Developed at Microsoft by Jeffrey Snover in 2003, Windows administrators have long known the benefits of using PowerShell for a range of administrative tasks, whether at the command line or from its GUI. Today, PowerShell is available for Linux and MacOS as well and is more tightly integrated in Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 and other Windows products than ever before.
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 if 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.
Microsoft Virtual Academy
Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) is a logical first-stop when searching for sources of free learning. A search for "powershell" on the main page of the MVA website returns 68 hits, 13 of which include PowerShell in the course title.
Anyone who is brand-new to PowerShell should consider taking What's New in PowerShell v5, which is based on the latest version of PowerShell. Although it's more than 4 years old, Getting Started with PowerShell 3.0 is by far the most popular PowerShell course on MVA. Its core concepts carry over to most current PowerShell versions so it's still worth your time. One of its authors is Jeffrey Snover, who is still heavily involved in PowerShell's continued evolution and ongoing extensions and enhancements.
Other highly rated courses include Getting Started with PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC), Advanced Tools & Scripting with PowerShell: 3.0 Tools That Make Changes and Advanced PowerShell Desired State Configuration (DSC) and Custom Resources. Some Reddit users say the Advanced Tools & Scripting course was a real "eye-opener" and helped them create much better scripts.
Supporting all platforms and languages that use PowerShell, this site's Videos section provides links to the organization's PowerShell on YouTube channel (with more than 100 videos) as well as a few structured learning courses. You'll also find pointers to a whole slew of lengthy articles and tutorials on PowerShell in the site's eBooks section. The Build Server section lets you sign up for virtual instances of PowerShell for testing and learning purposes. And while you're on the PowerShell.org site, be sure to browse the articles and forums, both of which are good sources of PowerShell how-to information.
The PowerShell Videos and Posts section of 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. 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 the IT pro should become a developer (and the other way around).
Veeam specializes in data backup, disaster recovery and virtualization management software that's tied to VMware and Hyper-V. The company also offers three free Learn PowerShell webinars: From Basics to a Coding Star, Getting Stuff Done with PowerShell, and Automate Your Veeam Experience. The webinars cover PowerShell script creation, running scripts, PowerShell cmdlets for Veeam Backup & Replication and best practices for Veeam automation with PowerShell.
Check the MOOCSE
Searching for "powershell" in the Mooc Search Engine at Moocse.com results in hundreds of hits on courses, how-tos and videos. This site provides a ton of links mainly to YouTube resources, but browsing through the list also reveals a free six-hour Introduction to Windows PowerShell course through edX (taught by Microsoft content developers). Moocse.com scours lots of other learning sites, like Udacity, Coursera and Code Academy, so you should check back regularly to find out about new links that have been added.
Training with free trial periods
Most for-a-fee training providers provide a free trial period, which typically lasts for one to two weeks, during which you can take a course or two to see if they're a good fit and to get a feel for the depth and quality of training before you buy. 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 Transcender practice exams but gives you access to courses. PowerShell 4 Foundations and PowerShell Reference Training are most pertinent to PowerShell users.
Lynda.com: 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 video-based, online learning, especially for those looking to hone their coding skills.
General resources: Microsoft, blogs and other sources
You can glean a lot of information regarding PowerShell learning and use by browsing these resources:
Windows PowerShell Survival Guide: This is perhaps the motherlode of resources — Microsoft's list of lists for PowerShell.
Scripting with Windows PowerShell: Fully updated for PowerShell 5.0 and Windows Server 2016, this TechNet site provides a user guide, numerous Help topics, cmdlet references and links to other resources.
PowerShell Home: This site provides the PowerShell Gallery, a repository for PowerShell commands and Desired State Configuration (DSC) resources. You can also find PowerShell documentation, as well as community links for blogs, StackOverflow, TechNet forums and more.
DevOps Collective: 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 error handling, generating historical and trend reports, networking, remoting and a lot more.
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. However, Learning Tree does offer a related credential — Certified Specialist in Microsoft PowerShell Scripting — in its Windows Systems Specialist & Expert Certifications section.
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.