Tag Archives: Remove-Variable

Bulk Remove Variables, Carefully

Ever have one of those situations where you need to remove, or perhaps reinitialize, a set of variables and have to deal with remembering them all? This doesn’t happen often, but there are times when I need to clear, or remove, variables between loop iterations. You either need to keep track of all your variable names, or — and I wouldn’t recommend this so much — do a Remove-Variable -Name *. While the help on PowerShell 5.1.14394.1000 (5.1 preview version), says that Remove-Variable doesn’t accept wildcards, it does, and I think it always has.

Let’s start with the below example. These few lines do the following: 1. Return the number of variables in the PowerShell session, 2. Add a new variable x, 3. Return the number of variables again, 4. Remove all the variables I can (some can’t be removed), 5. Return the number of variables again (again), and 6. See if I can return my variable x.

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ (Get-Variable).Count
51
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name x -Value 'string'
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ (Get-Variable).Count
52
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Remove-Variable -Name * -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ (Get-Variable).Count
29
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name x
Get-Variable : Cannot find a variable with the name 'x'...

While we can do this to remove the variables we’ve created in the session, we end up removing variables that weren’t necessary to remove. We’re better than this.

In the next example, we’ll add a variable prefix “dog” to all of our variables. This will allow us to find all of the variables by prefix, and then delete just those. Not a bad idea really, but it wasn’t my first thought.

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name dog1 -Value 'string1'
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name dog2 -Value 'string2'
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name dog3 -Value 'string3'
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name dog*

Name                           Value
----                           -----
dog1                           string1
dog2                           string2
dog3                           string3

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Remove-Variable -Name dog*
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name dog*
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ # No results, as they've been deleted.

Had I thought of the above option first, I might’ve just gone with that idea, but let me share what I was really thinking. It’s involves the description property. When we create our variables with New-Variable, we have the option to set more than just the Name and Value. Let’s take a look at the below example, and then discuss it.

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name a -Value 'stringA' -Description (Get-Date)
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ $StartDate = Get-Date
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name b -Value 'stringB' -Description (Get-Date)
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ New-Variable -Name c -Value 'stringC' -Description (Get-Date)
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name a,b,c

Name                           Value
----                           -----
a                              stringA
b                              stringB
c                              stringC

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name a,b,c | Select-Object Name,Value,Description

Name Value   Description
---- -----   -----------
a    stringA 11/03/2016 20:52:41
b    stringB 11/03/2016 20:53:05
c    stringc 11/03/2016 20:53:20

Now, it’s important to remember that a variable’s description property is a string. This means that when we put the current date in the property, it was converted to a string. That means that Thursday, November 3, 2016 20:53:20 PM became this: 11/03/2016 20:53:20. What we’ll need to do is convert it back to a datetime before we compare. We do that in the below example by casting the description property as a datetime object. If it’s not clear yet, our end goal is to remove variables that were created after a specific point in time.

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name a,b,c | Where-Object {[datetime]$_.Description -gt $StartDate}

Name                           Value
----                           -----
b                              stringB
c                              stringC

We can also use the Get-Date cmdlet to do this, as well.

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name a,b,c | Where-Object {(Get-Date -Format $_.Description) -gt $StartDate}

Name                           Value
----                           -----
b                              stringB
c                              stringC

Since we can now isolate the variables we created after a specific time, we can go ahead and blow them away. Here goes:

[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable -Name a,b,c | Where-Object {(Get-Date -Format $_.Description) -gt $StartDate} | Remove-Variable
[tommymaynard@srv01 c/~]$ Get-Variable a,b,c

Name                           Value
----                           -----
a                              stringA
Get-Variable : Cannot find a variable with the name 'b'.
At line:1 char:1
+ Get-Variable a,b,c
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (b:String) [Get-Variable], ItemNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotFound,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.GetVariableCommand

Get-Variable : Cannot find a variable with the name 'c'.
At line:1 char:1
+ Get-Variable a,b,c
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (c:String) [Get-Variable], ItemNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotFound,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.GetVariableCommand

Well, that’s it for today. Now you can use description property of your variables to hold the time in which they were created. This will allow you to selective remove any of them based on a start time. I like it, although the whole prefix thing might be an easier option.

