Short description

Describes how PowerShell uses character encoding for input and output of string data.

Long description

Unicode is a worldwide character-encoding standard. The system uses Unicode exclusively for character and string manipulation. For a detailed description of all aspects of Unicode, refer to The Unicode Standard.

Windows supports Unicode and traditional character sets. Traditional character sets, such as Windows code pages, use 8-bit values or combinations of 8-bit values to represent the characters used in a specific language or geographical region settings.

PowerShell uses a Unicode character set by default. However, several cmdlets have an Encoding parameter that can specify encoding for a different character set. This parameter allows you to choose the specific the character encoding you need for interoperability with other systems and applications.

The following cmdlets have the Encoding parameter:

  • Microsoft.PowerShell.Management
    • Add-Content
    • Get-Content
    • Set-Content
  • Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility
    • Export-Clixml
    • Export-Csv
    • Export-PSSession
    • Format-Hex
    • Import-Csv
    • Out-File
    • Select-String
    • Send-MailMessage

The byte-order-mark

The byte-order-mark (BOM) is a Unicode signature in the first few bytes of a file or text stream that indicate which Unicode encoding used for the data. For more information, see the Byte order mark documentation.

In Windows PowerShell, any Unicode encoding, except UTF7, always creates a BOM. PowerShell (v6 and higher) defaults to utf8NoBOM for all text output.

For best overall compatibility, avoid using BOMs in UTF-8 files. Unix platforms and Unix-heritage utilities also used on Windows Platforms don't support BOMs.

Similarly, UTF7 encoding should be avoided. UTF-7 is not a standard Unicode encoding and is written without a BOM in all versions of PowerShell.

Creating PowerShell scripts on a Unix-like platform or using a cross-platform editor on Windows, such as Visual Studio Code, results in a file encoded using UTF8NoBOM. These files work fine in PowerShell, but may break in Windows PowerShell if the file contains non-Ascii characters.

If you need to use non-Ascii characters in your scripts, save them as UTF-8 with BOM. Without the BOM, Windows PowerShell misinterprets your script as being encoded in the legacy "ANSI" codepage. Conversely, files that do have the UTF-8 BOM can be problematic on Unix-like platforms. Many Unix tools such as cat, sed, awk, and some editors such as gedit don't know how to treat the BOM.

Character encoding in Windows PowerShell

In PowerShell 5.1, the Encoding parameter supports the following values:

  • Ascii Uses Ascii (7-bit) character set.
  • BigEndianUnicode Uses UTF-16 with the big-endian byte order.
  • BigEndianUTF32 Uses UTF-32 with the big-endian byte order.
  • Byte Encodes a set of characters into a sequence of bytes.
  • Default Uses the encoding that corresponds to the system's active code page (usually ANSI).
  • Oem Uses the encoding that corresponds to the system's current OEM code page.
  • String Same as Unicode.
  • Unicode Uses UTF-16 with the little-endian byte order.
  • Unknown Same as Unicode.
  • UTF32 Uses UTF-32 with the little-endian byte order.
  • UTF7 Uses UTF-7.
  • UTF8 Uses UTF-8 (with BOM).

In general, Windows PowerShell uses the Unicode UTF-16LE encoding by default. However, the default encoding used by cmdlets in Windows PowerShell is not consistent.


Using any Unicode encoding, except UTF7, always creates a BOM.

For cmdlets that write output to files:

  • Out-File and the redirection operators > and >> create UTF-16LE, which notably differs from Set-Content and Add-Content.

  • New-ModuleManifest and Export-CliXml also create UTF-16LE files.

  • When the target file is empty or doesn't exist, Set-Content and Add-Content use Default encoding. Default is the encoding specified by the active system locale's ANSI legacy code page.

  • Export-Csv creates Ascii files but uses different encoding when using Append parameter (see below).

  • Export-PSSession creates UTF-8 files with BOM by default.

  • New-Item -Type File -Value creates a BOM-less UTF-8 file.

