When working with file names, you occasionally have to extract the drive, path, or file name. The cmdlets Get-ChildItem and Split-Path will do the job. The latter is also able to parse paths in the registry or in AD if you mount them as drives.

In principle, you can determine the required file names with Get-ChildItem to isolate the parts you need from the results. For file names, it is relatively simple because you can use the parameter name:

Get-ChildItem *.doc –name

The result is a string or an array of strings, respectively, whereas Get-ChildItem usually returns a FileInfo object. Those objects contain a few useful properties—among them the entire name including the path (FullName), the path alone (DirectoryName), and the file name (Name) without extension (BaseName):

Get-ChildItem *.doc |select Name, DirectoryName, BaseName, FullName

Split-Path offers more options

If you face the task of reading a list of file names to parse them, Get-ChildItem is not going to help. Split-Path closes this gap. It can determine the names and paths of file system, AD, or registry objects and you can use it to parse strings if they follow the syntax of file names.

For splitting file names, the following parameters are available:

  • Qualifier (drive, the part before the colon, respectively)
  • NoQualifier (absolute path without drive)
  • Leaf (file name)
  • Parent (parent directory as a relative or absolute path)

Split-Path also accepts wildcards. However, by default, PowerShell does not resolve them. Instead, they appear literally in the result—for instance, in the leaf. You can turn off this behavior with the help of the parameter Resolve.


Split-Path -Path .\texts -Resolve -NoQualifier
# Returns the absolute path without drive together with the name and the directory of texts.

Split-Path -Path .\texts -Resolve -Qualifier
# Determines the drive from the path of the texts directory.

Split-Path -Path .\texts -Qualifier
# Produces an error because a relative path without -Resolve can’t be resolved and it therefore doesn’t have a drive letter.

Split-Path -Path .\texts -Resolve –IsAbsolute
# True because -Resolve returns an absolute path.

Split-Path -Path .\texts\*.docx -Resolve -leaf
# Displays only the file names of all Word documents.

Split-Path -Path .\texts\*.docx -leaf
# Only returns "*.docx" without -Resolve.

Split-Path -Path .\texts\*.docx
#If you don’t specify a name component, -parent is preset. Thus, the result is .\texts.

Get-Content -Path .\file.lst | Split-Path –Leaf
# Reads the contents from file.lst and extracts the file name from each line.

Split-Path isn’t just restricted to the file system; it can also be applied to the registry and the AD (read Mount Active Directory as a drive in PowerShell).

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For instance, if you are in AD:\DC=contoso,DC=com and you enter the following command, you will receive all OUs that are directly located below the domain as distinguished names:

split-path "ou=*" -Resolve –leaf
  1. Ahmad yamout 6 years ago

    Hello do you know how to get the full directory of a zip folder that has been downloaded and that include xml file. Thank you.

  2. Mauro 5 years ago

    Thanks for your guide, i’m looking a way to have the “parent” directory of a file . (Hope you get the idea)

    for example I have the next path


    And I need folderN

  3. s31064 5 years ago


    The Leaf is the last bit of a path (it could have been called Child IMO), and the Parent is the bit of the path directly above the Leaf (which is why Child would have been a more intuitive name for the property).  The Parent/Leaf relationship is not dependent on the Leaf being a file, so the Parent of  a subdirectory (Leaf) would be the directory immediately above it.

    To get the parent, simply use:

    Split-Path -Path folder1\folder2\...\folderN\file.extension -Resolve -Parent

    This will give you folder1\folder2\…\folderN using your example.  If all you want back is actually folderN, try this:

    $Dir = Split-Path -Path folder1\folder2\...\folderN\file.extension -Resolve -Parent
    Split-Path -Path $Dir -Resolve -Leaf

    The first line will give you folder1\folder2\…\folderN as the Parent and value of $Dir, and the second line will return folderN as the Leaf of $Dir.

    I didn’t try it, but you can probably make it a one-liner like this:

    Split-Path -Path (Split-Path -Path folder1\folder2\...\folderN\file.extension -Resolve -Parent) -Resolve -Leaf

    • s31064 5 years ago

      I Just realized that the one-liner could easily have been piped like this:

      Split-Path - Path folder1\folder2\...\folderN\file.extension -Parent -Resolve | Split-Path -Leaf

      The Resolve parameter isn’t necessary in the second half of the pipe because the path was resolved in the first half.

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