This is the built-in help made by Microsoft for the document 'about_Path_Syntax', in PowerShell version 5 - as retrieved from
Windows version 'Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard' PowerShell help files on 2016-06-24.
For PowerShell version 3 and up, where you have Update-Help, this command was run just before creating the web pages from the help files.
Describes the full and relative path name formats in Windows PowerShell.
All items in a data store accessible through a Windows PowerShell provider
can be uniquely identified by their path names. A path name is a
combination of the item name, the container and subcontainers in which
the item is located, and the Windows PowerShell drive through which the
containers are accessed.
In Windows PowerShell, path names are divided into one of two types: fully
qualified and relative. A fully qualified path name consists of all
elements that make up a path. The following syntax shows the elements in
a fully qualified path name:
The <provider> placeholder refers to the Windows PowerShell provider
through which you access the data store. For example, the FileSystem
provider allows you to access the files and directories on your computer.
This element of the syntax is optional and is never needed because the
drive names are unique across all providers.
The <drive> placeholder refers to the Windows PowerShell drive that is
supported by a particular Windows PowerShell provider. In the case of the
FileSystem provider, the Windows PowerShell drives map to the Windows
drives that are configured on your system. For example, if your system
includes an A: drive and a C: drive, the FileSystem provider creates the
same drives in Windows PowerShell.
After you have specified the drive, you must specify any containers and
subcontainers that contain the item. The containers must be specified
in the hierarchical order in which they exist in the data store. In
other words, you must start with the parent container, then the child
container in that parent container, and so on. In addition, each
container must be preceded by a backslash. (Note that Windows PowerShell
allows you to use forward slashes for compatibility with other
After the container and subcontainers have been specified, you must
provide the item name, preceded by a backslash. For example, the fully
qualified path name for the Shell.dll file in the C:\Windows\System32
directory is as follows:
In this case, the drive through which the containers are accessed is
the C: drive, the top-level container is Windows, the subcontainer is
System32 (located within the Windows container), and the item is Shell.dll.
In some situations, you do not need to specify a fully qualified path
name and can instead use a relative path name. A relative path name is
based on the current working location. Windows PowerShell allows you to
identify an item based on its location relative to the current working
location. You can specify relative path names by using special characters.
The following table describes each of these characters and provides
examples of relative path names and fully qualified path names. The
examples in the table are based on the current working directory being
set to C:\Windows.
Symbol Description Relative path Fully qualified path
------ -------------------------- ---------------- --------------------
. Current working location .\System c:\Windows\System
.. Parent of current working ..\Program Files c:\Program Files
\ Drive root of current \Program Files c:\Program Files
[none] No special characters System c:\Windows\System
When using a path name in a command, you enter that name in the same
way whether you use a fully qualified path name or a relative one. For
example, suppose that your current working directory is C:\Windows. The
following Get-ChildItem command retrieves all items in the C:\Techdocs
The backslash indicates that the drive root of the current working
location should be used. Because the working directory is C:\Windows,
the drive root is the C: drive. Because the techdocs directory is located
off the root, you need to specify only the backslash.
You can achieve the same results by using the following command:
Regardless of whether you use a fully qualified path name or a relative
path name, a path name is important not only because it locates an item
but also because it uniquely identifies the item even if that item
shares the same name as another item in a different container.
For instance, suppose that you have two files that are each named
Results.txt. The first file is in a directory named C:\Techdocs\Jan,
and the second file is in a directory named C:\Techdocs\Feb. The path
name for the first file (C:\Techdocs\Jan\Results.txt) and the path name
for the second file (C:\Techdocs\Feb\Results.txt) allow you to clearly
distinguish between the two files.