PSMonday #8: Monday, June 20, 2016

Topic: Less Used Variable Properties

Notice: This post is a part of the PowerShell Monday series — a group of quick and easy to read mini lessons that briefly cover beginning and intermediate PowerShell topics. As a PowerShell enthusiast, this seemed like a beneficial way to ensure those around me at work were consistently learning new things about Windows PowerShell. At some point, I decided I would share these posts here, as well. Here’s the PowerShell Monday Table of Contents.

When someone sets, or assigns, a variable in Windows PowerShell, we typically expect it to look a certain way, as is demonstrated below. This example also shows how we typically return a variable’s value, after it’s been assigned.

$String = 'Welcome back to Monday.' # Assign a value to variable.
$String # Return a variable’s value.

Welcome back to Monday.

This assigns, or sets, the variable named string, the value of ‘Welcome back to Monday.’ Straightforward, right? Well, this isn’t the only way to assign a variable in PowerShell. There’s a more formal process that offers a few extra options. When we use the *-Variable cmdlets, we don’t use the dollar sign ($). The dollar sign is only used to indicate to the PowerShell parser that what follows it, will be a variable name. The difference here is that these variable cmdlets already know you’re providing a variable name.

New-Variable -Name String2 -Value 'Come on, Friday.'
Get-Variable -Name String2

Name                           Value
----                           -----
String2                        Come on, Friday.

If you choose to use the Get-Variable cmdlet to return just the value, you can use the -ValueOnly parameter, dotted-notation, or Select-Object’s -ExpandProperty parameter. In older versions of PowerShell, dotted-notation may not be an option.

Get-Variable -Name String2 -ValueOnly
(Get-Variable -Name String2).Value
Get-Variable -Name String2 | Select-Object -ExpandProperty Value

Come on, Friday.
Come on, Friday.
Come on, Friday.

I’m not here to suggest variables should always be created with New-Variable, that values should always be returned with Get-Variable, that variables should always be updated with Set-Variable, or even that we should always clear or remove variables with Clear-Variable and Remove-Variable, respectively. What I’m out to do, is tell you about a couple extra properties that are attached to our variables, that you might not know about, and how we might use them.

Let’s modify the command we used to return the value of our $String2 variable, so we return all the properties. Keep in mind, that we can do the same thing with our $String variable that was created without the New-Variable cmdlet.

Get-Variable -Name String2 | Select-Object *

Name        : String2
Description :
Value       : Come on Friday.
Visibility  : Public
Module      :
ModuleName  :
Options     : None
Attributes  : {}

Notice that we have a Description property and an Options property. The Description property is another way to provide additional meaning to a variable. While you should strive to name your variables in a way that describes their contents, if you’re feeling up to it, you can add additional information about the variable in this property.

Set-Variable -Name String2 -Description 'Demo purposes only'
(Get-Variable -Name String2).Description

Demo purposes only

Let’s talk about the Options property next week, as it’s a bit more useful.

Protect your Variables with ReadOnly and Constant Options

I wrote a post a day to two back about creating an array variable that contained other arrays. I then went on to create additional, easier-to-remember variables, to use as the indexes. Here’s the post if you’d like to read it: http://tommymaynard.com/ql-working-with-an-array-of-arrays-2015/.

I started thinking, what if you create a variable for this easier-to-remember purpose, and then acidentally overwrite it? Well, as assumed, it is no longer going to work as first intended. Here’s a quick example starting back at the array of arrays concept.

PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name TeamWareServers -Value @(('serv01','serv02'),('serv03','serv04','serv05'))
PS C:\> $TeamWareServers
serv01
serv02
serv03
serv04
serv05
PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name f -Value 0 # Front end servers
PS C:\> $f
0
PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name b -Value 1 # Back end servers
PS C:\> $b
1
PS C:\> $TeamWareServers[$f]
serv01
serv02
PS C:\> $TeamWareServers[$b]
serv03
serv04
serv05

Although it’s easier to remember which servers are which, we have the possibility that our variables, $f and $b, could easily be overwritten. Here’s an example of overwriting the variables’ values and then not being able to use them as we did in the last example. I added an extra space after the results, of which there were none, so it’s easy to tell that these variable no longer work.

