PowerShell remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2

Learn the best methods to enabling PowerShell remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2, including using cmdlets or the Server Manager to configure PowerShell remoting.

Solutions provider takeaway: A new feature in Windows Server 2008 R2 that solutions providers will find appealing is PowerShell remoting. Using this chapter excerpt, you will learn about the different ways to enable PowerShell remoting, find out how remoting works and discover the various requirements for implemetation.

About the book:
This chapter excerpt on Automating Tasks Using PowerShell Scripting (download PDF) is taken from the book Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed. Solutions providers can use this book to learn about Windows Server 2008 R2 migration, administration, deployment and troubleshooting. This book also provides information on management and security tools and features, such as Hyper-V's Live Migration.


With PowerShell 1.0, one of its major disadvantages was the lack of an interface to execute commands on a remote machine. Granted, you could use Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to accomplish this and some cmdlets like Get-Process and Get-Service, which enable you to connect to remote machines. But, the concept of a nativebased "remoting" interface was sorely missing when PowerShell was first released. In fact, the lack of remote command execution was a glaring lack of functionality that needed to be addressed. Naturally, the PowerShell product team took this functionality limitation to heart and addressed it by introducing a new feature in PowerShell 2.0, called "remoting."

Remoting, as its name suggests, is a new feature that is designed to facilitate command (or script) execution on remote machines. This could mean execution of a command or commands on one remote machine or thousands of remote machines (provided you have the infrastructure to support this). Additionally, commands can be issued synchronously or asynchronously, one at time or through a persistent connection called a runspace, and even scheduled or throttled.

To use remoting, you must have the appropriate permissions to connect to a remote machine, execute PowerShell, and execute the desired command(s). In addition, the remote machine must have PowerShell 2.0 and Windows Remote Management (WinRM) installed, and PowerShell must be configured for remoting.

Additionally, when using remoting, the remote PowerShell session that is used to execute commands determines execution environment. As such, the commands you attempt to execute are subject to a remote machine's execution policies, profiles, and preferences.

Commands that are executed against a remote machine do not have access to information defined within your local profile. As such, commands that use a function or alias defined in your local profile will fail unless they are defined on the remote machine as well.

How Remoting Works

In its most basic form, PowerShell remoting works using the following conversation flow between "a client" (most likely the machine with your PowerShell session) and "a server" (remote host) that you want to execute command(s) against:

  1. A command is executed on the client.
  2. That command is transmitted to the server.
  3. The server executes the command and then returns the output to the client.
  4. The client displays or uses the returned output.

At a deeper level, PowerShell remoting is very dependent on WinRM for facilitating the command and output exchange between a "client" and "server." WinRM, which is a component of Windows Hardware Management, is a web-based service that enables administrators to enumerate information on and manipulate a remote machine. To handle remote sessions, WinRM was built around a SOAP-based standards protocol called WS-Management. This protocol is firewall-friendly, and was primarily developed for the exchange of management information between systems that might be based on a variety of operating systems on various hardware platforms.

When PowerShell uses WinRM to ship commands and output between a client and server, that exchange is done using a series of XML messages. The first XML message that is exchanged is a request to the server, which contains the desired command to be executed. This message is submitted to the server using the SOAP protocol. The server, in return, executes the command using a new instance of PowerShell called a runspace. Once execution of the command is complete, the output from the command is returned to the requesting client as the second XML message. This second message, like the first, is also communicated using the SOAP protocol.

This translation into an XML message is performed because you cannot ship "live" .NET objects (how PowerShell relates to programs or system components) across the network. So, to perform the transmission, objects are serialized into a series of XML (CliXML) data elements. When the server or client receives the transmission, it converts the received XML message into a deserialized object type. The resulting object is no longer live. Instead, it is a record of properties based on a point in time and, as such, no longer possesses any methods.

Remoting Requirements

To use remoting, both the local and remote computers must have the following:

  • Windows PowerShell 2.0 or later
  • Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or later
  • Windows Remote Management 2.0

Windows Remote Management 2.0 is part of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. For down-level versions of Windows, an integrated installation package must be installed, which includes PowerShell 2.0.

Configuring Remoting

About the authors:

Rand Morimoto has been in the IT industry for more than 25 years and is the president of Convergent Computing, an IT-consulting firm. Morimoto has also co-authored Exchange Server 2010 Unleashed.