  • Send-MailMessage uses Ascii encoding by default.

  • Start-Transcript creates Utf8 files with a BOM. When the Append parameter is used, the encoding can be different (see below).

For commands that append to an existing file:

  • Out-File -Append and the >> redirection operator make no attempt to match the encoding of the existing target file's content. Instead, they use the default encoding unless the Encoding parameter is used. You must use the files original encoding when appending content.

  • In the absence of an explicit Encoding parameter, Add-Content detects the existing encoding and automatically applies it to the new content. If the existing content has no BOM, Default ANSI encoding is used. The behavior of Add-Content is the same in PowerShell (v6 and higher) except the default encoding is Utf8.

  • Export-Csv -Append matches the existing encoding when the target file contains a BOM. In the absence of a BOM, it uses Utf8 encoding.

  • Start-Transcript -Append matches the existing encoding of files that include a BOM. In the absence of a BOM, it defaults to Ascii encoding. This encoding can result in data loss or character corruption when the data in the transcript contains multibyte characters.

For cmdlets that read string data in the absence of a BOM:

  • Get-Content and Import-PowerShellDataFile uses the Default ANSI encoding. ANSI is also what the PowerShell engine uses when it reads source code from files.

  • Import-Csv, Import-CliXml, and Select-String assume Utf8 in the absence of a BOM.

Character encoding in PowerShell

In PowerShell (v7.1 and higher), the Encoding parameter supports the following values:

  • ascii: Uses the encoding for the ASCII (7-bit) character set.
  • ansi: Uses the encoding for the for the current culture's ANSI code page. This option was added in PowerShell 7.4.
  • bigendianunicode: Encodes in UTF-16 format using the big-endian byte order.
  • bigendianutf32: Encodes in UTF-32 format using the big-endian byte order.
  • oem: Uses the default encoding for MS-DOS and console programs.
  • unicode: Encodes in UTF-16 format using the little-endian byte order.
  • utf7: Encodes in UTF-7 format.
  • utf8: Encodes in UTF-8 format (no BOM).
  • utf8BOM: Encodes in UTF-8 format with Byte Order Mark (BOM)
  • utf8NoBOM: Encodes in UTF-8 format without Byte Order Mark (BOM)
  • utf32: Encodes in UTF-32 format using the little-endian byte order.

PowerShell defaults to utf8NoBOM for all output.

Beginning with PowerShell 6.2, the Encoding parameter also allows numeric IDs of registered code pages (like -Encoding 1251) or string names of registered code pages (like -Encoding "windows-1251"). For more information, see the .NET documentation for Encoding.CodePage.

Starting with PowerShell 7.4, you can use the Ansi value for the Encoding parameter to pass the numeric ID for the current culture's ANSI code page without having to specify it manually.

Changing the default encoding

PowerShell has two default variables that can be used to change the default encoding behavior.

  • $PSDefaultParameterValues
  • $OutputEncoding

For more information, see about_Preference_Variables.

Beginning in PowerShell 5.1, the redirection operators (> and >>) call the Out-File cmdlet. Therefore, you can set the default encoding of them using the $PSDefaultParameterValues preference variable as shown in this example:

$PSDefaultParameterValues['Out-File:Encoding'] = 'utf8'

Use the following statement to change the default encoding for all cmdlets that have the Encoding parameter.

$PSDefaultParameterValues['*:Encoding'] = 'utf8'


Putting this command in your PowerShell profile makes the preference a session-global setting that affects all commands and scripts that do not explicitly specify an encoding.

Similarly, you should include such commands in your scripts or modules that you want to behave the same way. Using these commands ensure that cmdlets behave the same way even when run by another user, on a different computer, or in a different version of PowerShell.

The automatic variable $OutputEncoding affects the encoding PowerShell uses to communicate with external programs. It has no effect on the encoding that the output redirection operators and PowerShell cmdlets use to save to files.

See also