Please pardon a noob question, but I've been completely baffled by this one.

I have a "depositor" directory where user-submitted files arrive, and have no control over the incoming file names.

I created a parser in PS which quite successfully moves files (based on file name content) to an appropriate destination.

This works fine EXCEPT when a filename contains either "[" or "]".

Here is the "rename" pre-processor, which fails to actually rename a file containing either of the pesky bracket characters:

 cd $folderpath
 foreach ($i in get-childitem $folderpath) {   
     if ($i.mode.substring(0,1) -ne “d”) {
        $name = $i.name.replace("[","_")
        $name = $name.replace("]","_")
        Write-Host $i -foregroundcolor “blue”       
        Write-Host $name -foregroundcolor “green”  

        Rename-Item $i $name 


This also fails for ren, copy, move and their cmdlet equivalents

Any insight you might be able to provide would be most welcome.

Thanks in advance . . .


3 Answers 3


Unless you use -LiteralPath, square brackets cause real problems with character escaping. The problem comes from PowerShell de-escaping the strings multiple times internally and using special characters for pattern matching. Getting PowerShell to correctly recognize a literal square bracket in a path string is complex.

If you're using single-quote strings, a bracket needs two backticks to escape it. If you're using double-quote strings, a bracket needs four backticks to escape it.

If you're looking for a file named MyFile[1].txt, you need to use either:




Yes, it's a pain. To see why it does this, you have to know what's going on. It's easy to do that by working backwards.

Let's say you want to get a file literally named [ab].txt.

The wildcard pattern matching that Get-ChildItem does means that if it gets [ab].txt as the path, then it will look for files named a.txt and b.txt. So, if we want to match a literal [ab].txt, we have to escape our brackets with the escape character: the backtick. That gives us this as the actual string of characters we want Get-ChildItem to use for the filespec:


However, we have to pass this filespec as a string. That means Get-ChildItem will escape those backticks, but that's not what we want! We want literal backticks. So, we escape the backticks with backticks in our string to make sure Get-ChildItem uses the right filespec:


If we want to use double-quoted strings, then we have to escape each backtick again, as the double-quoted string will de-escape the string. And that's how you end up with this:


This is why so many PowerShell functions that take filespecs have the -LiteralPath option.


RenameItem doesn't have a -LiteralPath for some stupid reason (broken link).*

Move-Item -LiteralPath $i -destination $name

* Excuses from a co-designer of the language.

-LiteralPath appears to have been added.

  • Move-Item -LiteralPath $i -destination $name throws this error: Rename-Item : A parameter cannot be found that matches parameter name 'LiteralPath'.
    – TTrewitt
    Nov 19, 2010 at 22:36
  • @TTrewitt: What version of PS? Nov 19, 2010 at 22:41
  • The link in this answer has gone 404. Anyone know of a replacement? Jul 18, 2013 at 13:01
  • @PhilipKendall: I fixed the link. Jul 18, 2013 at 13:07
  • This answer introduced me to the Literal-Path parameter I needed to use for Set-ACL -LiteralPath that was interpreting [] in the filename as wildcards -- Thanks (Link doesn't work anymore sadly--even on archive.org :( )
    – velkoon
    May 20, 2021 at 15:59

This finally achieved the desired result:

foreach ($i in get-childitem $folderpath) {
  if ($i.mode.substring(0,1) -ne “d”) {
    $name = $i.name.replace("[","_")
    $name = $name.replace("]","_")

   Write-Host $name -foregroundcolor “green”    
   [System.IO.File]::Move($folderPath+"\"+$i, $folderPath+"\"+$name) 
  • -LiteralPath option does not work in Powershell version1 (Windows default version), if you are unable to upgrade to a newer Powershell due to workplace restrictions (Admin rights), this is by far the best solution to deal with the square brackets problem.
    – AllGamer
    Jan 2, 2021 at 11:28

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