PowerShell vs Command Prompt: Pros & Cons

A black (or blue) terminal with a blinking cursor is a classic image for anyone using a Linux system. However, in Microsoft Windows, you no longer need to work with a command-line interface. Whether you’re installing new apps or configuring your operating system, you can do everything through the graphical user interface (GUI).

However, there is still a time and place for terminal commands in a Windows operating system. You can only set things like batch commands or automated tasks using a command line shell.

So, which command line tool is better, Command Prompt or Powershell? Is there a reason to use both? What are the pros and cons of each? Here’s a complete overview.

Windows Command Prompt – MS-DOS for Modern Systems

In the dark ages of black terminals and typed commands, Microsoft became popular through its MS-DOS operating system. Even when the company finally abandoned the Command Line Interface (CLI), Microsoft built the operating system on top of MS-DOS. Users could still access the functionality using the MS-DOS prompt, later renamed to just the command prompt.

All versions of the Windows operating system include the Command Prompt, be it Windows NT, Windows 7, or Windows 10. Running the Command Prompt will open a black terminal window with a blinking cursor ready to accept commands. The default hot folder is the current user’s folder, although you can easily switch between them with the CD command.

You can use various commands to perform useful tasks, from verifying the integrity of your system files until check the hard drive for logical errors. You can even format a drive or hide files using command prompt. Entering “DIR” displays the contents of the hot folder, allowing you to open or rename files or folders.

The only problem with Command Prompt is that it is just an interpreter. While you can use batch files to reuse a collection of commands, it’s not nearly as powerful as a real shell like Bash. In addition, each new release of Windows moves the GUI further and further away from the command-line display, meaning there’s not much you can do with the Command Prompt.

using cmd

To work using the command prompt is easy. You don’t need to install or configure anything – just search for CMD in the Start menu to find the app. That will immediately open a new cmd.exe window, ready for you to type. Some commands require you to open CMD with administrator privileges.

Command Prompt: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to learn and use.
  • Variety of useful commands like chkdsk or scannow.
  • Low system footprint.

cons

  • A limited set of commands.
  • Difficult to write reusable scripts.
  • Cannot set up automated tasks.
  • Has no command line counterparts for all GUI actions.

Windows Powershell: Microsoft’s Scripting Shell

Linux users have always been disappointed with the Command Prompt. After all, CMD commands are limited in their scope and not intended for automation. System administrators who manage dozens of PCs need a scripting environment that can be used to set up automated tasks, such as Bash.

And that’s where PowerShell comes in. A full-fledged scripting language built using the .NET framework, you can use Windows PowerShell to automate most administrative tasks on a Windows server or a home computer. To be clear, it is now also possible to run Bash directly on Windows 10 or Windows 11 as well, but PowerShell has better integration.

PowerShell works through specialized .NET classes called cmdlets. PowerShell cmdlets perform system administration tasks by communicating with service providers such as the registry or file system. This modular approach makes PowerShell scripts highly extensible and versatile.

The utility basically acts as its own open-source programming language, with a richer syntax than some outdated DOS commands. Complex scripts can control almost every aspect of the computer, making it an excellent system management tool. Enterprise users can use PowerShell to communicate with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to manage entire servers through scripts.

How to use PowerShell

Unlike Command Prompt, Windows PowerShell is a complete scripting language. This means that you don’t just open a terminal window and enter commands, but write scripts using the syntax.

You have two options for this. The PowerShell ISE (Integrated Scripting Environment) is an excellent app for testing PowerShell scripts as it allows writing and debugging code in one app. But Windows has stopped developing the ISE and will soon be doing away with it.

You can now write PowerShell scripts in Visual Studio with an official extension. This is a better approach if you plan to write complex scripts for automation and systems management.

PowerShell: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can automate most GUI menu tasks.
  • Highly extensible through third-party add-ons.
  • Modular design makes scripts versatile and reusable.
  • Can communicate with system components such as the registry.
  • Usable with WMI for enterprise systems management.

cons

  • Difficult to learn for beginners.
  • Too elaborate for simple tasks.

PowerShell VS Command Prompt: Which Is The Best?

As with most things, more powerful isn’t always better. Sometimes simplicity is a virtue in itself, especially if you don’t need the advanced features.

The same can be said when comparing Command Prompt to PowerShell. On paper, PowerShell is the clear winner, with a more robust framework and expanded functionality. You can use it to automate most administrative tasks, such as the bash shell present in Linux distributions.

But most users don’t need that level of customization or control. For a home user who wants to perform basic command line activities, CMD is a much easier tool to use. The Command Prompt syntax is much simpler and provides important tools such as chkdsk and SFC as one-line commands.

The best command line utility for you is the one that lets you do your job. If you want a Linux-like scripting environment to manage servers or network computers, PowerShell is what you need. On the other hand, if you’re just looking for a way to run basic commands to repair your hard drive or find hidden files, Command Prompt is the way to go.

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