PowerShell 2.0 - About Dynamic Parameters

Did you know that when you run Get-Help against a cmdlet to find out about its parameters, you might not be getting the whole truth? Certain cmdlets, especially those that operate on providers (FileSystem, Certificate, Registry etc) can adopt new parameters on the fly, depending on the path they are acting on. For example, when use you Get-Content on the file system (drive c: etc), it gets three new parameters in addition to the static ones listed by Get-Help (but more about this later): Delimiter, Encoding and Wait.

Determining Dynamic Parameters using Get-Help

Get-Help has a new parameter, –Path, which lets you give the help system some context for determining dynamic parameters:

-Path <string>
    Gets help that explains how the cmdlet works in the specified provider path. Enter a Windows PowerShell provider path.

    This parameter gets a customized version of a cmdlet help topic that explains how the cmdlet works in the specified Windows PowerShell provider path. This parameter is effective only for help about a provider cmdlet and only when the provider includes a custom version of the provider cmdlet help topic.

    To see the custom cmdlet help for a provider path, go to the provider path location and enter a Get-Help command or, from any path location, use the Path parameter of Get-Help to specify the provider path. For more information, see about_Providers.

Determining Dynamic Parameters using Get-Command

Get-Command has a new parameter, –ArgumentList, which acts similarly to unveil what dynamic parameters might be attached to a cmdlet for a given parameterset and path/literalpath if available on the chosen cmdlet. I’ve written a simple function that takes a cmdlet name as an argument and will display all of the dynamic parameters available for a cmdlet for each distinct provider:

# this function will pass a drive name in position 0 as an unnamed argument
# most path-oriented cmdlets accept this binding
function Get-DynamicParameter {
    $parameters = @{}
    get-psdrive | sort -unique provider | % {
        $parameters[$_.provider.name] = gcm $command -args "$($_.name):" | % {
            $c = $_; @($_.parameters.keys) | sort | ? {

Example use:

PS> Get-DynamicParameter get-content

Name                           Value
----                           -----
FileSystem                     {Delimiter, Encoding, Wait}

NOTE: when you don’t pass any context parameters to get-command via –argumentlist, it will take your current location as the context for dynamic parameters (if any are found.) So running get-command from c:\ instead hklm:\ will give you the additional parameters Delimiter, Encoding and Wait.

Have fun!

About the author

Irish, PowerShell MVP, .NET/ASP.NET/SharePoint Developer, Budding Architect. Developer. Montrealer. Opinionated. Montreal, Quebec.

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