Tag Archives: variables

Find Time between Two Dates

This post will show two ways to determine the time span between two datetimes.

Earlier this year we performed a data migration to our data center. One of the Assistant Directors sent me an instant message first thing on a Monday morning to ask if the migration was complete. I had read that it completed earlier that morning and so I replied with the time at which it ended. The second question was how long the entire data migration took. I knew it started at 11 a.m. on Friday and that it completed at 7:21 a.m. on Monday. I could have done this in my head (11 a.m. Friday to 11 a.m. Monday equals 3 days, minus 4 hours, etc.) but I trust Windows PowerShell with dates, times, and time spans more than I do myself.

The first thing I did was assign a variable, $StateDate, with the date and time when the data migration started. After testing to see it held the proper date and time, I created a second variable, $EndDate, and assigned it the date and time when the data migration ended. I also checked that it stored the correct date and time before moving on.

PS C:\> $StartDate = Get-Date '5/9/2014 11:00:00 AM'
PS C:\> $StartDate

Friday, May 09, 2014 11:00:00 AM

PS C:\> $EndDate = Get-Date '5/12/2014 07:21:00 AM'
PS C:\> $EndDate

Monday, May 12, 2014 7:21:00 AM

I was aware of the New-TimeSpan cmdlet, which we’ll use below, but I wondered if I could simply subtract the start date (the smaller date and time) from the end date (the larger date and time). I tried and it worked! Two days, 20 hours, 21 minutes.

PS C:\> $EndDate - $StartDate

Days              : 2
Hours             : 20
Minutes           : 21
Seconds           : 0
Milliseconds      : 0
Ticks             : 2460600000000
TotalDays         : 2.84791666666667
TotalHours        : 68.35
TotalMinutes      : 4101
TotalSeconds      : 246060
TotalMilliseconds : 246060000

Here’s an example of using the New-TimeSpan cmdlet. Using this cmdlet may be easier, as to not confuse which date to subtract from which.

PS C:\> New-TimeSpan -Start $StartDate -End $EndDate

Days              : 2
Hours             : 20
Minutes           : 21
Seconds           : 0
Milliseconds      : 0
Ticks             : 2460600000000
TotalDays         : 2.84791666666667
TotalHours        : 68.35
TotalMinutes      : 4101
TotalSeconds      : 246060
TotalMilliseconds : 246060000

I didn’t want anything more returned to me other than the days, hours, and minutes. I piped my results from the New-TimeSpan cmdlet to the Select-Object cmdlet and specified the properties I wanted returned. The output wasn’t great (see the final example on this page) and so I took those results and piped them to the Format-List cmdlet.

PS C:\> New-TimeSpan -Start $StartDate -End $EndDate | Select-Object Days,Hours,Minutes | Format-List

Days    : 2
Hours   : 20
Minutes : 21

Here’s how I finished up. I created a new variable, $TimeSpan, and assigned it the results of the New-TimeSpan cmdlet piped the Select-Object cmdlet. Before going any further, I tested that the variable’s value was storing what I wanted. Once I was sure the  variable contained what I wanted, I modified it a bit and sent it to the clipboard so it could be easily pasted into my instant messenger program.

PS C:\> $TimeSpan = New-TimeSpan -Start $StartDate -End $EndDate | Select-Object Days,Hours,Minutes
PS C:\> $TimeSpan

                                   Days                                   Hours                                 Minutes
                                   ----                                   -----                                 -------
                                      2                                      20                                      21

PS C:\>"$($TimeSpan.Days) Days, $($TimeSpan.Hours) Hours, $($TimeSpan.Minutes) Minutes" | clip

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