Understanding Get-ChildItem Command Basics


Get-ChildItem is one of the most versatile and useful commands in PowerShell for managing a file system. As its name suggests, it allows us to get items and child items in one or more specified locations. We can use this command to search for specific files or folders, to create a list of just folders (or just files), and even to filter the results according to any number of different criteria. By default, Get-ChildItem retrieves only the top-level child items. However, you can specify the -Recurse parameter to include all child containers in the search.

Get-ChildItem works with any PowerShell provider, not just the file system provider. We can use this command to manage items in any provider namespace, including the registry hive and certificate store. As a result, if you are not already familiar with this incredibly flexible and useful command, I believe you will find the time and effort spent learning Get-ChildItem to be very rewarding.

Syntax of Get-ChildItem

The basic syntax for Get-ChildItem is as follows:Get-ChildItem [[-Path] ] [[-Filter] ] [-Include ] [-Exclude ] [-Recurse] [-Depth ] [-Force] [-Name] [-UseTransaction] []

Key Takeaways:

  • Discover advanced techniques for using Get-ChildItem to optimize your file management and directory traversal tasks.
  • Explore real-world applications of Get-ChildItem and unlock its true potential.
  • Learn best practices for scripting with Get-ChildItem and troubleshooting common issues.
  • Unlock the secrets of working with different PowerShell providers through Get-ChildItem.
  • Enhance the performance of Get-ChildItem operations and manage large data sets efficiently.

Understanding Get-ChildItem Parameters and Their Uses

In this section, we will explore the various parameters of the Get-ChildItem cmdlet in PowerShell and how they can be effectively utilized to customize the behavior of the command. Understanding these parameters is crucial for harnessing the full power of Get-ChildItem and efficiently managing file systems and directories.

Utilizing the -Depth Parameter for Precise Directory Traversal

The -Depth parameter is a valuable tool for precisely traversing directories within a file system. By specifying the depth level, you can control how far down the directory hierarchy Get-ChildItem should search. This parameter allows you to filter the results to the desired level and retrieve information from specific subdirectories, optimizing the efficiency of your PowerShell scripts.

To illustrate its usage, consider the following example:

Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Files -Recurse -Depth 2

The above command will traverse through the “C:\Files” directory and retrieve items up to a depth level of 2, including files and subdirectories within that range.

Filtering Results with the -Include and -Exclude Parameters

The -Include and -Exclude parameters are invaluable when you want to filter results based on specific criteria. These parameters enable you to narrow down the items returned by Get-ChildItem by including or excluding certain files or directories that match specific patterns or attributes.

For example, consider the following commands:

  1. Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Files -Include *.txt
  2. Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Files -Exclude ReadMe.txt

The first command will retrieve all the files with the “.txt” extension within the “C:\Files” directory, while the second command will exclude the file named “ReadMe.txt” from the results.

Leveraging the -Attributes Parameter for Advanced Filtering

The -Attributes parameter provides advanced filtering options based on file attributes. With this parameter, you can select specific files or directories to include or exclude from the results based on their attributes, such as hidden, read-only, or system files.

Here’s an example of how the -Attributes parameter can be used:

Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Files -File -Attributes !Hidden

The above command will retrieve only the files that are not hidden within the “C:\Files” directory, excluding any hidden files from the results.

By understanding and utilizing these parameters effectively, you can tailor the behavior of Get-ChildItem to meet your specific requirements, enabling efficient file managementdirectory traversal, and result filtering.

PowerShell Scripting with Get-ChildItem

In this section, we will explore the power of PowerShell scripting with the Get-ChildItem cmdlet. By combining Get-ChildItem with other cmdlets, you can enhance your scripting capabilities and automate various file management tasks. Additionally, we will provide you with scripting examples that demonstrate how Get-ChildItem can be used to simplify and streamline your processes.

Exapmple Script One of the most powerful commands in PowerShell for file management is Get-ChildItem. This versatile command allows users to retrieve information about files and directories, search for specific files, and perform various file management tasks. Whether you’re a seasoned PowerShell user or just getting started, understanding the capabilities of Get-ChildItem can greatly enhance your scripting skills.

