Short description

Explains how to use the powershell.exe command-line interface. Displays the command-line parameters and describes the syntax.

Long description

For information about the command-line options for PowerShell 7, see about_Pwsh.


    [-PSConsoleFile <file> | -Version <version>]
    [-InputFormat {Text | XML}]
    [-OutputFormat {Text | XML}]
    [-WindowStyle <style>]
    [-EncodedArguments <Base64EncodedArguments>]
    [-EncodedCommand <Base64EncodedCommand>]
    [-ConfigurationName <string>]
    [-File - | <filePath> <args>]
    [-ExecutionPolicy <ExecutionPolicy>]
    [-Command - | { <script-block> [-args <arg-array>] }
                | { <string> [<CommandParameters>] } ]

PowerShell[.exe] -Help | -? | /?



Executes the specified commands (and any parameters) as though they were typed at the PowerShell command prompt, and then exits, unless the NoExit parameter is specified.

The value of Command can be -, a script block, or a string. If the value of Command is -, the command text is read from standard input.

The Command parameter only accepts a script block for execution when it can recognize the value passed to Command as a ScriptBlock type. This is only possible when running powershell.exe from another PowerShell host. The ScriptBlock type may be contained in an existing variable, returned from an expression, or parsed by the PowerShell host as a literal script block enclosed in curly braces ({}), before being passed to powershell.exe.

powershell -Command {Get-WinEvent -LogName security}

In cmd.exe, there is no such thing as a script block (or ScriptBlock type), so the value passed to Command will always be a string. You can write a script block inside the string, but instead of being executed it will behave exactly as though you typed it at a typical PowerShell prompt, printing the contents of the script block back out to you.

A string passed to Command is still executed as PowerShell code, so the script block curly braces are often not required in the first place when running from cmd.exe. To execute an inline script block defined inside a string, the call operator & can be used:

powershell.exe -Command "& {Get-WinEvent -LogName security}"

If the value of Command is a string, Command must be the last parameter for pwsh, because all arguments following it are interpreted as part of the command to execute.

When called from within an existing PowerShell session, the results are returned to the parent shell as deserialized XML objects, not live objects. For other shells, the results are returned as strings.

If the value of Command is -, the command text is read from standard input. You must redirect standard input when using the Command parameter with standard input. For example:


"hi" |
  % { "$_ there" }

'@ | powershell -NoProfile -Command -

This example produces the following output:

hi there

The process exit code is determined by status of the last (executed) command within the script block. The exit code is 0 when $? is $true or 1 when $? is $false. If the last command is an external program or a PowerShell script that explicitly sets an exit code other than 0 or 1, that exit code is converted to 1 for process exit code. To preserve the specific exit code, add exit $LASTEXITCODE to your command string or script block.

For more information, see $LASTEXITCODE in about_Automatic_Variables.

Similarly, the value 1 is returned when a script-terminating (runspace-terminating) error, such as a throw or -ErrorAction Stop, occurs or when execution is interrupted with Ctrl+C.

-ConfigurationName <string>

Specifies a configuration endpoint in which PowerShell is run. This can be any endpoint registered on the local machine including the default PowerShell remoting endpoints or a custom endpoint having specific user role capabilities.

-EncodedArguments <Base64EncodedArguments>

Accepts a Base64-encoded string version command arguments. Use this parameter to submit arguments that require complex, nested quoting. The Base64 representation must be a UTF-16LE encoded string.

-EncodedCommand <Base64EncodedCommand>

Accepts a base-64-encoded string version of a command. Use this parameter to submit commands to PowerShell that require complex quotation marks or curly braces. The string must be formatted using UTF-16LE character encoding.

-ExecutionPolicy <ExecutionPolicy>

Sets the default execution policy for the current session and saves it in the $env:PSExecutionPolicyPreference environment variable. This parameter does not change the PowerShell execution policy that's set in the registry. For information about PowerShell execution policies, including a list of valid values, see about_Execution_Policies.

-File - | <filePath> <args>

If the value of File is -, the command text is read from standard input. Running powershell -File - without redirected standard input starts a regular session. This is the same as not specifying the File parameter at all.

If the value of File is a filepath, the script runs in the local scope ("dot-sourced") of the new session, so that the functions and variables that the script creates are available in that new session. Enter the script filepath and any parameters. File must be the last parameter in the command. All values typed after the File parameter are interpreted as the script filepath and parameters passed to that script.

