PowerShell was developed at Microsoft by Jeffrey Snover in 2003. Since then, Windows administrators have recognized the benefits of using PowerShell for a range of administrative tasks, whether at the command line or from its GUI. Today, PowerShell is tightly integrated with Windows, Windows Server and other Windows products, and it's available for Linux and MacOS as well.
In fact, PowerShell now replaces the Windows Command Prompt in the default Windows menus, as its capabilities completely overtake and eclipse the older, DOS-inspired command line. Whether your aim is run-of-the-mill Windows administration or you're branching out into the cloud or DevOps, knowing your way around PowerShell can improve the efficiency of your workaday tasks.
If you need to brush up on all things PowerShell, check out these free training and general resources before investing money in any formal courses.
With the retirement of the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) in June 2019, Microsoft Learn is a logical first stop in a search for free learning sources for Microsoft products. To get started, go to the main Microsoft Learn page, click the "browse all" link, and search "PowerShell."
The site is fairly new and focuses mainly on Azure and various business apps (Microsoft Dynamics 365, PowerApps, Power BI), so its PowerShell offerings are sparse as of this writing. Check back occasionally to see if more PowerShell content has been added. It's possible that Microsoft will update some of the numerous courses that were available on MVA and host them on Microsoft Learn.
Supporting all platforms and languages that use PowerShell, this site's Free Resources section is a portal to e-books and the PowerShell.org YouTube channel (which has more than 100 videos). The Build Server section lets you sign up for virtual instances of PowerShell for testing and learning purposes.
While you're on PowerShell.org, be sure to browse the articles, forums and PowerScripting podcast series, all of which are current and chock-full of PowerShell how-to information.
Channel 9 provides hundreds of short-form and in-depth videos on using PowerShell with Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Hyper-V and Amazon Web Services. (Search "PowerShell" on the Channel 9 main page.) You can also pick up tips for using PowerShell cmdlets and scripts in the real world, as well as insights on IT roles and career development, such as why an IT pro should become a developer (and the other way around).
If you're using PowerShell 5, the Ed Wilson series comes highly recommended.
edX has become a premier source of free learning opportunities over the years. The site features only a few PowerShell courses at present, but beginners may find Windows PowerShell Basics a great first step. It's archived, so you would take the course as an "auditor" and have access to course materials but would not take part in active course discussions or receive a grade. If you prefer more active learning, visit the site every month or so to see if and when the course will be repeated live.
PowerShell Security Best Practices is a free, self-paced course created by Microsoft and delivered through the edX platform. Although the course covers PowerShell fundamentals, its focus is on security, administration and exploits. There's also a lab component for hands-on learning. You can choose to pay an additional fee (currently $99) for a verified certificate upon completion.
Veeam specializes in cloud data management, backup, and disaster recovery for AWS, Azure, IBM Cloud, VMware and Hyper-V. Because PowerShell is an essential tool for managing Windows-based cloud technologies, the company also offers an in-depth, eight-lesson PowerShell tutorial that covers reading and writing to the console, functions, looping and branching, collections, formatting, and more.
Nestled under the PowerShell Team repository on GitHub is the Learning PowerShell doc, which takes you step by step through installing PowerShell, using the PowerShell editor, debugging and testing. There's also a map book aimed at seasoned Bash users who want to ramp up more quickly.
The DevOps Collective on GitHub is a repository of short books and articles on PowerShell gotchas and how-tos, with code examples. Find out about handling errors, generating historical and trend reports, networking, remoting, and a lot more.
PowerShell training with free trial periods
Most for-a-fee training providers provide a free trial period, typically one to two weeks, during which you can take a course or two to see if they're a good fit for you and to get a feel for the depth and quality of training before you pay. Here are a few providers you may want to consider when laying down hard cash for training:
- Pluralsight: This well-known training library includes a plethora of courses on PowerShell, taught by experts such as Jeffrey Snover, Jeff Hicks and Mark Minasi.
- CBT Nuggets: The free trial doesn't include Kaplan IT Training practice exams but gives you access to courses. PowerShell 6 Foundations and PowerShell Reference Training are most pertinent to PowerShell users.
- Lynda.com (LinkedIn Learning): This site offers several PowerShell courses and more than 300 video tutorials across the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Lynda.com is considered a terrific resource for online, video-based learning, especially for those looking to hone their coding skills.
Also swing by the Udemy PowerShell Courses page occasionally. Although the site charges a fee, you can usually find terrific deals, such as full courses for a mere $9.99 (which is nearly free).
General resources: Microsoft, blogs and other sources
You can glean a lot of information on PowerShell learning and use by browsing these resources:
- Windows PowerShell Survival Guide: This is perhaps the mother lode of resources – Microsoft's list of lists for PowerShell.
- Scripting with Windows PowerShell: Fully updated for PowerShell 6, this TechNet site provides a user guide, numerous help topics, cmdlet references and lots of sample scripts.
- PowerShell Documentation: This site is mainly a graphical front end for the preceding site, but clicking the Community link gives you a launchpad to all kinds of PowerShell resources, including a few covered in this article. Be sure to check out the r/PowerShell community on Reddit, where users are eager to answer questions and help resolve nearly any type of PowerShell challenge.
- Learn PowerShell Scripting in a Month of Lunches: Although the book runs $35.99 to $44.99, you can read the entire thing online for free using the links on this page. The authors provide easy-to-follow examples that build throughout each chapter.
- Blogs: Visit Adam the Automator, PowerShell Team, Scripting and Hey, Scripting Guy! blogs regularly for PowerShell tips and updates on errors.
When you need a break from learning about PowerShell and creating scripts, check out Reddit users' favorite Jeffrey Snover quotes.
Many PowerShell power users lament the lack of certifications for this essential admin tool. Although Microsoft doesn't offer a certification based solely on PowerShell, the company has peppered several of its certifications – including the ever-popular Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) and Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certifications – with PowerShell questions.
Whether you earn a certification or simply develop working knowledge of PowerShell, you can't go wrong investing time to learn all you can about this valuable tool.
Finally, as we write this story in mid-2019, we must note that PowerShell 7 is in beta test and expected to hit public release before year's end. Keep an eye on any or all of the sites mentioned here for coverage of the upcoming PowerShell version, and be ready to jump on it as soon as it's cooked.