It can be very frustrating when your professor says one thing about PowerShell and various websites seem to offer solid proof to the contrary. Does PowerShell actually work on non-Windows systems or not? Today’s SuperUser Q&A post has the answer to a puzzled reader’s question.

Today’s Question & Answer session comes to us courtesy of SuperUser—a subdivision of Stack Exchange, a community-driven grouping of Q&A web sites.

The Question

SuperUser reader FredSavage187 wants to know if PowerShell works on other operating systems besides Windows:

My computer science professor recently gave us a quiz and one of the questions was, “True or False: PowerShell works on Windows, Mac, and Linux”. The correct answer was “false” and he maintains that PowerShell is a Windows only thing. But I found a couple of websites that say otherwise:

PowerShell is open sourced and is available on Linux [Microsoft Azure Blog]

PowerShell Repository [GitHub]

Which one is actually correct? Does PowerShell work on Linux and Mac OS as well as Windows?

Does PowerShell work on other operating systems besides Windows?

The Answer

SuperUser contributor Ben N has the answer for us:

Yes. Much of PowerShell is .NET, so it can run on any operating system that has the Common Language Runtime (CLR). On Windows, that is the .NET Framework. For other operating systems, including Linux, you can use the CoreCLR, an open-source, cross-platform subset of the .NET Framework.

As you learned at the PowerShell repository on GitHub, quite a few operating systems and distributions are supported. For example, here are the instructions for Ubuntu and a demonstration:

One could argue that not all of PowerShell is available in non-Windows environments since some features depend on libraries found only in Windows. The ParsedHtml property on the HtmlWebResponseObject type returned by Invoke-WebRequest, for example, is only useful on Windows because it holds a COM object that comes from an unmanaged library, mshtml.dll to be specific. On other platforms, there is nothing there. And, of course, there are cmdlets to manage systems found only in Windows, like Modern apps (Get-AppxPackage, for example).

Still though, the PowerShell infrastructure works perfectly well on other operating systems, plenty of the cmdlets are usable anywhere, and support is only getting better.

Have something to add to the explanation? Sound off in the comments. Want to read more answers from other tech-savvy Stack Exchange users? Check out the full discussion thread here.

Image Credits: Jeff Hicks (Petri IT Knowledgebase)

Akemi Iwaya
Akemi Iwaya has been part of the How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media team since 2009. She has previously written under the pen name "Asian Angel" and was a Lifehacker intern before joining How-To Geek/LifeSavvy Media. She has been quoted as an authoritative source by ZDNet Worldwide.
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