Interview With Jeff Hicks: Why IT Pros Need to Learn PowerShell

PowerShell is the future for Windows administrators. Maybe right now you can get by without it, but with the new version of Windows Server every admin will have to be familiar with PowerShell. And it’s not just Windows Server or Microsoft that has made the commitment to this powerful management tool. PowerShell is being integrated across Microsoft products (including Exchange, SharePoint, SQL, System Center, Lync) and is being implemented in products from VMware, Citrix, Cisco, NetApp and more.

Now is the time to learn PowerShell. My prediction is that in the next couple of years PowerShell will be a requirement for every IT admin.

So how do you get a start with PowerShell? PowerShell MVP, Jeff Hicks suggests using it on a daily basis to build on your experience. “If you use it every day” he says, “even just for a little bit, that’s how you are going to learn it.”

In this video interview shot at TechEd, Jeff shares some great PowerShell resources and his advice for admins who are new to scripting for learning how to use PowerShell.


Following is a full transcript of the interview.


Jeff Hicks: Yesterday I did a talk on using Resultant Set of Policy, that’s a feature in Group Policy, and how to troubleshoot systems. So if I have a bunch of policies that may be applied to a computer, what is that computer getting? Or maybe I have policies that are supposed to be applied, so the user gets a corporate wallpaper, but they are not. I can use Resultant Set of Policies to figure out why they are not. So I showed how to do that with a GUI; it was a Group Policy Management Console and also with PowerShell. I always have to do something with PowerShell.

Then tomorrow I’m doing a talk on managing the registry with Windows PowerShell. I’ll talk about using the PowerShell Provider, which is the preferred way. So people, if they don’t have that, then I’ll show how to use the .Net classes. Then, lastly, if you were really desperate, you can use WMI, which is just a gnarly way to do it. Hopefully we’ll try to squeeze in demos of all of those things.

Most of my talks tend to be pretty demo heavy, light on slides; I like to show people. I think people get more out of it that anyway.

Question: Why should IT Pros learn PowerShell this year?

Jeff Hicks: Yeah, they should be learning PowerShell this year because, first of all, if they didn’t learn it last year, they should be learning it this year. PowerShell is, as Microsoft has been saying for a couple years now and a lot people have been saying, it’s the management tool you will be using going forward. So if you are not using it now, you will be. So why put it off?

You are right. There are a lot of PowerShell sessions here, they get a lot of attendance. A lot of people are interested, because PowerShell now is everywhere. We have Lync and SharePoint and SQL, plus all the third party vendors that are hearing us. Citrix has some PowerShell stuff and someone was telling me that Cisco has some sort of PowerShell implementation. Then the third party vendors who support the ecosystem, like Sapien and PowerWF and Idera. All those people have getting in on that. So there’s more value add that PowerShell is bringing.

Powershell is not also just the command line. That’s what I think scares a lot of people off. They think, “Oh, I have to open up a prompt and type a command.” There are a number of GUI based tools that you can use in order to work with PowerShell without even knowing you are working in PowerShell.

Question: How can IT Pros learn PowerShell?

Jeff Hicks: I co-wrote a book with Don Jones called Windows PowerShell TFM, published by Sapien Press, which is kind of a soup to nuts approach to the book, really written for IT pros in mind. We take a very real world approach. You won’t find very many “Hello, world” type examples.

We go through and we teach you, for example, how to work with the registry. I have real world examples. But we start with the language and work your way through so by the end of the book, if you go all the way through, we have some really advanced topics.

See Jeff’s new Windows PowerShell Fundamentals Training

Then the other book that I just wrapped up is the second edition of Managing Active Directory with Windows PowerShell TFM, also published by Sapien Press. That book is a second edition that still includes coverage on the Quest cmdlets you can use to manage Active Directory. This version now covers the Microsoft cmdlets. All the stuff I had in the first book I’m using ADSI, that’s been moved back to an appendix.

For people who have to manage Active Directory, which includes Group Policy (there’s a whole chapter on that), you can either learn… for example, I need to create a user. Well, here’s how you do it with the Microsoft cmdlets and here’s how you do it with the Quest cmdlets.

If you, for some reason, can’t use either of those and have to resort to using ADSI in PowerShell, you can go back to the appendix and find the old material. So the book is like 80 to 90 percent new and revised material from the first edition. That’s real exciting.

I’m hoping that everyone gets their hands on PowerShell. The thing to do with PowerShell is you have to use it every day. If you use it every day, even just for a little bit, that’s how you are going to learn it.

Question: Tell us about your upcoming TrainSignal PowerShell training?

Jeff Hicks: I’m working on a Managing Windows Server 2008 R2 (it’s kind of a mouthful, maybe we’ll come up with something smaller than that, or some shortcut) but basically the course is aimed at IT pros who need to manage Server 2008 R2, the core operating system. I want to show how you can do all these things with Windows PowerShell. So things like managing a file system, managing printers, working with the registry, working with event logs.

Now, good thing about PowerShell is if I can do it for one machine, I can do it for 10 or 100. The course will show you how we do it for one, and then if you need to scale it out, we will show you how you can scale out. That’s really where PowerShell comes into play, because I can search event logs on a 100 machines with a one line command and set that up as a scheduled job and have it run every day. So that’s really amazing stuff.

See Jeff’s new Windows Server 2008 PowerShell Training

I was really excited about it. I’m hoping that it’s a very practical course. I want people to be able to say, “How do I do this? Oh, let me go to the lesson.” “OK, how did Jeff do that? Now I see that.” I’m expecting all the script samples I have will be made available so they’ll have code that they can — commands so they can start with without having to try to stare at the screen and screenscrape the shot. So I’m looking forward to it.

Question: What’s next for you?

Jeff Hicks: I do other PowerShell training. I have a couple other writing things in the works. I have some video things; other small videos, not full blown like I’m doing for TrainSignal, things I like to try. There’s always something that’s on my wish list to do, providing I can ever find the time.

Question: How can IT Pros connect with you?

Jeff Hicks: Twitter, @JeffHicks, I’m pretty active. Actually, there’s a lot of PowerShell information people can get on Twitter because a lot of PowerShell MVPs, a lot of people who are really active in the community. People ask questions and people may get answers. I mean, it’s kind of hard in 140 characters, but I have done my part in at least directing people someplace to solve the question if not being able to solve it outright in 140 characters. That’s a real challenge, but that’s always fun. Yeah, Twitter’s a great place to be.

I still write Professor PowerShell for and I also still blog quite actively at I try to write something new at least once or twice a week. Usually on Fridays I try to do something fun. I kind of started this Friday Fun tag. Silly things, but hopefully they showcase or demonstrate some PowerShell technique or command or something. Yes, I’m still quite busy doing all of that.