Generating Random Dates

May 28, 2008

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One of the new cmdlets in PowerShell CTP2 is Get-Random. Get-Random gets a random number or selects objects randomly from a collection. 

I wanted to generate random DateTime objects with it but there is no built-in capability for that, yet it doesn’t mean you can’t use Get-Random it to generate random dates :)

At its base, a DateTime object is measured in 100-nanosecond units called Ticks. So I tried to use Get-Date to initialize a DateTime using Ticks. Again, Get-Date doesn’t have any parameter for that so I checked the underlying object, System.DateTime.

One of the System.DateTime constructors allows you to initialize a new instance of the DateTime structure to a specified number of ticks. The maximum value for ticks is determined by:

PS > [datetime]::maxValue.ticks 3155378975999999999

Now, Can I use Get-Random to generate a number in the range of 0-3155378975999999999 (exclusive)? 
The help for Get-Random says: Without parameters or input, “Get-Random” returns a randomly selected 32-bit unsigned integer between 0 and Int32.MaxValue (0x7FFFFFFF, 2,147,483,647), so it shouldn’t be a problem with the ticks input to generate a higher value then the max value of Int32.MaxValue:

PS > Get-Random ([datetime]::maxValue.ticks) 1.34540044929813E+18 PS > Get-Random ([datetime]::maxValue.ticks) 8.71609536968019E+17


Yes I can! So I tried to generate a new DateTime using that method:

PS > [datetime]::maxValue.ticks 

PS > new-object dateTime (Get-Random ([datetime]::maxValue.ticks)) 
Friday, March 09, 3951 11:00:06 PM
PS > new-object dateTime (Get-Random ([datetime]::maxValue.ticks))
Wednesday, October 07, 2476 1:36:05 AM


Cool. But this can give a date between the Year 0 and 9999:

PS > new-object datetime ([datetime]::maxValue.ticks) Friday, December 31, 9999 11:59:59 PM


If you want to have random DateTime between a specific period of time then you can use the Get-Random -min and -max parameters:

PS > $dateMin = get-date -year 1980 -month 1 -day 1 
PS > $dateMax = get-date -year 2007 -month 1 -day 1

PS > new-object datetime (Get-Random -min $dateMin.ticks -max $dateMax.ticks) 
Thursday, November 14, 2002 9:45:23 AM 

PS > new-object datetime (Get-Random -min $dateMin.ticks -max $dateMax.ticks)
Friday, December 07, 2001 6:17:54 PM 

PS > new-object datetime (Get-Random -min $dateMin.ticks -max $dateMax.ticks) 
Monday, April 01, 2002 4:50:52 PM


I didn’t find any use for random dates yet, but it is good to know you can create them.

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