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SSH on Windows Server 2019 (including how to sudo)

Published: 18-12-2018 | Author: Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article

Table of Contents

On hackernews I saw a Microsoft blog post stating that Windows Server2019 now includes OpenSSH. In this post I'll try out both the client and serveron a Windows 2019 server, including how to login as a Active Directory Domainuser. All documentation from Microsoft on OpenSSH can be found here. Thebonus this time is how to elevate permissions via SSH on Windows, sudo but waymore complicated. This guide is also applicable on Windows 10, build 1809 andup.

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Installing OpenSSH on Windows

Fire up a powershell prompt as administrator and execute the following commandto see if it's installed already:

Get-WindowsCapability -Online | ? Name -like 'OpenSSH*'

Example output:

Name  : OpenSSH.Client~~~~ : NotPresentName  : OpenSSH.Server~~~~ : NotPresent

If they are NotPresent, install them with the below powershell commands:

Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name OpenSSH.Client~~~~ -Online -Name OpenSSH.Server~~~~

Example output for both:

Path          :Online        : TrueRestartNeeded : False

I had to install all Windows updates before the server part would install (up todecember 2018).

Start the openssh server and make sure it starts up automatically. Not requiredwhen you only want to use the openssh client.

Start-Service sshdSet-Service -Name sshd -StartupType 'Automatic'

The setup automatically creates a firewall rule to allow OpenSSH. Check to makesure it is actually created.

Get-NetFirewallRule -Name *ssh*

CMD or Powershell?

The default prompt when SSHing in to a windows server is cmd.exe. Rather bareand sparse, I recommend you change that to Powershell. It's Windows, so it hasto be changed in the registry, but there is a powershell command to do so:

New-ItemProperty -Path "HKLM:\SOFTWARE\OpenSSH" -Name DefaultShell -Value "C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe" -PropertyType String -Force

If you have installed bash you can set that to be the default shell bychanging the full -Value path to the bash.exe binary.

Windows OpenSSH client

Using SSH on Windows (open up a powershell window) is as simple as typing in thecommand and the server to connect to:


You will be prompted for a password, type it, and you're in.

However, using passwords is insecure and will get your server compromised(eventually). SSH has the concept of keys, cryptographicly secure public privatekeys which can be used for authentication. The rest of this section covers thecreation and placement of an SSH keypair on Windows.

You want to install the ssh-agent if you are going to use Windows as sshclient:

Install-Module -Force OpenSSHUtils -Scope AllUsersStart-Service ssh-agentSet-Service -Name ssh-agent -StartupType 'Automatic'

With an ssh-agent, you don't have to type the password for your private keyevery time you SSH to a server.

Generating an SSH keypair on Windows

Generate your SSH keypair with the following command:


Example output:

Generating public/private rsa key pair.Enter file in which to save the key (C:\Users\Remy/.ssh/id_rsa):Created directory 'C:\Users\Remy/.ssh'.Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):Enter same passphrase again:Your identification has been saved in C:\Users\Remy/.ssh/id_rsa.Your public key has been saved in C:\Users\Remy/.ssh/ key fingerprint is:SHA256:FSpFs/BY0U8k+kCp6IDW5K4+Lw4RO7kS8c6TrzIXNF8 remy@WIN-EXAMPLESRVThe key's randomart image is:+---[RSA 2048]----+|      ..B+o..    ||   .   B.=.o.    ||o.+  .o.* .o     ||.B+o. E. +  .    ||B.o= .  S .      || B.oo            ||+ *.             ||=+.o             ||o*=o.            |+----[SHA256]-----+

Make sure to enter a passphrase. Create a backup of the folder(C:\Users\Username\.ssh), if you loose that private key you won't be able tologin anymore.

Remember that private key files are the equivalent of a password should beprotected the same way you protect your password. To help with that, use ssh-agent to securely store the private keys within a Windows security context,associated with your Windows login. To do that, start the ssh-agent service asAdministrator (we already did that when installing) and use ssh-add to storethe private key:

ssh-add ~\.ssh\id_rsa

Add the key to another Windows server

Using the following commands we can copy our public key (not the private, nevershare your private parts) to a server running SSH. I assume you know how to dothis on Linux, this example is for another Windows server. The permissions aremanaged differently.

In this example I use the user remy in the AD domain SPCS. The format thento login is, the first part (remy@spcs) is theusername (and AD domain), the last part ( is the server toconnect to.

Create the folder where the authorized_keyfile belongs:

ssh mkdir C:\users\remy\.ssh\

Use scp to copy the public key file generated previously:

scp C:\Users\Remy\.ssh\\Users\remy\.ssh\authorized_keys# note that my local user (leftmost part) is also remy. The server path is the rightmost part.

