How To Output A List Of All Files In A Directory Using PowerShell

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The Problem

I was recently tasked with sifting through years of stuff that had built up on one of the Windows servers at work and removing that which was no longer required. As a developer, this largely meant clearing out the local instance of SQL Server (tables, views, stored procs, functions, SSIS packages and jobs), but also there were a lot of batch (.bat) files and SQL (.sql) files knocking about.

These files needed cataloguing before I archived any of them as I knew that some were still in use. SQL Server wasn’t a problem as there are various system stored procedures to return a list of various entities, but how was I going to get a list of files that were scattered and buried in the ageing directory structure?

I tried using the Windows Explorer search function, but it was so hit and miss that I couldn’t rely upon it.

I thought maybe I could knock up an ASP.Net page to trawl through the folders and give me a list. Sure I could do this (I recall doing it with Classic ASP many moons ago), but then I remembered about PowerShell.


I’d only recently heard of PowerShell and seen some script and was impressed with what could be achieved, but I hadn’t had a real reason to use it. Basically, PowerShell is a powerful scripting tool that sits under the Windows GUI and allows the user to perform all sorts of magical tasks. I won’t go into detail here, so take a look at this: What can I do with PowerShell? Surely it could perform some basic file filtering and output the list. I wasn’t wrong.

Get To The Point

This is all you need to do:

Get-ChildItem C:\ -Recurse | Where {$_.extension -eq “.bat”} | ForEach-Object { $_.FullName } > C:\File.txt

Here’s how to paste script into PowerShell.

Break It Down

I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly what the switches do, but here’s a quick breakdown of the script:

  • The script is broken up by the pipes (|)
  • Get-ChildItem C:\ returns all files within the root of C:. The drive letter can be changed
  • -Recurse loops through all of the subdirectories C: and returns the files in those subdirectories too. How simple is that? I love it!
  • Where {$_.extension -eq “.bat”} only returns files with a .bat file extension. You can omit this if you want to return all file types
  • ForEach-Object { $_.FullName } returns the full path of each file, including the drive letter
  • > C:\File.txt chucks the results into a text file with a name and location of your choice. You can omit this to display the output within the PowerShell window instead

Bish, bash, bosh, job done!


Photo Credit: Joe Olson via Compfight cc

How To Paste Text Into PowerShell

PowerShell LogoSo you’ve found a PowerShell script online that you want to use or maybe you’ve saved a previously used script to a text file. All you want to do is copy the script and paste it into PowerShell, but there’s no Paste option in the context menu and CTRL+V doesn’t work.

There’s a nice easy solution to this problem:

  1. Open PowerShell
  2. Click on the PowerShell icon in the top left of the PowerShell window
  3. Expand Edit and select Paste

There are some other useful tools hidden away up there too.


Photo Credit: Joe Olson via Compfight cc