PS C:\> $f = 20
PS C:\> $b = 'newvalue'
PS C:\> $TeamWareServers[$f]
PS C:\>
PS C:\> $TeamWareServers[$b]
PS C:\>

So, how can we better protect our variables? There’s two ways we’ll discuss: ReadOnly and Constant. These two options will protect our variables from being assigned any new value(s). Take a look at this example where we’ll reset our $f and $b variables back to their original values.

PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name f -Value 0 -Option ReadOnly
PS C:\> $f
0
PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name b -Value 1 -Option Constant
Set-Variable : Existing variable b cannot be made constant. Variables can be made constant only at creation time.
At line:1 char:1
+ Set-Variable -Name b -Value 1 -Option Constant
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (b:String) [Set-Variable], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableCannotBeMadeConstant,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.SetVariableCommand

In the example above, we assigned a new value to our $f variable and made it ReadOnly using the -Option parameter. When we tried to modify the $b variable to make it a Constant, we received an error. This is because we don’t have the ability to make an existing variable a Constant. In the next example, below, we’ll remove the $b variable and then recreate it with the Constant option. Keep in mind that Set-Variable will work like New-Variable, if the variable doesn’t already exist.

PS C:\> Remove-Variable -Name b
PS C:\> Set-Variable -Name b -Value 1 -Option Constant
PS C:\> $b
1

Now let’s try what we did earlier and assign new values to these variables. You’ll soon see that when the variable’s option is set to Read-Only or Constant, that we’re not able to change their values.

PS C:\> $f = 20
Cannot overwrite variable f because it is read-only or constant.
At line:1 char:1
+ $f = 20
+ ~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (f:String) [], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotWritable

PS C:\> $b = 'newvalue'
Cannot overwrite variable b because it is read-only or constant.
At line:1 char:1
+ $b = 'newvalue'
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (b:String) [], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotWritable

If you’re anything like me, then you might be wondering what the difference is between ReadOnly and Constant. We’ll let the next example help explain.

PS C:\> Remove-Variable -Name f
Remove-Variable : Cannot remove variable f because it is constant or read-only. If the variable is read-only, try the
operation again specifying the Force option.
At line:1 char:1
+ Remove-Variable -Name f
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (f:String) [Remove-Variable], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotRemovable,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveVariableCommand

PS C:\> Remove-Variable -Name f -Force # This works.
PS C:\>
PS C:\> Remove-Variable -Name b
Remove-Variable : Cannot remove variable b because it is constant or read-only. If the variable is read-only, try the
operation again specifying the Force option.
At line:1 char:1
+ Remove-Variable -Name b
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (b:String) [Remove-Variable], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotRemovable,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveVariableCommand

PS C:\> Remove-Variable -Name b -Force # This doesn't work.
Remove-Variable : Cannot remove variable b because it is constant or read-only. If the variable is read-only, try the
operation again specifying the Force option.
At line:1 char:1
+ Remove-Variable -Name b -Force
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (b:String) [Remove-Variable], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotRemovable,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.RemoveVariableCommand

When a variable is ReadOnly, the variable can be removed. This does, however, require the use of the -Force parameter. Consider that a safety net. The difference here, is that when a variable is a Constant, it cannot be removed, even with the use of the -Force parameter. If you want to remove a user-defined Constant variable, you’re going to have to end your PowerShell console and start another one.

Keep these options in mind if you ever want to protect the value(s) in your variables. While we’re at it, we probably should have made the array (of arrays) variable, $TeamWareServers, ReadOnly or Constant, too.

Using the Range Operator for Calculating Total Push-Ups

In December of 2014, I decided that my life in 2015 was in need of some push-ups. Instead of just starting with 10 a day, or some other arbitrary number, I thought I would do as many push-ups a day as it was the day in the year. This meant that on day one (January 1, 2015), I would do one push-up and on day two, I would do two push-ups, and so on. Today is the 20th day of the new year, and so I’ll have to do 20 tonight. I wanted to know how many push-ups I will have done by January 31st. Being the Windows PowerShell hobbyist that I am, I enlisted PowerShell to do my calculations for me.