One common use case for Get-ChildItem is performing a file search. By using the -Filter parameter, you can search for files based on specific criteria such as file extension, size, or last modified date. For example, to find all text files in a directory, you can run the following command:

Get-ChildItem -Path C:\MyFiles -Filter *.txt

This command will return a list of all text files located in the “C:\MyFiles” directory. You can then manipulate this list as needed, whether it’s copying, moving, or deleting the files.

Another powerful feature of Get-ChildItem is its ability to recursively search through directories. By default, the command only searches the specified directory, but by adding the -Recurse parameter, it will search all subdirectories as well. This can be incredibly useful when you need to perform a comprehensive search across multiple directories and subdirectories.

In addition to searching for files, Get-ChildItem can also retrieve information about them, such as file size, creation date, and owner. By combining Get-ChildItem with other PowerShell commands, you can create powerful scripts that automate various file management tasks. For example, you can use Get-ChildItem to list all files in a directory, then use the Where-Object command to filter the list based on specific criteria, and finally perform an action on the remaining files.

Overall, PowerShell scripting with Get-ChildItem provides a robust and efficient solution for file management. Whether you’re dealing with a small set of files or need to handle large-scale operations, understanding the capabilities of Get-ChildItem can greatly simplify your processes and save you time and effort. With its powerful search capabilities and integration with other PowerShell commands, Get-ChildItem is an essential tool for any PowerShell scripter.

Counting Files in a Folder.

To count the number of files in a folder you might use:

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File | Measure-Object | Select-Object -ExpandProperty Count

In this case we’re counting only the files (not directories) then using “Measure-Object” to find out how many items were passed to it, then using “Select-Object” to extract just the number of items counted.

Don’t be concerned if this seems complicated at first. Using PowerShell usually involves chaining multiple commands in this way, and as you use the language more it will all start to make much more sense, be and feel far more natural.

Displaying Full File Paths.

If you want to display the full paths of files you instead might use:

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File | Select-Object -ExpandProperty FullName

In this case I haven’t piped to a “Select-Object” to select any specific properties but rather the “-ExpandProperty” flag that tells “Select-Object” to “Expand” the “FullName” property so only that is shown.

Again, don’t be concerned if some of these parts are confusing. You can accomplish a lot even with the basic use of “Get-ChildItem” and naturally as your PowerShell skills progress you’ll very likely start to appreciate the ease with which you can pass output from one command to the next and to extract exactly what you need.

Retrieving Only Files.

Should you want to instead retrieve only the files (so that you can work with them further in a script for example) you might use:

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File

The “-File” flag on the end is all that’s required to instruct “Get-ChildItem” to only retrieve files and no directories are possessed of a “-File” parameter.

Getting Full File Paths or Just File Names.

If you want only the full paths or the file names instead you might use:

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File | Select-Object -ExpandProperty FullName

#…Or just the file names.

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File | Select-Object -ExpandProperty Name
Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -File | Select-Object -ExpandProperty FullName

These examples demonstrate how to retrieve either the full paths or just the file names of the files in the specified folder.

Displaying Only Folders

To display only the folders in a directory, use the following command:

Get-ChildItem -Path "C:/FolderPath" -Directory

This example returns only the folders in the specified directory.

get-childitem,PowerShell File System Commands,List Directory Contents PowerShell,Explore File System Using PowerShell
Understanding Get-ChildItem Command Basics 3

These examples provide specific use cases for utilizing the Get-ChildItem cmdlet. By following these examples, you can gain a better understanding of how to effectively use Get-ChildItem in your own PowerShell scripts and commands.

