Configuration Files in PowerShell

Configuration Files in PowerShell

Developing a mini build and configuration system with PSake recently and was getting annoyed with the number of hard-coded, machine- and environment-specific strings there were so I did some research on alternatives to storing configuration files external to the script. Once again, the PowerShell team have thought about this and provide a solution in the shape of a psd (PowerShell Data) file - .psd1. Data can be structured hierarchically either as key value pairs or hashes. The easiest way to create a file is to generate it from a scratch script using a here string:

    Agent = @{

        Version = '1.0.0'
        Debug = 'true'

    LocalFolders = @{
        PowerShellScripts = 'C:\Scripts\PS'

"@ | Out-File -FilePath 'Agent.psd1' -Force

Then read it back in in the worker script and reference sub-objects using normal dot notation.

$Config = Import-LocalizedData -FileName Agent.psd1



Way, way behind the curve as usual I just found out that PowerShell 5 has Import-PowerShellDataFile which does the same thing as Import-LocalizedData but without the split for directory, file name and culture. Data read in from the psd file is not executed so can be treated as a true data file.

A final note, on the setup of a configuration data file. When deciding between several settings based on some other input, the data structure can be keyed on that other input.

For example, a data file may contain urls which differ according to the deployment environment:

    ToolCommandLine = 
        Arguments = '/Example'

    dev = 
        url = 'https://localhost'

    production = 
        url = ''

We can then get the current environment at runtime and use that to key the hashtable we made in the psd1.

# Environment may be from cmdlet param.
$Environment = 'dev' 
$File = 'C:\MyData.psd1'

$Config = Import-PowerShellDataFile $File

Write-Output $Config[$Environment].url

Update 2 - December 2020

Another useful tip I "invented" today was to do with naming the data file the same as the script file. For example, a lot of my Pester tests use a .psd1 file to load environmental data to target one of a series of base urls. Sometimes it happens that the name you give the .ps1 file doesn't quite capture the intent of the tests and so renaming the file implies that we also rename the .psd1 file to match and therefore need to import the newly renamed data file.

Instead of having a hard coded file name, you can use the Invocation Name and replace the extension and then as long as you maintain the naming convention where the script and data files are named the same apart from the extension, you need never worry about the two drifting apart and the tests breaking.

[string]$here = Split-Path -Path $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Path
[string]$File = $MyInvocation.MyCommand.Name -replace '.ps1', '.psd1' 
[string]$DataFile = Join-Path -Path $here -ChildPath $File

Write-Verbose "Reading configuration from $File"
$TestConfig = Import-PowerShellDataFile $DataFile