Converting a String to an Integer In PowerShell

For a project I’m working on (more on this site very soon), I ran into an issue with PowerShell variables that kept me busy for a few hours. What I was trying to do is get input from an XML file, put that value into a variable and use it to assign it as a value for the maximum memory that a virtual machine could use. Sounds easy, right? Well, not really. What happened is that I would get a conversion error:

Input string was not in a correct format.

This indicates that something wasn’t matching during a conversion and needed to be fixed. Let’s me explain.

So the value from the XML file is read into a variable as text (string). Basically it comes down to this:


When we query using gettype() we clearly see that the value is of a string type. Now, this happens because I included the “MB” part. Normally when you put a size value like “1024MB” directly into a variable inside a script, PowerShell is smart enough to figure out what you are actually trying to do. Use a certain size in Megabytes, Gigabytes etc, and converts it automatically to an integer. But in this case the value of “1024MB” is just text. I thought that PowerShell would equally be smart enough that putting an [INT] in front of the variable would somehow convert it. That didn’t work as expected. Hence the error in the beginning of this post.

The solution I wanted to create is get the value and split it at the MB or GB part, leaving just the numbers. After I would have figured out what kind of value it would be, convert it to an integer by doing some math. It was during this experiment that I discovered an easier way. Just divide the string by 1 and PowerShell smartness kicks in again! See the magic at work:


So just by dividing it by 1 it’s converted to the correct integer type. How cool (and easy) is that!

Hope this trick can be put to good use and saves you a lot of research time!

PowerShell – Help

Last year I had the opportunity to self-educate myself on Microsoft PowerShell. Having had just too little experience with it I thought it was about time to dig in and at least learn the basics. So I bought a book and got started. In the next couple of blog posts I will share my experiences and notes that I took over the month’s that I had my first try at learning PowerShell. Although the language can be very complex, it all starts out with having the basic skills to understand the language. After that it’s getting the experience that counts. Today I’ll start with a very important topic. Getting help…

Tip! Always start the PowerShell command-prompt or the Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE) elevated. Throughout the blog post I’ll use the ISE as much as possible. It has far better and more modern way of working.

First things first

The beauty of having PowerShell is that is a modern language integrated with not just local resources but also online repositories. The help functionality is no different. Although Windows ships with an up to date help file for PowerShell, things can change very quickly. So it’s always A good idea to update the local help files every now and again. Here’s a few tips on how to do it.

Update local help files
Use the following Cmdlet to update the help content.


Download help content
Suppose not all your systems are Internet connected, use save-help to store help files locally.

Save-help -path <path>

Use the -SourcePath on the target system to update the help files

Update-Help -SourcePath <path>

Tip! man & help are wrappers for get-Help cmdlet

After the help files are updated it’s time to make use of them. In a command-line environment it’s really not that hard. First you need to figure out what command you need help on. That can easily be done be done with Get-Command. Suppose we want to do something with Windows Services. We could use something like this:

Get-Command *service*

The output will look something like this:


Tip! Use the following to list only the Functions and CmdLets

Get-Command *service* | Where {$_.CommandType -eq "Cmdlet" -or $_.CommandType -eq "Function"} | select Name

Or use the “Commands” Window in the ISE. That will bring up a list of only the Cmdlets (PowerShell Commands) and functions that you can use. Getting help from the ISE is also very easy. Just click on the little blue icon with the question mark to get the help overview.


To get the same output as available in the ISE and more on the command-line, use these parameters after the get-help Cmdlet. Let’s use the Get-Service CmdLet as an example.

Quick help

Get-Help Get-Service

Detailed Help (without parameter details)

Get-Help Get-Service -Detailed

Full information (I always use this)

Get-Help Get-Service -Full


Get-Help Get-Service -Examples

Up-to-date online information

Get-Help Get-Service -Online

That’s all for this post on the PowerShell help system.