Change the permissions on the authorized_keys file on the server, otherwisessh will ignore the file:

ssh --% powershell -c $ConfirmPreference = 'None'; Repair-AuthorizedKeyPermission C:\Users\Remy\.ssh\authorized_keys

Example output:

  [*] C:\Users\Remy\.ssh\authorized_keys'NT SERVICE\sshd' needs Read access to 'C:\Users\Remy\.ssh\authorized_keys'.Shall I make the above change?[Y] Yes  [A] Yes to All  [N] No  [L] No to All  [S] Suspend  [?] Help (default is "Y"): y'NT SERVICE\sshd' now has Read access to 'C:\Users\Remy\.ssh\authorized_keys'.      Repaired permissions

The OpenSSHUtils powershell module needs to be installed for the Repair-AuthorizedKeyPermission cmdlet to work.

Install-Module -Force OpenSSHUtils -Scope AllUsers

You can now login to the Windows server using your private key.

Windows OpenSSH server

The Windows OpenSSH server is quite simple to configure. It has the regularsshd_config file for settings, with some parts specific to Windows.

This is a screenshot where I SSH into a Windows server using my linuxworkstation:

OpenSSH server configuration

This section is specifically for Windows related settings. I assume you know howto configure openssh on linux.

The server reads it's configuration from %programdata%\ssh\sshd_config. Youcan copy and paste that path into a Windows Run dialog (WIN+R) to openExplorer in the correct location.

When configuring user/group based rules with a domain user or group, use thefollowing format: user?domain*. Windows allows multiple of formats forspecifying domain principals, but many will conflict with standard Linuxpatterns. For that reason, * is added to cover FQDNs. Also, this approach uses? instead of @ avoids conflict with the username@host format.

To allow all users from the domain EXAMPLE in group Domain Admins to loginvia SSH:

AllowGroups "EXAMPLE\Domain Admins"

It's better to create a specific security group (e.g. sshusers) and add theDomain Admins as a member. With a seperate group you can give or restrict thessh permissions more granulary.

To allow local users (non-domain) or local groups:

AllowUsers localuser@ sshusers

PermitRootLogin on Windows

PermitRootLogin is not applicable in Windows. To deny administrators fromlogging in via SSH, use a DenyGroups directive:

DenyGroups Administrators

For Windows OpenSSH, the only available authentication methods are passwordand publickey.

At the bottom of this article there is an alternative to sudo. How otherwisewould you elevate permissions? Do note that it is quite complex.

AuthorizedKeysFile location on Windows

The default AuthorizedKeysFile locations are .ssh/authorized_keys and.ssh/authorized_keys2. This is in the users home folder (C:\Users\Username)(or the profile image path). If required, an absolute path can be provided(D:\folder\authorized_keys).

Tips and tricks

Here are a few tips on Windows and SSH I found while using it for some time.


From a linux machine, the command ssh-copy-id can be used to copy your publickey easily to another linux machine. This does not work on Windows:

$ ssh-copy-id administrator@ INFO: attempting to log in with the new key(s), to filter out any that are already installed/usr/bin/ssh-copy-id: INFO: 1 key(s) remain to be installed -- if you are prompted now it is to install the new keysadministrator@'s password:'exec' is not recognized as an internal or external command,operable program or batch file.'cat' is not recognized as an internal or external command,operable program or batch file.The system cannot find the path specified.

You need to use the above commands listed under the SSH client section to copythe key and fix the permissions.


As you've denied access to Administrators via SSH (just as you would not allowroot login on Linux), you now need to have a way for people to elevate theirpermissions. On linux you would use sudo su - or the likes. On Windows, thereis no sudo. There is also no way to elevate permissions of an already runningprocess.

Using the runas command fails because it cannot create a new window or ask UAC(because you're in a console SSH session).

There is a complex way of elevating your privileges. You need to run this in apowershell session as your user. First you create a Credentials object whichhas the username and password of the Administrator user. Then you use that$Cred object with either Invoke-Command to run a single noninteractivecommand, or with Enter-PSSession to get an interactive Powershell.

Note that you first need to ssh into your windows server and start powershell.This can be done with one command:

ssh powershell

Non-interactive example:

$Username = 'Administrator'$Password = 'P@ssw0rd'$pass = ConvertTo-SecureString -AsPlainText $Password -Force$Cred = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PSCredential -ArgumentList $Username,$passInvoke-Command -Credential $Cred -ComputerName localhost -scriptblock { cmd.exe /c whoami }

Example output:


Interactive shell example:

$Username = 'Administrator'$Password = 'P@ssw0rd'$Pass = ConvertTo-SecureString -AsPlainText $Password -Force$Cred = New-Object System.Management.Automation.PSCredential -ArgumentList $Username,$PassEnter-PSSession -ComputerName localhost -Credential $Cred

Example output:

[localhost]: PS C:\Users\Administrator\Documents> whoamiwin-doipgfhik47\administrator

This is a screenshot of the entire process:

Note that this by default only works on localhost, not from a remote computer.Unless you change the trustedhosts you will get an Access denied error.

This is also not really like sudo, but more like setting up a new ssh sessionfrom localhost to localhost as root. (But, with powershell remoting).

Tags: microsoft, openssh, server, ssh, tutorials, windows, windows-server