Hacking ValidateSet

I guess I should start off this post by saying what I'm doing is a dirty hack, in no way supported, and in general a terrible idea. But it's also really awesome.

Occasionally I find it would be nice to be able to dynamically generate the values used in a ValidateSet attribute on a function parameter. Joel Bennett wrote a post a while back explaining how to build a custom validation attribute that could be written to include the ability to update the set list dynamically. Or you could even use his technique of using ValidateScript and throwing a custom error message to generate the set dynamically.

The problem with these other techniques is that ValidateSet comes with magic that they don't include. This magic provides tab-completion, error messages, and a listing of valid values in help, all for free. I actually started off my experiment by following Joel's post and implementing my own ValidateDynamicSetAttribute class that provided Add() and Remove() methods so the values could be changed on the fly.

But that class wouldn't have come with the magic of ValidateSet, and while I was using ILSpy to learn how ValidateSet was implemented, I discovered that it was based on a private string array and it turns out I had just learned how to access private members while I was at the PowerShell Summit 2013 (thanks Adam!).

The result is the following function that takes a FunctionInfo object (use Get-Command), the name of the parameter that is using ValidateSet, and the new set of valid inputs. It hacks its way into the command, locates the correct parameter, locates all the ValidateSet attributes on it, and rips into the heart of each one and replaces the private validValues array with the one provided in the -NewSet parameter.

    Replace the set of valid values on a function parameter that was defined using ValidateSet.

    Replace the set of valid values on a function parameter that was defined using ValidateSet.

  .PARAMETER Command
    A FunctionInfo object for the command that has the parameter validation to be updated.  Get this using:

    Get-Command -Name YourCommandName

  .PARAMETER ParameterName
    The name of the parameter that is using ValidateSet.

    The new set of valid values to use for parameter validation.

    Define a test function:

    PS> Function Test-Function {

    PS> Update-ValidateSet -Command (Get-Command Test-Function) -ParameterName "P" -NewSet @("one","two")

    After running Update-ValidateSet, Test-Function will accept the values "one" and "two" as valid input for the -P parameter.


    This function is updating a private member of ValidateSetAttribute and is thus not following the rules of .Net and could break at any time.  Use at your own risk!

    Author : Chris Duck

function Update-ValidateSet {



  #Find the parameter on the command object
  $Parameter = $Command.Parameters[$ParameterName]
  if($Parameter) {
    #Find all of the ValidateSet attributes on the parameter
    $ValidateSetAttributes = @($Parameter.Attributes | Where-Object {$_ -is [System.Management.Automation.ValidateSetAttribute]})
    if($ValidateSetAttributes) {
      $ValidateSetAttributes | ForEach-Object {
        #Get the validValues private member of the ValidateSetAttribute class
        $ValidValuesField = [System.Management.Automation.ValidateSetAttribute].GetField("validValues", [System.Reflection.BindingFlags]::NonPublic -bor [System.Reflection.BindingFlags]::Instance)
        if($PsCmdlet.ShouldProcess("$Command -$ParameterName", "Set valid set to: $($NewSet -join ', ')")) {
          #Update the validValues array on each instance of ValidateSetAttribute
          $ValidValuesField.SetValue($_, $NewSet)
    } else {
      Write-Error -Message "Parameter $ParameterName in command $Command doesn't use [ValidateSet()]"
  } else {
    Write-Error -Message "Parameter $ParameterName was not found in command $Command"

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