Michael Noel is an IT expert and partner at Convergent Computing and co-wrote Microsoft SharePoint 2007 Unleashed.

Chris Amaris cofounded Convergent Computing and serves as the chief technology officer. Amaris has also co-authored Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Unleashed.

Omar Droubi has been in the computer industry for more than 15 years and has co-authored Windows 2003 Unleashed.

Ross Mistry has spent more than a decade in the computer industry and has also published Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Management and Administration.

By default, WinRM is installed on all Windows Server 2008 R2 machines as part of the default operating system installation. However, for security purposes, PowerShell remoting and WinRM are, by default, configured to not allow remote connections. You can use several methods to configure remoting, as described in the following sections.

Method One The first and easiest method to enable PowerShell remoting is to execute the Enable-PSRemoting cmdlet. For example:

PS C:\ > enable-psremoting

Once executed, the following tasks are performed by the Enable-PSRemoting cmdlet:

  • Runs the Set-WSManQuickConfig cmdlet, which performs the following tasks:
    • Starts the WinRM service.
    • Sets the startup type on the WinRM service to Automatic.
    • Creates a listener to accept requests on any IP address.
    • Enables a firewall exception for WS-Management communications.
  • Enables all registered Windows PowerShell session configurations to receive instructions from a remote computer.
  • Registers the "Microsoft.PowerShell" session configuration, if it is not already registered.
  • Registers the "Microsoft.PowerShell32" session configuration on 64-bit computers, if it is not already registered.
  • Removes the "Deny Everyone" setting from the security descriptor for all the registered session configurations.
  • Restarts the WinRM service to make the preceding changes effective.

To configure PowerShell remoting, the Enable-PSRemoting cmdlet must be executed using the Run As Administrator option.

Method Two The second method to configure remoting is to use Server Manager. Use the following steps to use this method:

  1. Open Server Manager.
  2. In the Server Summary area of the Server Manager home page, click Configure Server Manager Remote Management.
  3. Next, select Enable Remote Management of This Server from Other Computers.
  4. Click OK.

Method Three Finally, the third method to configure remoting is to use GPO. Use the following steps to use this method:

  1. Create a new GPO, or edit an existing one.
  2. Expand Computer Configuration, Policies, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Remote Management, and then select WinRM Service.
  3. Open the Allow Automatic Configuration of Listeners Policy, select Enabled, and then define the IPv4 filter and IPv6 filter as *.
  4. Click OK.
  5. Next, expand Computer Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings, Security Settings, Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, Windows Firewall with Advanced Security, and then Inbound Rules.
  6. Right-click Inbound Rules, and then click New Rule.
  7. In the New Inbound Rule Wizard, on the Rule Type page, select Predefined.
  8. On the Predefined pull-down menu, select Remote Event Log Management. Click Next.
  9. On the Predefined Rules page, click Next to accept the new rules.
  10. On the Action page, select Allow the Connection, and then click Finish. Allow the Connection is the default selection.
  11. Repeat steps 6 through 10 and create inbound rules for the following predefined rule types:
  • Remote Service Management
  • Windows Firewall Remote Management

Background Jobs

Another new feature that was introduced in PowerShell 2.0 is the ability to use background jobs. By definition, a background job is a command that is executed asynchronously without interacting with the current PowerShell session. However, once the background job has finished execution, the results from these jobs can then be retrieved and manipulated based on the task at hand. In other words, by using a background job, you can complete automation tasks that take an extended period of time to run without impacting the usability of your PowerShell session.

By default, background jobs can be executed on the local computer. But, background jobs can also be used in conjunction with remoting to execute jobs on a remote machine.

To use background jobs (local or remote), PowerShell must be configured for remoting.

  Automating Tasks Using PowerShell Scripting
   PowerShell commands in Windows Server 2008 R2
   PowerShell remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2
   Using PowerShell ISE and alias cmdlets
   PowerShell profiles in Windows Server 2008 R2

Printed with permission from Sams Publishing. Copyright 2010. Windows Server 2008 R2 Unleashed by Rand Morimoto, Michael Noel, Omar Droubi and Ross Mistry. For more information about this title and other similar books, please visit Sams Publishing.

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