and sharing of I/O data with other cmdlets. This feature enables users to develop complex scripts that can pass parameters for use in another cmdlet.
Moreover, PowerShell provides other advanced features including:
- Windows PowerShell ISE – An interactive scripting environment that helps in the management of PowerShell scripts.
- Secure Shell (SSH) – Protocol for implementing encrypted connections between Windows remote systems.
- Package Management – A tool for monitoring software within your system.
PowerShell or Command Prompt, Which is the Way Forward?
If you only rely on Cmd to execute basic commands such as sfc, ipconfig and the like, it is still a convenient tool. For system admins and power users, who need to run complex tasks or managing remote systems, then PowerShell is the way to go. It saves time for system administrators by allowing access to deeper system task automation. However, it is advisable for Windows users to start familiarizing with the latter, especially after Microsoft made the default shell for Windows 10. Besides, PowerShell is superior to the old Cmd as it provides all the Cmd capabilities and more.