Parameters passed to the script are passed as literal strings, after interpretation by the current shell. For example, if you are in cmd.exe and want to pass an environment variable value, you would use the cmd.exe syntax: powershell.exe -File .\test.ps1 -TestParam %windir%

In contrast, running powershell.exe -File .\test.ps1 -TestParam $env:windir in cmd.exe results in the script receiving the literal string $env:windir because it has no special meaning to the current cmd.exe shell. The $env:windir style of environment variable reference can be used inside a Command parameter, since there it will be interpreted as PowerShell code.

Similarly, if you want to execute the same command from a Batch script, you would use %~dp0 instead of .\ or $PSScriptRoot to represent the current execution directory: powershell.exe -File %~dp0test.ps1 -TestParam %windir%. If you instead used .\test.ps1, PowerShell would throw an error because it can't find the literal path .\test.ps1

When the value of File is a filepath, File must be the last parameter in the command because any characters typed after the File parameter name are interpreted as the script filepath followed by the script parameters.

You can include the script parameters and values in the value of the File parameter. For example: -File .\Get-Script.ps1 -Domain Central

Typically, the switch parameters of a script are either included or omitted. For example, the following command uses the All parameter of the Get-Script.ps1 script file: -File .\Get-Script.ps1 -All

In rare cases, you might need to provide a Boolean value for a parameter. It isn't possible to pass an explicit boolean value for a switch parameter when running a script in this way. This limitation was removed in PowerShell 6 (pwsh.exe).


The File parameter can't support scripts using a parameter that expects an array of argument values. This, unfortunately, is a limitation of how a native command gets argument values. When you call a native executable (such as powershell or pwsh), it doesn't know what to do with an array, so it's passed as a string.

When the script file terminates with an exit command, the process exit code is set to the numeric argument used with the exit command. With normal termination, the exit code is always 0.

For more information, see $LASTEXITCODE in about_Automatic_Variables.

-InputFormat {Text | XML}

Describes the format of data sent to PowerShell. Valid values are Text (text strings) or XML (serialized CLIXML format).


Starts PowerShell using a multi-threaded apartment. This parameter is introduced in PowerShell 3.0. In PowerShell 2.0, multi-threaded apartment (MTA) is the default. In PowerShell 3.0, single-threaded apartment (STA) is the default.


Doesn't exit after running startup commands.


This switch is used to create sessions that shouldn't require user input. This is useful for scripts that run in scheduled tasks or CI/CD pipelines. Any attempts to use interactive features, like Read-Host or confirmation prompts, result in statement terminating errors rather than hanging.

Hides the copyright banner at startup.


Doesn't load the PowerShell profile.

-OutputFormat {Text | XML}

Determines how output from PowerShell is formatted. Valid values are Text (text strings) or XML (serialized CLIXML format).

-PSConsoleFile <FilePath>

Loads the specified PowerShell console file. Enter the path and name of the console file. To create a console file, use the Export-Console cmdlet in PowerShell.


Starts PowerShell using a single-threaded apartment. In Windows PowerShell 2.0, multi-threaded apartment (MTA) is the default. In Windows PowerShell 3.0, single-threaded apartment (STA) is the default.

-Version <PowerShell Version>

Starts the specified version of PowerShell. Valid values are 2.0 and 3.0. The version that you specify must be installed on the system. If Windows PowerShell 3.0 is installed on the computer, "3.0" is the default version. Otherwise, "2.0" is the default version. For more information, see Installing PowerShell.

-WindowStyle <Window style>

Sets the window style for the session. Valid values are Normal, Minimized, Maximized, and Hidden.

-Help, -?, /?

Displays help for PowerShell.exe. If you are typing a PowerShell.exe command in a PowerShell session, prepend the command parameters with a hyphen (-), not a forward slash (/). You can use either a hyphen or forward slash in cmd.exe.


Troubleshooting note: In PowerShell 2.0, starting some programs from the PowerShell console fails with a LastExitCode of 0xc0000142.


# Create a new PowerShell session and load a saved console file
PowerShell -PSConsoleFile sqlsnapin.psc1

# Create a new PowerShell V2 session with text input, XML output, and no logo
PowerShell -Version 2.0 -NoLogo -InputFormat text -OutputFormat XML

# Execute a PowerShell Command in a session
PowerShell -Command "Get-EventLog -LogName security"

# Run a script block in a session
PowerShell -Command {Get-EventLog -LogName security}

# An alternate way to run a command in a new session
PowerShell -Command "& {Get-EventLog -LogName security}"

# To use the -EncodedCommand parameter:
$command = "dir 'c:\program files' "
$bytes = [System.Text.Encoding]::Unicode.GetBytes($command)
$encodedCommand = [Convert]::ToBase64String($bytes)
powershell.exe -encodedCommand $encodedCommand