Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Shell swapping in Windows

28th April 2010

Until the advent of PowerShell, Windows had been the poor relation when it came to working from the command line when compared with UNIX, Linux and so on. A recent bit of fiddling had me trying to run FTP from the legacy command prompt when I ran into problems with UNC address resolution (it’s unsupported by the old technology) and mapping of network drives. It turned out that my error 85 was being caused by an unavailable drive letter that the net use command didn’t reveal as being in use. Reassuringly, this wasn’t a Vista issue that I couldn’t circumvent.

During this spot of debugging, I tried running batch files in PowerShell and discovered that you cannot run them there like you would from the old command prompt. In fact, you need a line like the following:

cmd /c script.bat

In other words, you have to call cmd.exe like perl.exe, wscript.exe and cscript.exe for batch files to execute. If I had time, I might have got to exploring the use ps1 files for setting up PowerShell commandlets but that is something that needs to wait until another time. What I discovered though is that UNC addressing can be used with PowerShell without the need for drive letter mappings, not a bad development at all. While on the subject of discoveries, I discovered that the following command opens up a command prompt shell from PowerShell without any need to resort to the Start Menu:

cmd /k

Entering the exit command returns you to the PowerShell command line again and entering cmd /? reveals the available options for the command so you need never be constrained by your own knowledge or its limitations.

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