Setting up a Windows Host

This document discusses the setup that is required before Ansible can communicate with a Microsoft Windows host.

Host Requirements

For Ansible to communicate with a Windows host and use Windows modules, the Windows host must meet these base requirements for connectivity:

  • With Ansible you can generally manage Windows versions under the current and extended support from Microsoft. You can also manage desktop OSs including Windows 10 and 11, and server OSs including Windows Server 2016, 2019, and 2022.

  • You need to install PowerShell 5.1 or newer and at least .NET 4.0 on the Windows host.

  • You need to create and activate a WinRM listener. More details, see WinRM Listener.


Some Ansible modules have additional requirements, such as a newer OS or PowerShell version. Consult the module documentation page to determine whether a host meets those requirements.

Upgrading PowerShell and .NET Framework

Ansible requires PowerShell version 5.1 and .NET Framework 4.6 or newer to function. The base image for older unsupported OS’ does not meet these requirements. You can use the Upgrade-PowerShell.ps1 script to update these.

This is an example of how to run this script from PowerShell:

[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12
$url = ""
$file = "$env:temp\Upgrade-PowerShell.ps1"
$username = "Administrator"
$password = "Password"

(New-Object -TypeName System.Net.WebClient).DownloadFile($url, $file)
Set-ExecutionPolicy -ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Force

&$file -Version 5.1 -Username $username -Password $password -Verbose

In the script, the file value can be the PowerShell version 3.0, 4.0, or 5.1.

Once completed, you need to run the following PowerShell commands:

  1. As an optional but good security practice, you can set the execution policy back to the default.

Set-ExecutionPolicy -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Force

Use the RemoteSigned value for Windows servers, or Restricted for Windows clients.

  1. Remove the auto logon.

$reg_winlogon_path = "HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon"
Set-ItemProperty -Path $reg_winlogon_path -Name AutoAdminLogon -Value 0
Remove-ItemProperty -Path $reg_winlogon_path -Name DefaultUserName -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue
Remove-ItemProperty -Path $reg_winlogon_path -Name DefaultPassword -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

The script determines what programs you need to install (such as .NET Framework 4.5.2) and what PowerShell version needs to be present. If a reboot is needed and the username and password parameters are set, the script will automatically reboot the machine and then logon. If the username and password parameters are not set, the script will prompt the user to manually reboot and logon when required. When the user is next logged in, the script will continue where it left off and the process continues until no more actions are required.


If you run the script on Server 2008, then you need to install SP2. For Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7, you need SP1.

On Windows Server 2008, you can install only PowerShell 3.0. A newer version will result in the script failure.

The username and password parameters are stored in plain text in the registry. Run the cleanup commands after the script finishes to ensure no credentials are stored on the host.

WinRM Memory Hotfix

On PowerShell v3.0, there is a bug that limits the amount of memory available to the WinRM service. Use the Install-WMF3Hotfix.ps1 script to install a hotfix on affected hosts as part of the system bootstrapping or imaging process. Without this hotfix, Ansible fails to execute certain commands on the Windows host.

To install the hotfix:

[Net.ServicePointManager]::SecurityProtocol = [Net.SecurityProtocolType]::Tls12
$url = ""
$file = "$env:temp\Install-WMF3Hotfix.ps1"

(New-Object -TypeName System.Net.WebClient).DownloadFile($url, $file)
powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy ByPass -File $file -Verbose

For more details, refer to the “Out of memory” error on a computer that has a customized MaxMemoryPerShellMB quota set and has WMF 3.0 installed article.

WinRM Setup

You need to configure the WinRM service so that Ansible can connect to it. There are two main components of the WinRM service that govern how Ansible can interface with the Windows host: the listener and the service configuration settings.


The script for setting up this service is available to download on GitHub. Reason being that using it can cause several issues for the user. Chances are it will be completely taken down in the future.

WinRM Listener

The WinRM services listen for requests on one or more ports. Each of these ports must have a listener created and configured.

To view the current listeners that are running on the WinRM service:

winrm enumerate winrm/config/Listener

This will output something like:

    Address = *
    Transport = HTTP
    Port = 5985
    Enabled = true
    URLPrefix = wsman
    ListeningOn =,,, ::1, fe80::5efe:, fe80::5efe:, fe80::
ffff:ffff:fffe%2, fe80::203d:7d97:c2ed:ec78%3, fe80::e8ea:d765:2c69:7756%7

    Address = *
    Transport = HTTPS
    Port = 5986
    Hostname = SERVER2016
    Enabled = true
    URLPrefix = wsman
    CertificateThumbprint = E6CDAA82EEAF2ECE8546E05DB7F3E01AA47D76CE
    ListeningOn =,,, ::1, fe80::5efe:, fe80::5efe:, fe80::
ffff:ffff:fffe%2, fe80::203d:7d97:c2ed:ec78%3, fe80::e8ea:d765:2c69:7756%7

In the example above there are two listeners activated. One is listening on port 5985 over HTTP and the other is listening on port 5986 over HTTPS. Some of the key options that are useful to understand are:

  • Transport: Whether the listener is run over HTTP or HTTPS. We recommend you use a listener over HTTPS because the data is encrypted without any further changes required.

