Calling native commands from PowerShell

Every now and then I find myself facing task I am not sure how to solve using without using native commands. Just writing the native command followed by its parameters in PowerShell host and hitting Enter is usually not enough to run the command successfully. There are several ways to make the command work, let me show you the one I found most convenient.

In my examples I am going to use ‘icacls‘, native command that allows you to set file permissions easily. I don’t want to make any changes to your current files so first create a temporary file using technique shown in this tip and save its path into the $path variable.

PS> $path = [IO.Path]::GetTempFileName()

Next run the command as you would in Windows Command line to see it raise an exception in PowerShell:

PS> icacls $path /grant Administrators:(D,WDAC)
At line:1 char:38
+ icacls $path /grant Administrators:(D,WDAC)
+                                      ~
Missing argument in parameter list.
    + CategoryInfo          : ParserError: (:) [], ParentContainsErrorRecordException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : MissingArgument

To be able to run the command in PowerShell host successfully you need to put the problematic statement in single quotes like this:

PS> icacls $path /grant 'Administrators:(D,WDAC)'
processed file: C:\Users\mo\AppData\Local\Temp\tmpE4F2.tmp
Successfully processed 1 files; Failed processing 0 files

Figuring out what must be put in single quotes can get tiresome, but fortunately there is way to automate it with function like this:

function Invoke-NativeExpression
    param (

        $executable,$arguments = $expression -split ' '
        $arguments = $arguments | foreach {"'$_'"}
        $arguments = $arguments -join ' '
        $command = $executable + ' ' + $arguments

   	if ($command)
            Write-Verbose "Invoking '$command'"
            Invoke-Expression -command $command

The function converts the original expression to this format executable ‘argument1’ ‘argument2 and passes it to the Invoke-Expression cmdlet.

Using the shown function the native command can be called as such:

PS> "icacls $path /grant Administrators:(D,WDAC)" | Invoke-NativeExpression
processed file: C:\Users\mo\AppData\Local\Temp\tmpE4F2.tmp
Successfully processed 1 files; Failed processing 0 files

You can also pass the command as named parameter or by position. Making calling the native commands easy.

In PowerShell 3.0, there is a new symbol called the stop-parsing symbol (–%) that makes using native commands a little easier. The –% symbol prevents PowerShell from parsing anything until the end of the line enabling you to call the command like this:

PS> Icacls $path --% /grant Administrators:(D,WDAC)

Notice that you must place the symbol after all the variables that should be expanded, in this case $path, making this approach applicable only in some cases. If you are finished playing with the temporary file you can delete it by this command:

PS> Remove-Item -Force -Path $path
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One Response to "Calling native commands from PowerShell"

  1. Keith Hill says:

    You can pass parameters to native commands using environment variables. See my blog post on this subject: http://rkeithhill.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/powershell-v3-ctp2-provides-better-argument-passing-to-exes/

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