PowerShell for Windows Admins

Apr 30 2018   7:29AM GMT

-Contains or -In

Richard Siddaway Richard Siddaway Profile: Richard Siddaway


PowerShell has two operators that do very similar jobs –contains and –in. So which should you use –contains or –in.

From the help file.

-Contains: Tells whether a collection of reference values includes a single test value.

-In: Tells whether a test value appears in a collection of reference values

OK – they’re subtly different.

The real difference comes in how you use them

-Contains has been available since PowerShell v1. Its used like this

<reference values> –contains <value>

for example

PS> $rb = ‘Red’, ‘Orange’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Green’, ‘Blue’, ‘Indigo’, ‘Violet’
PS> $rb -contains ‘yellow’
PS> $rb -contains ‘black’

True or false is returned depending if the value is part of the collection or not

By contrast –In (introduced in PowerShell v3) uses this syntax

<value> –in <reference values>

for example

PS> $rb = ‘Red’, ‘Orange’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Green’, ‘Blue’, ‘Indigo’, ‘Violet’
PS> ‘Blue’ -in $rb
PS> ‘Black’ -in $rb

The difference between the two is the order of the operands.

-In was introduced for use with the short hand syntax of Where-Object

where <property value> operator <value>

so try this

$rb = ‘Red’, ‘Orange’, ‘Yellow’, ‘Green’, ‘Blue’, ‘Indigo’, ‘Violet’
$colours = ‘Black’, ‘White’, ‘Red’

$co = foreach ($colour in $colours) {
New-Object -TypeName psobject -Property @{
Colour = $colour

Then run

$co | where Colour -in $rb

$co | where Colour -contains $rb

$co | where $rb -contains colour

$co | where {$rb -contains $_.colour}

You’ll see the correct answer from the first and fourth options and nothing from the second because the values are the wrong way round. The third option errors

Where-Object : A positional parameter cannot be found that accepts argument
At line:1 char:7
+ $co | where $rb -contains colour
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo : InvalidArgument: (:) [Where-Object], ParameterBi
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : PositionalParameterNotFound,Microsoft.PowerShell

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