Use PowerShell to get installed software remotely

Adam Bertram

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If you’re a system administrator, one of your jobs is to install, upgrade and remove software from lots of systems. What if I told you you don’t have to connect to each machine and check for installed software manually anymore? What if you could simply write a litte PowerShell free of charge and get a nice-looking inventory report in minutes? Read on! In this blog post, I’m going to show you how to use PowerShell to get installed software on lots of computers at once.

Managing software on a single system is not a big deal but what if you’ve got hundreds of systems that you must maintain? Managing software at this scale soon becomes a nightmare if you don’t have the proper tools.

Why PowerShell?

A lot of products exist in the marketplace to help you report on and manage software on multiple systems at once. Microsoft’s System Center Configuration Manager, Dell KACE and Altiris products come to mind. These products work great but can sometimes be overkill. Perhaps you simply need a quick way to perform a software inventory of a few system. In this case, I’d advise you to use PowerShell.

By using a PowerShell script, you can easily reach out to each of these systems, pull a real-time software inventory and generate a report in any fashion you’dlike.

In this article, I’ll show you a function that you can use today that allows you to point to one or more systems and generate a list of all the software that’s installed on each.

Where Installed software lives

For reference, installed software exists in three locations:

  • the 32-bit system uninstall registry key
  • the 64-bit system uninstall registry key
  • each user profile’s uninstall registry key.

Each software entry is typically defined by the software’s globally unique identifier (GUID). Inside of the GUID key contains all the information about that particular piece of software. To get a complete list, PowerShell must enumerate each of these keys, read each registry value and parse through the results.

Since the code to correctly parse these values is way more than a single article can hold, I’ve prebuilt a function called Get-InstalledSoftware that wraps all of that code up for you as you can see below.

function Get-InstalledSoftware {
		Retrieves a list of all software installed on a Windows computer.
		PS> Get-InstalledSoftware
		This example retrieves all software installed on the local computer.
	.PARAMETER ComputerName
		If querying a remote computer, use the computer name here.
		The software title you'd like to limit the query to.
		The software GUID you'e like to limit the query to
    param (
        [string]$ComputerName = $env:COMPUTERNAME,
    process {
        try {
            $scriptBlock = {
                $args[0].GetEnumerator() | ForEach-Object { New-Variable -Name $_.Key -Value $_.Value }
                $UninstallKeys = @(
                New-PSDrive -Name HKU -PSProvider Registry -Root Registry::HKEY_USERS | Out-Null
                $UninstallKeys += Get-ChildItem HKU: | where { $_.Name -match 'S-\d-\d+-(\d+-){1,14}\d+$' } | foreach {
                if (-not $UninstallKeys) {
                    Write-Warning -Message 'No software registry keys found'
                } else {
                    foreach ($UninstallKey in $UninstallKeys) {
                        $friendlyNames = @{
                            'DisplayName'    = 'Name'
                            'DisplayVersion' = 'Version'
                        Write-Verbose -Message "Checking uninstall key [$($UninstallKey)]"
                        if ($Name) {
                            $WhereBlock = { $_.GetValue('DisplayName') -like "$Name*" }
                        } elseif ($GUID) {
                            $WhereBlock = { $_.PsChildName -eq $Guid.Guid }
                        } else {
                            $WhereBlock = { $_.GetValue('DisplayName') }
                        $SwKeys = Get-ChildItem -Path $UninstallKey -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | Where-Object $WhereBlock
                        if (-not $SwKeys) {
                            Write-Verbose -Message "No software keys in uninstall key $UninstallKey"
                        } else {
                            foreach ($SwKey in $SwKeys) {
                                $output = @{ }
                                foreach ($ValName in $SwKey.GetValueNames()) {
                                    if ($ValName -ne 'Version') {
                                        $output.InstallLocation = ''
                                        if ($ValName -eq 'InstallLocation' -and 
                                            ($SwKey.GetValue($ValName)) -and 
                                            (@('C:', 'C:\Windows', 'C:\Windows\System32', 'C:\Windows\SysWOW64') -notcontains $SwKey.GetValue($ValName).TrimEnd('\'))) {
                                            $output.InstallLocation = $SwKey.GetValue($ValName).TrimEnd('\')
                                        [string]$ValData = $SwKey.GetValue($ValName)
                                        if ($friendlyNames[$ValName]) {
                                            $output[$friendlyNames[$ValName]] = $ValData.Trim() ## Some registry values have trailing spaces.
                                        } else {
                                            $output[$ValName] = $ValData.Trim() ## Some registry values trailing spaces
                                $output.GUID = ''
                                if ($SwKey.PSChildName -match '\b[A-F0-9]{8}(?:-[A-F0-9]{4}){3}-[A-F0-9]{12}\b') {
                                    $output.GUID = $SwKey.PSChildName
                                New-Object -TypeName PSObject -Prop $output
            if ($ComputerName -eq $env:COMPUTERNAME) {
                & $scriptBlock $PSBoundParameters
            } else {
                Invoke-Command -ComputerName $ComputerName -ScriptBlock $scriptBlock -ArgumentList $PSBoundParameters
        } catch {
            Write-Error -Message "Error: $($_.Exception.Message) - Line Number: $($_.InvocationInfo.ScriptLineNumber)"

Once you copy and paste this function into your PowerShell console or add it to your script, you can call it by using a particular computername with the ComputerName parameter.

Using the Powershell Get Installed Software function

PS> Get-InstalledSoftware -ComputerName XXXXX

When you do this, you will get an object back for each piece of software that’s installed. You are able to get a wealth of information about this whatever software is installed.

If you know the software title ahead of time you can also use the Name parameter to limit only to the software that matches that value.

For example, perhaps you’d only like to check if Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 Redistributable (x64) is installed. You’d simply use this as the Name parameter value as shown below.

PS> Get-InstalledSoftware -ComputerName MYCOMPUTER -Name 'Microsoft VisualC++ 2005 Redistributable (x64)'


Using PowerShell to get installed software, you can build a completely free tool that you and your team can use to easily find installed software on many Windows computers at once!

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