About PowerShell Editions

Short Description

Different editions of PowerShell run on different underlying runtimes.

Long Description

From PowerShell 5.1, there are multiple editions of PowerShell that each run on a different .NET runtime. As of PowerShell 6.2 there are two editions of PowerShell:

  • Desktop, which runs on .NET Framework. PowerShell 4 and below, as well as PowerShell 5.1 on full-featured Windows editions like Windows Desktop, Windows Server, Windows Server Core and most other Windows operating systems are Desktop edition. This is the original PowerShell edition.
  • Core, which runs on .NET Core. PowerShell 6.0 and above, as well as PowerShell 5.1 on some reduced-footprint Windows editions such as Windows Nano Server and Windows IoT where .NET Framework is unavailable.

Because the edition of PowerShell corresponds to its .NET runtime, it is the primary indicator of .NET API and PowerShell module compatibility; some .NET APIs, types or methods are not available in both .NET runtimes and this affects PowerShell scripts and modules that depend on them.

The $PSEdition automatic variable

In PowerShell 5.1 and above, you can find out what edition you are running with the $PSEdition automatic variable:


In PowerShell 4 and below, this variable does not exist. $PSEdition being null should be treated as the same as having the value Desktop.

Edition in $PSVersionTable

The $PSVersionTable automatic variable also has edition information in PowerShell 5.1 and above:

Name                           Value
----                           -----
PSVersion                      6.2.0-rc.1
PSEdition                      Core           # <-- Edition information
GitCommitId                    6.2.0-rc.1
OS                             Microsoft Windows 10.0.18865
Platform                       Win32NT
PSCompatibleVersions           {1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0...}
PSRemotingProtocolVersion      2.3
WSManStackVersion              3.0

The PSEdition field will have the same value as the $PSEdition automatic variable.

The CompatiblePSEditions module manifest field

PowerShell modules can declare what editions of PowerShell they are compatible with using the CompatiblePSEditions field of the module manifest.

For example, a module manifest declaring compatibility with both Desktop and Core editions of PowerShell:

    ModuleVersion = '1.0'
    FunctionsToExport = @('Test-MyModule')
    CompatiblePSEditions = @('Desktop', 'Core')

An example of a module manifest with only Desktop compatibility:

    ModuleVersion = '1.0'
    FunctionsToExport = @('Test-MyModule')
    CompatiblePSEditions = @('Desktop')

Omitting the CompatiblePSEditions field from a module manifest will have the same effect as setting it to Desktop, since modules created before this field was introduced were implicitly written for this edition.

For modules not shipped as part of Windows (i.e. modules you write or install from the gallery), this field is informational only; PowerShell does not change behavior based on the CompatiblePSEditions field, but does expose it on the PSModuleInfo object (returned by Get-Module) for your own logic:

New-ModuleManifest -Path .\TestModuleWithEdition.psd1 -CompatiblePSEditions Desktop,Core -PowerShellVersion '5.1'
$ModuleInfo = Test-ModuleManifest -Path .\TestModuleWithEdition.psd1


The CompatiblePSEditions module field is only compatible with PowerShell 5.1 and above. Including this field will cause a module to be incompatible with PowerShell 4 and below. Since the field is purely informational, it can be safely omitted in later PowerShell versions.

In PowerShell 6.1, Get-Module -ListAvailable has had its formatter updated to display the edition-compatibility of each module:

Get-Module -ListAvailable

    Directory: C:\Users\me\Documents\PowerShell\Modules

ModuleType Version    Name                                PSEdition ExportedCommands
---------- -------    ----                                --------- ----------------
Script     1.4.0      Az                                  Core,Desk
Script     1.3.1      Az.Accounts                         Core,Desk {Disable-AzDataCollection, Disable-AzContextAutosave, E...
Script     1.0.1      Az.Aks                              Core,Desk {Get-AzAks, New-AzAks, Remove-AzAks, Import-AzAksCreden...


Script     4.4.0      Pester                              Desk      {Describe, Context, It, Should...}
Script     1.18.0     PSScriptAnalyzer                    Desk      {Get-ScriptAnalyzerRule, Invoke-ScriptAnalyzer, Invoke-...
Script     1.0.0      WindowsCompatibility                Core      {Initialize-WinSession, Add-WinFunction, Invoke-WinComm...

Edition-compatibility for modules that ship as part of Windows

For modules that come as part of Windows (or are installed as part of a role or feature), PowerShell 6.1 and above treat the CompatiblePSEditions field differently. Such modules are found in the Windows PowerShell system modules directory (%windir%\System\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules).

For modules loaded from or found in this directory, PowerShell 6.1 and above uses the CompatiblePSEditions field to determine whether the module will be compatible with the current session and behaves accordingly.

When Import-Module is used, a module without Core in CompatiblePSEditions will not be imported and an error will be displayed:

Import-Module BitsTransfer
Import-Module : Module 'C:\WINDOWS\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules\BitsTransfer\BitsTransfer.psd1' does not support current PowerShell edition 'Core'. Its supported editions are 'Desktop'. Use 'Import-Module -SkipEditionCheck' to ignore the compatibility of this module.
At line:1 char:1
+ Import-Module BitsTransfer
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo          : ResourceUnavailable: (C:\WINDOWS\system32\u2026r\BitsTransfer.psd1:String) [Import-Module], InvalidOperationException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : Modules_PSEditionNotSupported,Microsoft.PowerShell.Commands.ImportModuleCommand

When Get-Module -ListAvailable is used, modules without Core in CompatiblePSEditions will not be displayed:

Get-Module -ListAvailable BitsTransfer
# No output

In both cases, the -SkipEditionCheck switch parameter can be used to override this behavior:

Get-Module -ListAvailable -SkipEditionCheck BitsTransfer

    Directory: C:\WINDOWS\system32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\Modules

ModuleType Version    Name                                PSEdition ExportedCommands
---------- -------    ----                                --------- ----------------
Manifest    BitsTransfer                        Desk      {Add-BitsFile, Complete-BitsTransfer, Get-BitsTransfer,...


Import-Module -SkipEditionCheck may appear to succeed for a module, but using that module runs the risk of encountering an incompatibility later on; while loading the module initially succeeds, a command may later call an incompatible API and fail spontaneously.

Authoring PowerShell modules for edition cross-compatibility

When writing a PowerShell module to target both Desktop and Core editions of PowerShell, there are things you can do to ensure cross-edition compatibility.

The only true way to confirm and continually validate compatibility however is to write tests for your script or module and run them on all versions and editions of PowerShell you need compatibility with. A recommended testing framework for this is Pester.

PowerShell script

As a language, PowerShell works the same between editions; it is the cmdlets, modules and .NET APIs you use that are affected by edition compatibility.

Generally, scripts that work in PowerShell 6.1 and above will work with Windows PowerShell 5.1, but there are some exceptions.

Version 1.18.0 PSScriptAnalyzer module has rules like PSUseCompatibleCommands and PSUseCompatibleTypes that are able to detect possibly incompatible usage of commands and .NET APIs in PowerShell scripts.

.NET assemblies

If you are writing a binary module or a module that incorporates .NET assemblies (DLLs) generated from source code, you should compile against .NET Standard and PowerShell Standard for compile-time compatibility validation of .NET and PowerShell API compatibility.

Although these libraries are able to check some compatibility at compile time, they won't be able to catch possible behavioral differences between editions. For this you must still write tests.

See also