Navigating File Systems

Cleaning Up Old Log Files

  • Overview: Automate the process of identifying and deleting log files older than a specified date.
  • Usage Example:
$days = 30 $target

Folder = "C:\Logs" Get-ChildItem -Path $targetFolder -File -Recurse | Where-Object { $_.LastWriteTime -lt (Get-Date).AddDays(-$days) } | Remove-Item -Force

Automated Backups

  • Overview: Create scripts to back up specific file types or directories, excluding certain patterns.
  • Usage Example:
$sourceFolder = "C:\Data"
$backupFolder = "D:\Backup"
$date = Get-Date -Format "yyyyMMdd"
Get-ChildItem -Path $sourceFolder -Include *.docx,*.xlsx -Exclude *temp* -Recurse | Copy-Item -Destination {$backupFolder + "\" + $_.Name + "_backup_" + $date} -Force

Registry and Configuration Management

Auditing Registry Settings

  • Overview: Navigate the registry for compliance checks or settings review.
  • Usage Example:
$registryPath = "HKCU:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run" Get-ChildItem -Path $registryPath

Bulk Updating Application Settings

  • Overview: Modify configuration files across multiple servers or locations in a consistent manner.
  • Usage Example:
$configFiles = Get-ChildItem -Path "\\Server\Share\Configs" -Filter *.config -Recurse
foreach ($file in $configFiles) {
    # Example modification: changing a setting value
    (Get-Content $file.PSPath) | ForEach-Object { $_ -replace "setting1=value1", "setting1=newValue" } | Set-Content $file.PSPath

Security and Permissions Auditing

Finding Files with Insecure Permissions

  • Overview: Identify files accessible by non-administrative users that may compromise security.
  • Usage Example:
$folderPath = "C:\SensitiveData"
Get-ChildItem -Path $folderPath -File -Recurse | ForEach-Object {
    $acl = Get-Acl $_.FullName
    $acl.Access | Where-Object { $_.FileSystemRights -like "*FullControl*" -and $_.IdentityReference -notlike "*Administrators*" }

Data Analysis and Reporting

Generating Inventory Reports

  • Overview: Produce detailed reports on file inventories, including attributes like size, type, and modification dates.
  • Usage Example:
$directoryPath = "C:\Data" 
Get-ChildItem -Path $directoryPath -File -Recurse | Select-Object Name, Length, Extension, LastWriteTime | Export-Csv -Path "C:\Reports\inventory_report.csv" -NoTypeInformation

Enhancing Script Performance

Optimizing Large Directory Searches

  • Overview: Efficient searching in directories with a vast number of files or nested structures.
  • Usage Discussion: Limiting the depth of recursion and specifying file types can significantly improve performance.
  • Example Command:
Get-ChildItem -Path "C:\Data" -File -Recurse -Depth 2 -Filter *.log

Handling Special File Types

Managing Symbolic Links and Hard Links

  • Overview: Identify and differentiate symbolic links, hard links, and junction points in file systems.
  • Usage Example:
Get-ChildItem -Path "C:\Data" -Recurse | Where-Object { $_.Attributes -match "ReparsePoint" }

Script Organization and Best Practices

Structuring Scripts for Maintainability

  • Overview: Organize PowerShell scripts for easier maintenance and readability.
  • Usage Example:
function Backup-Files {
    param (
    Get-ChildItem -Path $sourceFolder -File -Recurse | Copy-Item -Destination {$backupFolder + "\" + $_.Name} -Force
Backup-Files -sourceFolder "C:\Data" -backupFolder "D:\Backup"

Error Handling and Debugging

Techniques for robust error handling.

  • Overview: Implement error handling in scripts.
  • Usage Example:
try { $path = "C:\NonExistentFolder" Get-ChildItem -Path $path -ErrorAction Stop } catch { Write-Error "An error occurred: $_" }

Retrieving Data from Registry and Certificate Store

In addition to working with file systems, the Get-ChildItem command in PowerShell can also retrieve data from the registry and certificate stores. By leveraging the PowerShell providers for the registry and certificate store, you can access and manage these resources using familiar commands like Get-ChildItem.

When retrieving data from the registry, you can specify the appropriate provider path, such as Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, to retrieve registry keys from specific locations. Similarly, when working with the certificate store, you can use the Cert: provider to retrieve certificates.

