Quick Learn – Proving PowerShell’s Usefulness to Newbies, Part II

Back again with another example to share with the Windows PowerShell newbies. They’re out there: people that don’t know the practical power in PowerShell. The idea is to use real-world examples of things we simply wouldn’t want to do manually, in hopes that our lost friends will find the light. Maybe, that’s you.

Part I can be found here. In that post, we learned that we could use PowerShell to create 10,000 folders in about 10 seconds — that’s 1,000 folders per second, or 1 folder each millisecond.

Part II
What we’ll do today is read in the content of a file, sort the items we’ve read in, and then write our sorted results back out to the same file — it’s instant alphabetizing. Let’s start by reading in our file and see what we’re starting with.

PS> Get-Content -Path .\file.txt
web02.mydomain.com
web09.mydomain.com
dc03.mydomain.com
dc04.mydomain.com
sql08.mydomain.com
sql06.mydomain.com
dc08.mydomain.com
sql04.mydomain.com
dc10.mydomain.com
web01.mydomain.com
web03.mydomain.com
dc09.mydomain.com
web05.mydomain.com
web06.mydomain.com
dc02.mydomain.com
web07.mydomain.com
dc05.mydomain.com
web04.mydomain.com
web10.mydomain.com
sql01.mydomain.com
dc01.mydomain.com
sql03.mydomain.com
sql10.mydomain.com
web08.mydomain.com
sql05.mydomain.com
sql07.mydomain.com
dc07.mydomain.com
sql02.mydomain.com
sql09.mydomain.com
dc06.mydomain.com

Our file contains 30 fully-qualified servers names that are in no significant order. Sorting all 30 of these server names is probably going to be difficult, or at least, it’s going to be time consuming. Wrong. With one quick addition to the previous command — see the example below — our list is sorted and without any noticeable difference in the amount of time it took to complete.

PS> Get-Content -Path .\file.txt | Sort-Object
dc01.mydomain.com
dc02.mydomain.com
dc03.mydomain.com
dc04.mydomain.com
dc05.mydomain.com
dc06.mydomain.com
dc07.mydomain.com
dc08.mydomain.com
dc09.mydomain.com
dc10.mydomain.com
sql01.mydomain.com
sql02.mydomain.com
sql03.mydomain.com
sql04.mydomain.com
sql05.mydomain.com
sql06.mydomain.com
sql07.mydomain.com
sql08.mydomain.com
sql09.mydomain.com
sql10.mydomain.com
web01.mydomain.com
web02.mydomain.com
web03.mydomain.com
web04.mydomain.com
web05.mydomain.com
web06.mydomain.com
web07.mydomain.com
web08.mydomain.com
web09.mydomain.com
web10.mydomain.com

Yeah, that was tough. I ran this same command 10 times, measuring it with the Measure-Command cmdlet, so I could see the average amount of time it took to sort the list of computers. It completed this “challenge” in anywhere between 6 and 10 milliseconds. I’m sorry, but it would’ve taken me at least a few minutes do to this by hand.

Now that we know we can sort it, let’s write it back to disk. In this example, below, we’ll put our sorted results back into the file where it came from, overwriting the original contents. If you don’t want to do that, then be sure to alter the file name value for Set-Content’s -Path parameter.

PS> Get-Content -Path .\file.txt | Sort-Object | Set-Content -Path .\file.txt
PS>

Let’s verify that our file now contains the sorted contents by rerunning our first Get-Content command from the beginning of this post.

PS> Get-Content -Path .\file.txt
dc01.mydomain.com
dc02.mydomain.com
dc03.mydomain.com
dc04.mydomain.com
dc05.mydomain.com
dc06.mydomain.com
dc07.mydomain.com
dc08.mydomain.com
dc09.mydomain.com
dc10.mydomain.com
sql01.mydomain.com
sql02.mydomain.com
sql03.mydomain.com
sql04.mydomain.com
sql05.mydomain.com
sql06.mydomain.com
sql07.mydomain.com
sql08.mydomain.com
sql09.mydomain.com
sql10.mydomain.com
web01.mydomain.com
web02.mydomain.com
web03.mydomain.com
web04.mydomain.com
web05.mydomain.com
web06.mydomain.com
web07.mydomain.com
web08.mydomain.com
web09.mydomain.com
web10.mydomain.com

That’s it. We ran a one-liner command to read in some data, sort it, and push it right back to the same file. So we were able to compare, I went ahead and sorted the same, 30-line file manually. It took me 3 minutes and 30 seconds (proof below). While this wasn’t the most complex, or lengthy document one might sort, the time difference is still quite drastic. PowerShell has plenty to offer, and spending some time to learn it is going to pay off. This line of work requires all the time you have to continue to learn, and stay relevant. PowerShell can give you some time back.

PS C:\> $StartTime = Get-Date
PS C:\> $EndTime = Get-Date
PS C:\> New-TimeSpan -Start $StartTime -End $EndTime


Days              : 0
Hours             : 0
Minutes           : 3
Seconds           : 30
Milliseconds      : 860
Ticks             : 2108600828
TotalDays         : 0.00244051021759259
TotalHours        : 0.0585722452222222
TotalMinutes      : 3.51433471333333
TotalSeconds      : 210.8600828
TotalMilliseconds : 210860.0828

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