I started with a variable, $EndDay, and the range operator (..). The combination of the two provides me an integer array of the days in January, such as 1..$EndDay (or, 1..31). Using this, I can calculate how many total push-ups I will have done by the end of the day on January 31st. The example below sets up the integer array, as well as the ForEach-Object loop where we’ll do our calculations. Note: I’m using the ForEach-Object alias, foreach.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay | foreach {

}

The first thing we do, below, is include a second variable, $PushUps, that will collect the total number of push-ups for the month. We’ll use the += assignment operator. This operator takes whatever is already in $PushUps, and adds to it. If the current value stored in $PushUps was 1, and we used the += assignment operator like so, $PushUps += 2, then the value in $PushUps would be 3 (1 + 2 is equal to 3). If we used the standard assignment operator (=), then $PushUps would be 2, as 1 would be overwritten.

On the next line, below, we write some information on the screen. We write the current day: that’s the current number from the integer array represented by $_ (as of PowerShell 3.0, $_ can be represented as $PSItem). Then we write out the total number of push-ups completed by that day: $PushUps.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay | foreach {
    $PushUps += $_
    Write-Output -Verbose "Day: $_ / PushUp Total: $PushUps"
}

I noticed that when I reran the code in the ISE, that the value of $PushUps was incorrect on the second run. This is because the variable already exists, and by the end of the first run already contains 496—the number of push-ups I’ll have done by the end of January! Therefore, I added an If statement that removed the $PushUps variable when $_ was equal to $EndDay. This happens on the final run through the foreach.

$EndDay = 31
1..$EndDay| foreach {
    $PushUps += $_
    Write-Output -Verbose "Day: $_ / PushUp Total: $PushUps"
    If ($_ -eq $EndDay) {
        Remove-Variable PushUps
    }
}

If you change the value for $EndDay to 365, you’ll be able to determine that after December 31st (if I can somehow keep this up) I will have done 66,299 total push-ups for the year. It’s hard to imagine that I could do 365 push-ups at once, but then again, it’s hard to imagine I’ll get though the rest of the month. Here’s an image that shows the the full results when we run the function above.

Using the Range Operator for Push-Up Calculations

Thanks for reading, and wish me good luck—I’m going to need it.

about_Variables

This post is the help rewrite for about_Aliases. 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)

A variable in Windows PowerShell is a storage container in memory that can hold a value or values. Variables can store numbers, letters, strings (a sequence of numbers, letters, and/or other characters), and the results of command that has been run in Windows PowerShell. Variables are defined by a dollar sign ($) and a string of text that follows.

PS C:\> $myVariable
PS C:\> $Process
PS C:\> $UserName
PS C:\> $a
PS C:\> $Var

Windows PowerShell has three types of variables. There are user-created variables, automatic variables, and preference variables. User-created variables are created by a user such as the variables in this example.

PS C:\> $Name = 'Macy Jones'
PS C:\> $Number = 10

Automatic variables store the state of Windows PowerShell, such as the $PSHOME variable, which stores the install location of Windows PowerShell. This type of variable cannot be changed by a user. This example shows what happens when a user tries to change the value of the $PSHOME automatic variable.

PS C:\> $PSHOME
C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0
PS C:\> $PSHOME = 'C:\Windows'
Cannot overwrite variable PSHOME because it is read-only or constant.
At line:1 char:1
+ $PSHOME = ‘C:\Windows’
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : WriteError: (PSHOME:String) [], SessionStateUnauthorizedAccessException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotWritable

Preference variables store a default value but can be changed. These types of variables include the $MaximumAliasCount variable that stores the maximum number of aliases Windows PowerShell will store (the default value for this variable is 4096). This example show how this variable’s value can be changed.

PS C:\> $MaximumAliasCount
4096
PS C:\> $MaximumAliasCount = 2000
PS C:\> $MaximumAliasCount
2000
PS C:\> $MaximumAliasCount = 4096

Variables are created by combining a dollar sign ($) and text string. It is beneficial to name variables in such a way that the name helps define what the variable will store. Then use the = operator to assign, or set, the variable with a value. This example shows two variables, $Name and $Number, being set to two different values. To display the value assigned to a variable, type a dollar sign and the variable name and press enter.