Combining the Get-ChildItem command with other PowerShell cmdlets allows you to search, filter, and perform various actions on the retrieved data. This flexibility enables you to efficiently manage and manipulate data from the registry and certificate store using PowerShell’s powerful scripting capabilities.

To demonstrate the usage of Get-ChildItem for retrieving data from the registry and certificate store, consider the following examples:

  1. Retrieve all subkeys of a specific registry key:
    Get-ChildItem -Path 'Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software'
  2. Retrieve all certificates in the personal certificate store:
    Get-ChildItem -Path 'Cert:CurrentUser\My'

By customizing the path parameter in the Get-ChildItem command, you can fetch specific data from the registry or certificate store according to your requirements.

Example: Retrieving Registry Keys for Installed Programs

I often use Get-ChildItem to retrieve the registry keys for installed programs on a Windows system. By specifying the appropriate path, such as Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Uninstall*, I can quickly retrieve information about installed software. It helps me keep track of installed programs, uninstall unnecessary software when needed, and troubleshoot issues related to specific software installations.

Using Get-ChildItem in combination with other PowerShell cmdlets, like foreach or Where-Object, allows you to further filter and process the retrieved data from the registry or certificate store based on specific conditions.

Registry KeyDescription
Retrieves registry keys for installed programs
Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software*Retrieves registry keys under the current user’s software section
Retrieves registry keys for cryptography providers

Tips and Tricks for Using Get-ChildItem Effectively

Make the most out of Get-ChildItem with these helpful tips and tricks. By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your command usage and streamline your file system management tasks in PowerShell.

  1. Utilize Wildcards: Use wildcards, such as *, ?, or [], in your search patterns to filter results effectively. For example, you can use “*.txt” to find all text files in a directory.
  2. Combine with Other Cmdlets: Take advantage of PowerShell’s flexibility by combining Get-ChildItem with other cmdlets for advanced operations. For instance, you can use the Where-Object cmdlet to further filter the results based on specific criteria.
  3. Leverage the Pipe Symbol (|): The pipe symbol (|) allows you to send the output of one cmdlet to another. This enables you to perform additional actions on the retrieved items. You can, for example, use Get-ChildItem | Measure-Object to count the number of files or folders.
  4. Retrieve Hidden or System Files: Use the -Force parameter to retrieve hidden or system files that are not displayed by default. This parameter expands the search to include these files in the results.

By incorporating these tips and tricks into your PowerShell scripts and commands, you can maximize the potential of Get-ChildItem and efficiently manage your file system tasks.


Understanding the basics of the Get-ChildItem command is essential for effective file system management in PowerShell. This powerful command allows you to retrieve items and child items from specified locations, search for specific files or folders, and filter results based on various criteria. By familiarizing yourself with the syntax and parameters of Get-ChildItem, you can customize your search and retrieve specific items that meet your needs.

Moreover, by exploring the advanced options and tips and tricks, you can enhance your usage of Get-ChildItem. The advanced options, such as sorting child items, limiting the depth of retrieval, and filtering by specific attributes, provide further flexibility and control over your results. Additionally, utilizing tips and tricks like using wildcards, combining with other cmdlets, leveraging the pipe symbol, and using the -Force parameter can greatly improve your efficiency and productivity.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced PowerShell user, mastering Get-ChildItem is crucial for efficient file system management. By leveraging its capabilities and customizing it to your specific requirements, you can streamline your tasks and achieve optimum results. So, dive into the Get-ChildItem documentation, harness the power of PowerShell, and take your file system management to the next level.

Get-ChildItem Basics: A Summary

Retrieve items and child itemsAllows you to obtain files, folders, and other items in specified locations
Search for specific files or foldersEnables you to find items based on names, patterns, or attributes
Filter results based on criteriaCustomize your search by specifying attributes, such as read-only, hidden, or system
Advanced optionsSort child items, limit the depth of retrieval, and filter by specific attributes
Tips and tricksUse wildcards, combine with other cmdlets, leverage the pipeline, and use -Force parameter

By understanding and applying these concepts, you can become proficient in using Get-ChildItem and efficiently manage your file systems in PowerShell.


