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PowerShell: the 2 most common error messages for starters

Posted by jpluimers on 2010/11/11

I’ve waited for PowerShell to become pretty mature before diving into it:
Version 2 has been out for a year, no service packs have been needed, so time to get into it.

PowerShell code can be stored in scripts.
The convention is to use the .ps1 extension for that (even when running PowerShell 2.0. Lesson learned: don’t put version numbers in file extensions).

Having lots of scripting and programming experience, I was a PowerShell beginner, and similar people usually bump into a few error messages.

Luckily, lots of people have gone through that phase, so there is lots of help on the internet.
So this post is not only to show you about some common things you bump into when starting with PowerShell, but also about the power of the internet as a collective pool of knowledge.

This was the first error message I bumped into:

C:\bin>powershell first-script.ps1
The term ‘first-script.ps1’ is not recognized as a cmdlet, function, operable program, or script file. Verify the term and try again.
At line:1 char:16
+ first-script.ps1 <<<<

A message by mosoto (Marcel J. Ortiz Soto) answered this as one of the first in the search results for “is not recognized as a cmdlet, function, operable program, or script file”.
The reason for this error is that unlike cmd.exe (but similar to unix shells), PowerShell does not include the current working directory (.) in the search path.

Solution: prepend the directory for your script file, in this case by prefixing it with “.\”.

This immediately leads to PowerShell rookie error message 2:

C:\bin>powershell .\first-script.ps1
File C:\bin\first-script.ps1 cannot be loaded because the execution of scripts is disabled on this system. Please see “get-help about_signing” for more details.
At line:1 char:18
+ .\first-script.ps1 <<<<

Even though searching for “cannot be loaded because the execution of scripts is disabled on this system” quickly reveals a few posts describing the cause, the error message gives a hint: get-help about_signing.

Executing this on the command-prompt gets youa lot of help about signing:

c:\bin>PowerShell get-help about_signing

This is the summary:

  • PowerShell scripts can be signed.
  • PowerShell as a global execution policy defaulting to Restricted (see below).
  • By default, PowerShell does not want to run any scripts at all.
  • You can assign these values to the execution policy: Restricted, AllSigned, RemoteSigned and Unrestricted
    (note if not specified, the policy is global, so changing this changes it for your whole system, so better define the scope)

Documentation is at:

If you set the execution policy in all scopes to Undefined and the Group Policy is not set, the default execution policy, Restricted, is effective for all users of the computer.

This is how you ask for the current policy:

C:\bin>powershell Get-ExecutionPolicy

This is how you set the current policy to only require remote scripts to be signed:

C:\bin>powershell Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Now you can run unsigned local scripts.
Beware: if anyone sends you a virus in an unsigned PowerShell script, that can now be executed too!

Hope this helps a few other PowerShell rookies too :-)


2 Responses to “PowerShell: the 2 most common error messages for starters”

  1. […] PowerShell: the 2 most common error messages for starters. […]

  2. […] More than a year ago, I wrote about enabling PowerShell to run unsigned scripts. […]

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