Monthly Archives: May 2012

PowerShell Exit Codes

Recently I came across an interesting quirk in PowerShell: exit codes from powershell.exe are inconsistent.

As you may know there are two ways of launching PowerShell script: you can use -File or -Command parameter.

powershell -File test.ps1


powershell -Command .\test.ps1

-Command could be ommitted:

powershell .\test.ps1

Now let’s say you want to execute PowerShell script from a scheduled task or from continuous integration server. Naturally, you would be interested if the script fails or not.

And here’s the bug: if you launch your script using -File parameter powershell.exe exits with zero code even if there was an exception.

You can confirm this by creating a script that always throws an error:

throw 'oops'

Now if you launch it using -File parameter exit code is 0:

powershell.exe -File testerror.ps1
echo Error level is %ERRORLEVEL%

At C:\testerror.ps1:1 char:6
+ throw <<<<  'oops'
    + CategoryInfo          : OperationStopped: (oops:String) [], RuntimeException
    + FullyQualifiedErrorId : oops

Error level is 0

But if you use -Command parameter exit code is set as expected:

powershell.exe -Command .\testerror.ps1
echo Error level is %ERRORLEVEL%

Chris Oldwood also came across this bug:

depending on whether I use the “-File” or “-Command” switch to execute the .ps1 script I get different behaviour. Is this a PowerShell bug or is there something fundamental about the execution model the differs between -File and -Command that I’ve yet to understand?


How to execute PowerShell script from NAnt script:

<exec program="powershell.exe" append="true">
  <arg value="-noprofile" />
  <arg value="&amp;'C:\your-script.ps1'" />
  <arg value="param1" />
  <arg value="'param 2 with spaces'" />