  • Port: The port the listener runs on. By default, it is 5985 for HTTP and 5986 for HTTPS. This port can be changed to whatever is required and corresponds to the host var ansible_port.

  • URLPrefix: The URL prefix to listen on. By default, it is wsman. If you change this option, you need to set the host var ansible_winrm_path to the same value.

  • CertificateThumbprint: If you use an HTTPS listener, this is the thumbprint of the certificate in the Windows Certificate Store that is used in the connection. To get the details of the certificate itself, run this command with the relevant certificate thumbprint in PowerShell:

$thumbprint = "E6CDAA82EEAF2ECE8546E05DB7F3E01AA47D76CE"
Get-ChildItem -Path cert:\LocalMachine\My -Recurse | Where-Object { $_.Thumbprint -eq $thumbprint } | Select-Object *

Setup WinRM Listener

There are three ways to set up a WinRM listener:

  • Using winrm quickconfig for HTTP or winrm quickconfig -transport:https for HTTPS. This is the easiest option to use when running outside of a domain environment and a simple listener is required. Unlike the other options, this process also has the added benefit of opening up the firewall for the ports required and starting the WinRM service.

  • Using Group Policy Objects (GPO). This is the best way to create a listener when the host is a member of a domain because the configuration is done automatically without any user input. For more information on group policy objects, see the Group Policy Objects documentation.

  • Using PowerShell to create a listener with a specific configuration. This can be done by running the following PowerShell commands:

    $selector_set = @{
        Address = "*"
        Transport = "HTTPS"
    $value_set = @{
        CertificateThumbprint = "E6CDAA82EEAF2ECE8546E05DB7F3E01AA47D76CE"
    New-WSManInstance -ResourceURI "winrm/config/Listener" -SelectorSet $selector_set -ValueSet $value_set

    To see the other options with this PowerShell command, refer to the New-WSManInstance documentation.


When creating an HTTPS listener, you must create and store a certificate in the LocalMachine\My certificate store.

Delete WinRM Listener

  • To remove all WinRM listeners:

Remove-Item -Path WSMan:\localhost\Listener\* -Recurse -Force
  • To remove only those listeners that run over HTTPS:

Get-ChildItem -Path WSMan:\localhost\Listener | Where-Object { $_.Keys -contains "Transport=HTTPS" } | Remove-Item -Recurse -Force


The Keys object is an array of strings, so it can contain different values. By default, it contains a key for Transport= and Address= which correspond to the values from the winrm enumerate winrm/config/Listeners command.

WinRM Service Options

You can control the behavior of the WinRM service component, including authentication options and memory settings.

To get an output of the current service configuration options, run the following command:

winrm get winrm/config/Service
winrm get winrm/config/Winrs

This will output something like:

    MaxConcurrentOperations = 4294967295
    MaxConcurrentOperationsPerUser = 1500
    EnumerationTimeoutms = 240000
    MaxConnections = 300
    MaxPacketRetrievalTimeSeconds = 120
    AllowUnencrypted = false
        Basic = true
        Kerberos = true
        Negotiate = true
        Certificate = true
        CredSSP = true
        CbtHardeningLevel = Relaxed
        HTTP = 5985
        HTTPS = 5986
    IPv4Filter = *
    IPv6Filter = *
    EnableCompatibilityHttpListener = false
    EnableCompatibilityHttpsListener = false
    AllowRemoteAccess = true

    AllowRemoteShellAccess = true
    IdleTimeout = 7200000
    MaxConcurrentUsers = 2147483647
    MaxShellRunTime = 2147483647
    MaxProcessesPerShell = 2147483647
    MaxMemoryPerShellMB = 2147483647
    MaxShellsPerUser = 2147483647

You do not need to change the majority of these options. However, some of the important ones to know about are:

  • Service\AllowUnencrypted - specifies whether WinRM will allow HTTP traffic without message encryption. Message level encryption is only possible when the ansible_winrm_transport variable is ntlm, kerberos or credssp. By default, this is false and you should only set it to true when debugging WinRM messages.

