PowerShell for Windows Admins

Jan 21 2015   12:21PM GMT

Awkward file and folder names

Richard Siddaway Richard Siddaway Profile: Richard Siddaway


Spent some time today dealing with a situation where there were special characters – namely [ ] in folder a file names

£> Get-ChildItem -Path C:\Test
Directory: C:\Test
Mode                LastWriteTime     Length Name
—-                ————-     —— —-
d—-        21/01/2015     17:58            Awkward [One]
d—-        21/01/2015     17:59            Simple One

Each folder has 3 files:

File 1.txt
File 2.txt
File 3.txt

Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Simple One’

will work and show you the contents. When I’m typing paths like this I let Tab completion do the work. Type c:\test\ and use the Tab key to cycle round the available folders. This gives

£> Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]’
Get-ChildItem : Cannot find path ‘C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]’ because it does not exist.
At line:1 char:1
+ Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]’
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo          : ObjectNotFound: (C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]:String) [Get-ChildItem], ItemNotFoundException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : PathNotFound,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.GetChildItemCommand

Unfortunately, the construct produced by Tab completion doesn’t work. You need to double up on the back ticks so that it functions as an escape character.

Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward “[One“]’

But that only shows you the folder not the contents.

Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward “[One“]\*’


Get-ChildItem -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward “[One“]’ -Include *

Will show you the contents of the folder.

But bizarrely

Get-Content -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]\File 1.txt’

Works. As does

Copy-Item -Path ‘C:\Test\Awkward `[One`]\File 1.txt’ -Destination c:\test2

By using back ticks and quotes you can get round most problems like this. Other characters that cause similar problems are commas and quote marks.

Best advice of all – don’t use those awkward characters in your file names if you can possibly avoid it.

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