Connecting a powershell session to a container

One of the questions that I was asked at SQL Saturday Iceland was “how can I view the filesystem within a container?”.

This is a great question as one of the things that people find off-putting about containers is their opaqueness. It’s not obvious where everything lives within the container or how we can view the files within it.

Thankfully there’s a simple docker command that allows us to open a powershell session within a container, that command is docker exec.

Let’s run through an example. Firstly I’m going to spin up a new container running an instance of SQL Server: –

docker run -d -p 15777:1433 --env ACCEPT_EULA=Y --env sa_password=Testing11@@ --name testcontainer microsoft/mssql-server-windows

Then verify that the container is running: –

docker ps

Now, to open up the powershell session inside run: –

docker exec -it testcontainer powershell

N.B. – the -i flag keeps the powershell session open, otherwise it will immediately exit. The -t flag creates a pseudo terminal, you don’t have to include it tbh but the examples I’ve seen online always include it.

Ok, we know have a powershell session within the container and we can execute commands as normal, for example: –


This will allow us to explore what the filesystem is within the container and run powershell commands as needed. In the screenshot above it’s interesting to see the space available/used on the C: drive. Have a dig around within your containers and let me know if you find anything interesting 🙂

Thanks for reading!

4 thoughts on “Connecting a powershell session to a container

  1. I know this post is old, but can’t seem to find a more recent one. Is this method deprecated? Getting an OCI runtime exec failed error about PowerShell not found.

    • Powershell may have been removed from the newer SQL Windows container images. One way to check would be to jump in with: –

      docker exec -it testcontainer cmd

      and then try to run powershell.

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