Delve deeper into the usage and capabilities of Get-ChildItem by referring to the official PowerShell documentation and other reputable PowerShell resources. The official documentation provides comprehensive information on the command syntax, parameters, usage examples, and more, ensuring a thorough understanding of the Get-ChildItem cmdlet. Additional resources such as online forums, blogs, and tutorial websites dedicated to PowerShell offer valuable insights, tips, and tricks for utilizing Get-ChildItem and other PowerShell commands effectively.

Official PowerShell Documentation

Access the official documentation for PowerShell Get-ChildItem to explore in-depth explanations, usage examples, and best practices. The documentation covers various aspects of the command, including syntax, parameters, and commonly used scenarios. By referring to the official documentation, you can acquire a comprehensive understanding of Get-ChildItem and its capabilities.

  • PowerShell Get-ChildItem Documentation

PowerShell Community Resources

The PowerShell community is rich with resources that can further enhance your knowledge of Get-ChildItem. Explore online forums, blogs, and tutorial websites dedicated to PowerShell to gain valuable insights, tips, and tricks from experienced users. Engaging with the PowerShell community not only allows you to expand your knowledge but also provides opportunities for networking and collaboration.

“The PowerShell community has been instrumental in my learning journey. The forums and blogs have provided me with invaluable insights and solutions to complex problems. It’s amazing to see the passion and expertise shared by the community members.” – PowerShell enthusiast

  • PowerShell Reddit Community
  • PowerShell.org
  • PowerShell Magazine
  • Microsoft PowerShell DevBlogs

By utilizing the official PowerShell documentation and exploring the vast array of community resources, you can enhance your understanding and proficiency in PowerShell file system management, empowering you to leverage the full potential of Get-ChildItem and other related PowerShell commands.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge and skills in utilizing Get-ChildItem and mastering PowerShell file system management, there are numerous online resources available that can provide in-depth tutorials and guidance. These resources may include eBooks, video courses, community forums, and PowerShell-focused websites.

By exploring these resources, you can gain valuable insights and practical tips that will help you become more proficient in managing file systems efficiently and effectively. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced PowerShell user, these additional resources can further enhance your understanding and expertise in utilizing Get-ChildItem for file system management.

Some notable online platforms and communities to consider for Get-ChildItem tutorials and PowerShell file system management resources include:

  • Microsoft Docs: The official documentation for PowerShell provides comprehensive information, usage examples, and detailed explanations of various cmdlets, including Get-ChildItem.
  • PowerShell.org: An online community dedicated to PowerShell, offering a wealth of resources, tutorials, and discussions on various topics related to PowerShell, including file system management.
  • PowerShell Training Courses: There are multiple online platforms that provide video courses specifically designed to teach PowerShell, including in-depth tutorials on Get-ChildItem and file system management.
  • PowerShell-related Blogs: Many experts and enthusiasts regularly publish blogs sharing tips, tricks, and real-world scenarios showcasing the usage of Get-ChildItem and other PowerShell commands in file system management.

By leveraging these additional resources, you can continually enhance your PowerShell skills and stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and best practices for efficient file system management using Get-ChildItem.


What is the Get-ChildItem command in PowerShell?

The Get-ChildItem command is a powerful command in PowerShell that allows you to obtain the items and child items in one or more specified locations.

What can I do with the Get-ChildItem command?

With the Get-ChildItem command, you can traverse directories, search for specific files or folders, and filter results based on various criteria.

What are some important parameters of the Get-ChildItem command?

Some important parameters of the Get-ChildItem command include -Path, -Filter, -Include, -Exclude, -Recurse, and more.

How can I customize my search using the Get-ChildItem command?

You can customize your search using parameters such as -Path, -Filter, -Include, -Exclude, -Recurse, and -Attributes, which allow you to specify the location, apply filters, include or exclude specific items, traverse subdirectories, and retrieve items based on their attributes.

What are some practical examples of using the Get-ChildItem command?

Some practical examples include counting files in a folder, displaying full file paths, retrieving only files (excluding directories), getting full file paths or just file names, displaying only folders, and more.

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