PS C:\> $Name = 'Macy Jones'
PS C:\> $Number = 10
PS C:\> $Series = 1,2,3
PS C:\> $Name
Macy Jones
PS C:\> $Number
10
PS C:\> $Series
1
2
3

The variable’s values can also be displayed using the Write-Output cmdlet, as well as the aliases for Write-Output, write and echo. This is used more often in scripts as opposed to the Windows PowerShell console.

PS C:\> Write-Output $Name
Macy Jones
PS C:\> write $Name
Macy Jones
PS C:\> echo $Name
Macy Jones

While the Write-Host cmdlet can also display a variable’s value, in most cases it should not be used in place of Write-Output.

PS C:\> Write-Host $Name
Macy Jones

Variable names are not case-sensitive. The case of a variable name does not matter when it is assigned or used. This example also indicates how to assign a new value to a variable that already had a value.

PS C:\> $name
Macy Jones
PS C:\> $NAME
Macy Jones
PS C:\> $NamE
Macy Jones
PS C:\> $NAME = 'Lance Andrews'
PS C:\> $name
Lance Andrews
PS C:\> $name = 'Macy Jones'
PS C:\> $NAMe
Macy Jones

Variables can hold the results of commands. The first part of this example uses the Get-Process cmdlet to immediately display the first four running processes. In the second part of the example, the first four running processes are stored in a variable and then displayed when the variable is entered.

PS C:\> Get-Process | Select-Object -First 4

Handles  NPM(K)    PM(K)      WS(K) VM(M)   CPU(s)     Id ProcessName
-------  ------    -----      ----- -----   ------     -- -----------
    224      19     3436        772   110    16.80   4612 ALMon
    164      14     2476       2100    44     5.53   2744 ALsvc
     77       9     1336       5288    75   140.70   4076 ApMsgFwd
     90       8     1372       5852    76   162.11   4324 ApntEx

PS C:\> $Processes = Get-Process | Select-Object -First 4
PS C:\> $Processes

Handles  NPM(K)    PM(K)      WS(K) VM(M)   CPU(s)     Id ProcessName
-------  ------    -----      ----- -----   ------     -- -----------
    224      19     3436        772   110    16.80   4612 ALMon
    164      14     2476       2100    44     5.53   2744 ALsvc
     77       9     1336       5288    75   140.73   4076 ApMsgFwd
     90       8     1372       5852    76   162.11   4324 ApntEx

This examples sets, or assigns, the $Date variable to the results of the Get-Date cmdlet.

PS C:\> $Date = Get-Date
PS C:\> $Date

Thursday, May 01, 2014 9:20:30 PM

The Clear-Variable cmdlet, or clv alias, in this example will remove the value that has been assigned to a variable without destroying, or removing, the variable itself. When referencing the variable, the dollar sign ($) is not used with either of these two cmdlets or with the Get-Variable cmdlet. The Get-Variable cmdlet will list all the variables in the session or list a single variable when a variable name is supplied.

PS C:\> $Name
Macy Jones
PS C:\> Clear-Variable Name
PS C:\> $Name
PS C:\> Get-Variable Name

Name                           Value
----                           -----
Name

The Remove-Variable cmdlet, or rv alias, in this example will completely remove a variable and its stored value from memory.

PS C:\> $Color = 'Green'
PS C:\> $Color
Green
PS C:\> Remove-Variable Color
PS C:\> $Color
PS C:\>
PS C:\> Get-Variable Color
Get-Variable : Cannot find a variable with the name ‘Color’.
At line:1 char:1
+ Get-Variable Color
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (Color:String) [Get-Variable], ItemNotFoundException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : VariableNotFound,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.GetVariableCommand

Variables can store different types of data. Normally they make their type determination based on the value(s) assigned to them. They can store integers, strings, arrays, and more. A single variable, when it is an array, can contain different types of data at the same time. The examples below use the Get-Member cmdlet to returns properties (and more) about our variable. The Select-Object cmdlet has also been used to help filter what is returned.