  • Service\Auth\* - defines what authentication options you can use with the WinRM service. By default, Negotiate (NTLM) and Kerberos are enabled.

  • Service\Auth\CbtHardeningLevel - specifies whether channel binding tokens are not verified (None), verified but not required (Relaxed), or verified and required (Strict). CBT is only used when connecting with NT LAN Manager (NTLM) or Kerberos over HTTPS.

  • Service\CertificateThumbprint - thumbprint of the certificate for encrypting the TLS channel used with CredSSP authentication. By default, this is empty. A self-signed certificate is generated when the WinRM service starts and is used in the TLS process.

  • Winrs\MaxShellRunTime - maximum time, in milliseconds, that a remote command is allowed to execute.

  • Winrs\MaxMemoryPerShellMB - maximum amount of memory allocated per shell, including its child processes.

To modify a setting under the Service key in PowerShell, you need to provide a path to the option after winrm/config/Service:

Set-Item -Path WSMan:\localhost\Service\{path} -Value {some_value}

For example, to change Service\Auth\CbtHardeningLevel:

Set-Item -Path WSMan:\localhost\Service\Auth\CbtHardeningLevel -Value Strict

To modify a setting under the Winrs key in PowerShell, you need to provide a path to the option after winrm/config/Winrs:

Set-Item -Path WSMan:\localhost\Shell\{path} -Value {some_value}

For example, to change Winrs\MaxShellRunTime:

Set-Item -Path WSMan:\localhost\Shell\MaxShellRunTime -Value 2147483647


If you run the command in a domain environment, some of these options are set by GPO and cannot be changed on the host itself. When you configure a key with GPO, it contains the text [Source="GPO"] next to the value.

Common WinRM Issues

WinRM has a wide range of configuration options, which makes its configuration complex. As a result, errors that Ansible displays could in fact be problems with the host setup instead.

To identify a host issue, run the following command from another Windows host to connect to the target Windows host.

  • To test HTTP:

winrs -r:http://server:5985/wsman -u:Username -p:Password ipconfig
  • To test HTTPS:

winrs -r:https://server:5986/wsman -u:Username -p:Password -ssl ipconfig

The command will fail if the certificate is not verifiable.

  • To test HTTPS ignoring certificate verification:

$username = "Username"
$password = ConvertTo-SecureString -String "Password" -AsPlainText -Force
$cred = New-Object -TypeName System.Management.Automation.PSCredential -ArgumentList $username, $password

$session_option = New-PSSessionOption -SkipCACheck -SkipCNCheck -SkipRevocationCheck
Invoke-Command -ComputerName server -UseSSL -ScriptBlock { ipconfig } -Credential $cred -SessionOption $session_option

If any of the above commands fail, the issue is probably related to the WinRM setup.

HTTP 401/Credentials Rejected

An HTTP 401 error indicates the authentication process failed during the initial connection. You can check the following to troubleshoot:

  • The credentials are correct and set properly in your inventory with the ansible_user and ansible_password variables.

  • The user is a member of the local Administrators group or has been explicitly granted access. You can perform a connection test with the winrs command to rule this out.

  • The authentication option set by the ansible_winrm_transport variable is enabled under Service\Auth\*.

  • If running over HTTP and not HTTPS, use ntlm, kerberos or credssp with the ansible_winrm_message_encryption: auto custom inventory variable to enable message encryption. If you use another authentication option, or if it is not possible to upgrade the installed pywinrm package, you can set Service\AllowUnencrypted to true. This is recommended only for troubleshooting.

  • The downstream packages pywinrm, requests-ntlm, requests-kerberos, and/or requests-credssp are up to date using pip.

  • For Kerberos authentication, ensure that Service\Auth\CbtHardeningLevel is not set to Strict.

  • For Basic or Certificate authentication, make sure that the user is a local account. Domain accounts do not work with Basic and Certificate authentication.

HTTP 500 Error

An HTTP 500 error indicates a problem with the WinRM service. You can check the following to troubleshoot:

  • The number of your currently open shells has not exceeded either WinRsMaxShellsPerUser. Alternatively, you did not exceed any of the other Winrs quotas.

Timeout Errors

Sometimes Ansible is unable to reach the host. These instances usually indicate a problem with the network connection. You can check the following to troubleshoot:

  • The firewall is not set to block the configured WinRM listener ports.

  • A WinRM listener is enabled on the port and path set by the host vars.

  • The winrm service is running on the Windows host and is configured for the automatic start.

Connection Refused Errors

When you communicate with the WinRM service on the host you may encounter some problems. Check the following to help with the troubleshooting:

  • The WinRM service is up and running on the host. Use the (Get-Service -Name winrm).Status command to get the status of the service.

