Help Rewrite – about_Profiles

This post is the help rewrite for about_Profiles. While the help files for Windows PowerShell are invaluable, the idea behind a rewrite is so true beginners might even better understand the help file concepts. At times, some things discussed in the Windows PowerShell help file will not be included in a help rewrite. Therefore, it is always best to read the actual help file after reading this post. (PS3.0)

Once you start using your profile ($PROFILE), you’ll have a hard time not using it and not adding new things to it. When you have a profile (script), it runs each time you open a new Windows PowerShell session. My current profile does a number of things – it sets my location to the C:\ drive, sets various variables, set aliases, modifies the console’s window title, and creates several functions. Some of those functions allow me to connect remotely to Exchange servers, load the VMWare PowerCLI PSSnapin (without having to remember its name), use Wake-on-LAN to wake my home computer, and several others.

There are several different profiles based on the host and the user. To see your profile, type $PROFILE and press Enter in the console or Integrated-Scripting Environment (ISE). As seen in the example below, this will display the path to the profile. Line 1 is typed in the standard PowerShell console and Line 3 in the ISE.


There are more profiles than these two and they are active under different circumstances. To see all the profiles, pipe the $PROFILE variable to the Select-Object cmdlet with the wildcard character.

PS C:\> $PROFILE | Select-Object -Property *

AllUsersAllHosts       : C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\profile.ps1
AllUsersCurrentHost    : C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1
CurrentUserAllHosts    : C:\Users\tommymaynard\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\profile.ps1
CurrentUserCurrentHost : C:\Users\tommymaynard\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1
Length                 : 82

Based on the information on the left hand side, there are different profiles based on who is using what host. While it’s not recommended to modify the profiles in the System32 directory, you should be able to tell what these do. The one on line1 is run for any user, regardless of what host (console/ISE) they use. The second one on line 2 is for any user in the current host. The third is for the current user, me, in all the hosts, and the final one is for me in the current host. These last two are the one’s you can modify.

But just by having a path stored in $PROFILE, doesn’t actually mean the file, or profile, actually exists. Use the Test-Path cmdlet to determine if the file/profile exists.

PS C:\> Test-Path $PROFILE

If this returns False, then you do not have a profile and so it will need to be created. You can create this file but using the New-Item cmdlet.

PS C:\> New-Item -Type File -Path $PROFILE -Force

    Directory: C:\Users\tommymaynard\Documents\WindowsPowerShell

Mode                LastWriteTime     Length Name
----                -------------     ------ ----
-a---         8/20/2014  12:39 PM          0 Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1

These two commands can be put together in an If-Else statement that will test for the file, and if not found, will create the file. Once you have a profile file created, you can open it up and start adding to it. Remember that every time you open the matching console, the profile script will run.

If (-not(Test-Path $PROFILE)) {
    New-Item -Type File -Path $PROFILE -Force

Here’s some quick examples of things that could be added to a profile. The first example  changes the prompt location from its default to the root of the C:\ drive.

Set-Location \

The next example sets aliases for c and gh. The first example, in line 1, will allow me to use the letter c to run the Clear-Host cmdlet and in line 2, will allow me to use the alias gh in place of typing out Get-Help.

Set-Alias -Name c -Value Clear-Host
Set-Alias -Name gh -Value Get-Help

These next example allow me to set variables inside my profile. This will allow me to use $DCs to return DC01, DC02, DC03, allow me to use $hosts to return the path of my hosts file, and allow me to return all my web and data servers by using the $AppServers variable. Noticed that $AppSevers is a mulit-dimentional array. Use $AppServers[0] to return the web servers and $AppServers[1] to return the data servers.

Set-Variable -Name DCs -Value 'DC01','DC02','DC03'
Set-Variable -Name hosts -Value "$env:SystemRoot\System32\drivers\etc\hosts"
Set-Variable -Name AppServers -Value @(('web01','web02','web03'),('data01','data02','data03'))

You can also create functions. This function allows me to type Add-VMC to load the VMware PSSnapin. For me, it’s easier to remember this short function name than remembering the PSSnapin name or having to type out Get-PSSnapin -Registered to find the name.

Function Add-VMC {
	Add-PSSnapin VMware.VimAutomation.Core

Start using your $PROFILE today and everything you can to help personalize your PowerShell experience. Keep in mind that profiles do not exist in remote sessions.

Learn More

This information, and more, is stored in the help file about_Profile that comes with Windows PowerShell. This information can be read by typing any of the commands below. The first example will display the help file in the Windows PowerShell console, the second example will open the full help in it’s own window, the third example will send the contents of the help file to the clipboard (so it can be pasted into Word, Notepad, etc.), and the fourth example will open the help file in Notepad.

PS C:\> Get-Help about_variables
PS C:\> Get-Help about_variables -ShowWindow
PS C:\> Get-Help about_variables| clip
PS C:\> Notepad $PSHOME\en-us\