PS C:\> $a = 12
PS C:\> $a | Get-Member | Select-Object TypeName -Unique

TypeName
--------
System.Int32

PS C:\> $a = 'Word'
PS C:\> $a | Get-Member | Select-Object TypeName -Unique

TypeName
--------
System.String

PS C:\> $a = 12,'Word'
PS C:\> $a | Get-Member | Select-Object TypeName -Unique

TypeName
--------
System.Int32
System.String

A variable can be forced to be a certain type by casting the variable. In the first part of the example below, the variable $Number will be cast with an int type (int, as in, integer). Even though the variable is cast as an integer, it is able to handle being assign a string value of ‘12345.’ This is because the variable can change that string into a numeric value. It cannot do the same thing with the string ‘Hello.’

Further down in the example, the $Words variable has been cast as a string. When it is set to a numeric value it converts the numeric value into a string value. If the variable is used in a mathematical equation, such as addition, it does not add the two values and instead will concatenate, or join, them.

PS C:\> [int]$Number = 10
PS C:\> $Number
10
PS C:\> $Number = '12345'
PS C:\> $Number
12345
PS C:\> $Number = 'Hello'
Cannot convert value “Hello” to type “System.Int32”. Error: “Input string was not in a correct format.”
At line:1 char:1
+ $Number = ‘Hello’
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    + CategoryInfo          : MetadataError: (:) [], ArgumentTransformationMetadataException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : RuntimeException
PS C:\> [string]$Words = 'Hello'
PS C:\> $Words
Hello
PS C:\> $Words = 2
PS C:\> $Words
2
PS C:\> $Words + 10
210
PS C:\> $Number
12345
PS C:\> $Number + 10
12355

There are differences between using single quotes – which should be used as often as possible – and double quotes. Single quotes around a variable will not expand the value stored in the variable; however, using double quotes will expand the variable.

PS C:\> $Name = 'Macy Jones'
PS C:\> 'Her name is $Name'
Her name is $Name
PS C:\> "Her name is $Name"
Her name is Macy Jones

Although variable names can include spaces and special characters, it should be avoided as it can quickly lead to confusion. Using spaces and special characters requires the variable name be enclosed in curly brackets {}.

PS C:\> ${!@#$} = 'Monday'
PS C:\> ${Favorite Day} = 'Friday'
PS C:\> ${!@#$}
Monday
PS C:\> ${Favorite Day}
Friday

Windows PowerShell creates a variable drive that looks and acts a lot like a file system drive. You can access data in the variable drive the same way things are accessed in a file system. The first example uses Get-ChildItem to get the first 4 folders in C:\Windows. The second example does the same thing but instead returns the first four variables in the variable drive.

PS C:\> Get-ChildItem C:\Windows | select -First 4

    Directory: C:\Windows

Mode                LastWriteTime     Length Name
----                -------------     ------ ----
d----         11/5/2013   3:31 PM            ADAM
d----         7/13/2009  10:32 PM            addins
d----         7/13/2009   8:20 PM            AppCompat
d----         4/11/2014   5:22 PM            AppPatch

PS C:\> Get-ChildItem variable:\ | select -First 4

Name                           Value
----                           -----
!@#$                           Monday
$                              4
?                              True
^                              Get-ChildItem

The only other variable cmdlet that was not discussed is the New-Variable cmdlet. This cmdlet is often not used since a variable can be created without it. The first example below shows how to return all the variable-relate cmdlets. The second example shows how to use New-Variable.

PS C:\> Get-Command *-Variable

CommandType     Name                                               ModuleName
-----------     ----                                               ----------
Cmdlet          Clear-Variable                                     Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Get-Variable                                       Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          New-Variable                                       Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Remove-Variable                                    Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
Cmdlet          Set-Variable                                       Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility

PS C:\> New-Variable -Name DaysInYear -Value 365
PS C:\> $DaysInYear
365

Bonus Information

There may come a time when two (or more) variables needs to be set to the same value. These do not need to be set individually. This first example shows how to set two variables at the same time and the second example show how to set three variables at the same time.

PS C:\> $a = $b = 'Windows PowerShell'
PS C:\> $a
Windows PowerShell
PS C:\> $b
Windows PowerShell
PS C:\> $x = $y = $z = 42
PS C:\> $x
42
PS C:\> $y
42
PS C:\> $z
42

Real World

When values of a variables are displayed in the console it will vary rarely follow the Write-Output cmdlet. This cmdlet is most often used in scripts than it is with commands written in the console.

Learn More

This information, and more, is stored in the help file about_Variables 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\about_Variables.help.txt