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Windows “equivalents” for bash backticks in cmd and PowerShell

Posted by jpluimers on 2023/05/17

A while ago, I needed the file information of wsl.exe on one of my Windows systems.

On Linux, I would do something like file `which bash` where file will give the file details and which gets you the full path to bash.

The file equivalent on Windows for me is [Wayback/Archive] Sigcheck – Windows Sysinternals | Microsoft Docs, which is part of [Wayback/Archive] File and Disk Utilities – Windows Sysinternals | Microsoft Docs.

The which equivalent on Windows for me is [Wayback/Archive] where | Microsoft Docs.

The separate steps on Windows then are like this:

C:\temp>where wsl.exe

C:\temp>SigCheck C:\Windows\System32\wsl.exe

Sigcheck v2.82 - File version and signature viewer
Copyright (C) 2004-2021 Mark Russinovich
Sysinternals -

        Verified:       Signed
        Signing date:   09:24 15/10/2021
        Publisher:      Microsoft Windows
        Company:        Microsoft Corporation
        Description:    Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux Launcher
        Product:        Microsoft« Windows« Operating System
        Prod version:   10.0.19041.1320
        File version:   10.0.19041.1320 (WinBuild.160101.0800)
        MachineType:    64-bit

cmd solution

My gut feeling was to use the cmd command [Wayback/Archive] for | Microsoft Docs, which has built-in back-tick support. This was indeed the “best” cmd based solution that came up, for instance in [Wayback/Archive] Batch equivalent of Bash backticks – Stack Overflow (thanks [Wayback/Archive] Michael Burr!):

You can get a similar functionality using cmd.exe scripts with the for /f command:

for /f "usebackq tokens=*" %%a in (`echo Test`) do my_command %%a

Yeah, it’s kinda non-obvious (to say the least), but it’s what’s there.

See for /? for the gory details.

The above command is within a batch file (hence the double %%). On the cmd command-line, it would become this to get the wsl.exe file information:

for /f "usebackq tokens=*" %f in (`where wsl`) do SigCheck "%f"

PowerShell solution

Then I remembered it might be easier in PowerShell, and indeed [Wayback/Archive] Jörg W Mittag (thanks!) not only explains this in [Wayback/Archive] What’s the cmd/PowerShell equivalent of back tick on Bash? – Stack Overflow, but also why:

The PowerShell syntax is based on the POSIX ksh syntax (and interestingly not on any of Microsoft’s languages like CMD.EXE, VBScript or Visual Basic for Applications), so many things work pretty much the same as in Bash. In your case, command substitution is done with

echo "Foo $(./print_5_As.rb)"

in both PowerShell and Bash.

Bash still supports the ancient way (backticks), but PowerShell cleaned up the syntax and removed redundant constructs such as the two different command substitution syntaxes.

This frees up the backtick for a different use in PowerShell: in POSIX ksh, the backslash is used as escape character, but that would be very painful in PowerShell because the backslash is the traditional path component separator in Windows.

So, PowerShell uses the (now unused) backtick for escaping.

The poor-mans approach outside PowerShell would be this:

PowerShell -Command 'SigCheck "$(where.exe wsl)"'

And from within PowerShell:

SigCheck "$(where.exe wsl)"

But we can do better, as PowerShell has a built-in almost equivalent to where consisting of two parts (as PowerShell is object-based, whereas cmd is character based):

That combination is for instance explained by [Wayback/Archive] User zdan – Super User (thanks!) in [Wayback/Archive] windows – Equivalent of cmd’s “where” in powershell – Super User:

Use the Get-Command commandlet passing it the name of the executable. It populates the Path property of the returned object (of type ApplicationInfo) with the fully resolved path to the executable.

So from within PowerShell, the command would become either of these:

SigCheck "$((Get-Command wsl).Path)"

or more exact (as it won’t find items like aliases, functions, cmdlet, etc):

SigCheck "$((Get-Command -CommandType Application wsl).Path)"

Queries used


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