  • The host firewall is allowing traffic over the WinRM port. By default, this is 5985 for HTTP and 5986 for HTTPS.

Sometimes an installer may restart the WinRM or HTTP service and cause this error. The best way to deal with this is to use the win_psexec module from another Windows host.

Failure to Load Builtin Modules

Sometimes PowerShell fails with an error message similar to:

The 'Out-String' command was found in the module 'Microsoft.PowerShell.Utility', but the module could not be loaded.

In that case, there could be a problem when trying to access all the paths specified by the PSModulePath environment variable.

A common cause of this issue is that PSModulePath contains a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path to a file share. Additionally, the double hop/credential delegation issue causes that the Ansible process cannot access these folders. To work around this problem is to either:

  • Remove the UNC path from PSModulePath.


  • Use an authentication option that supports credential delegation like credssp or kerberos. You need to have the credential delegation enabled.

See KB4076842 for more information on this problem.

Windows SSH Setup

Ansible 2.8 has added an experimental SSH connection for Windows-managed nodes.


Use this feature at your own risk! Using SSH with Windows is experimental. This implementation may make backwards incompatible changes in future releases. The server-side components can be unreliable depending on your installed version.

Installing OpenSSH using Windows Settings

You can use OpenSSH to connect Windows 10 clients to Windows Server 2019. OpenSSH Client is available to install on Windows 10 build 1809 and later. OpenSSH Server is available to install on Windows Server 2019 and later.

For more information, refer to Get started with OpenSSH for Windows.

Installing Win32-OpenSSH

To install the Win32-OpenSSH service for use with Ansible, select one of these installation options:

  • Manually install Win32-OpenSSH, following the install instructions from Microsoft.

  • Use Chocolatey:

choco install --package-parameters=/SSHServerFeature openssh
  • Use the win_chocolatey Ansible module:

- name: install the Win32-OpenSSH service
    name: openssh
    package_params: /SSHServerFeature
    state: present
ansible-galaxy install jborean93.win_openssh
  • Use the role in your playbook:

- name: install Win32-OpenSSH service
  hosts: windows
  gather_facts: false
  - role: jborean93.win_openssh
    opt_openssh_setup_service: True


Win32-OpenSSH is still a beta product and is constantly being updated to include new features and bug fixes. If you use SSH as a connection option for Windows, we highly recommend you install the latest version.

Configuring the Win32-OpenSSH shell

By default, Win32-OpenSSH uses cmd.exe as a shell.

  • To configure a different shell, use an Ansible playbook with a task to define the registry setting:

- name: set the default shell to PowerShell
    path: HKLM:\SOFTWARE\OpenSSH
    name: DefaultShell
    data: C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe
    type: string
    state: present
  • To revert the settings to the default shell:

- name: set the default shell to cmd
    path: HKLM:\SOFTWARE\OpenSSH
    name: DefaultShell
    state: absent

Win32-OpenSSH Authentication

Win32-OpenSSH authentication with Windows is similar to SSH authentication on Unix/Linux hosts. You can use a plaintext password or SSH public key authentication.

For the key-based authentication:

  • Add your public keys to an authorized_key file in the .ssh folder of the user’s profile directory.

  • Configure the SSH service using the sshd_config file.

When using SSH key authentication with Ansible, the remote session will not have access to user credentials and will fail when attempting to access a network resource. This is also known as the double-hop or credential delegation issue. To work around this problem:

  • Use plaintext password authentication by setting the ansible_password variable.

  • Use the become directive on the task with the credentials of the user that needs access to the remote resource.

Configuring Ansible for SSH on Windows

To configure Ansible to use SSH for Windows hosts, you must set two connection variables:

  • set ansible_connection to ssh

  • set ansible_shell_type to cmd or powershell

The ansible_shell_type variable should reflect the DefaultShell configured on the Windows host. Set ansible_shell_type to cmd for the default shell. Alternatively, set ansible_shell_type to powershell if you changed DefaultShell to PowerShell.

Known issues with SSH on Windows

Using SSH with Windows is experimental. Currently, existing issues are:

  • Win32-OpenSSH versions older than v7.9.0.0p1-Beta do not work when powershell is the shell type.

  • While Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) should work, SSH File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) is the recommended mechanism to use when copying or fetching a file.

See also

Ansible playbooks

An introduction to playbooks

Ansible tips and tricks

Tips and tricks for playbooks

List of Windows Modules

Windows-specific module list, all implemented in PowerShell

User Mailing List

Have a question? Stop by the Google group!

Real-time chat

How to join Ansible chat channels