PowerShell remoting over SSH

Overview

PowerShell remoting normally uses WinRM for connection negotiation and data transport. SSH is now available for Linux and Windows platforms and allows true multiplatform PowerShell remoting.

WinRM provides a robust hosting model for PowerShell remote sessions. SSH-based remoting doesn't currently support remote endpoint configuration and Just Enough Administration (JEA).

SSH remoting lets you do basic PowerShell session remoting between Windows and Linux computers. SSH remoting creates a PowerShell host process on the target computer as an SSH subsystem. Eventually we'll implement a general hosting model, similar to WinRM, to support endpoint configuration and JEA.

The New-PSSession, Enter-PSSession, and Invoke-Command cmdlets now have a new parameter set to support this new remoting connection.

[-HostName <string>]  [-UserName <string>]  [-KeyFilePath <string>]

To create a remote session, you specify the target computer with the HostName parameter and provide the user name with UserName. When running the cmdlets interactively, you're prompted for a password. You can also use SSH key authentication using a private key file with the KeyFilePath parameter. Creating keys for SSH authentication varies by platform.

General setup information

PowerShell 6 or higher, and SSH must be installed on all computers. Install both the SSH client (ssh.exe) and server (sshd.exe) so that you can remote to and from the computers. OpenSSH for Windows is now available in Windows 10 build 1809 and Windows Server 2019. For more information, see Manage Windows with OpenSSH. For Linux, install SSH, including sshd server, that's appropriate for your platform. You also need to install PowerShell from GitHub to get the SSH remoting feature. The SSH server must be configured to create an SSH subsystem to host a PowerShell process on the remote computer. And, you must enable password or key-based authentication.

Set up on a Windows computer

  1. Install the latest version of PowerShell. For more information, see Installing PowerShell Core on Windows.

    You can confirm that PowerShell has SSH remoting support by listing the New-PSSession parameter sets. You'll notice there are parameter set names that begin with SSH. Those parameter sets include SSH parameters.

    (Get-Command New-PSSession).ParameterSets.Name
    
    Name
    ----
    SSHHost
    SSHHostHashParam
    
  2. Install the latest Win32 OpenSSH. For installation instructions, see Getting started with OpenSSH.

    Note

    If you want to set PowerShell as the default shell for OpenSSH, see Configuring Windows for OpenSSH.

  3. Edit the sshd_config file located at $env:ProgramData\ssh.

    Make sure password authentication is enabled:

    PasswordAuthentication yes
    

    Create the SSH subsystem that hosts a PowerShell process on the remote computer:

    Subsystem powershell c:/progra~1/powershell/7/pwsh.exe -sshs -NoLogo
    

    Note

    The default location of the PowerShell executable is c:/progra~1/powershell/7/pwsh.exe. The location can vary depending on how you installed PowerShell.

    You must use the 8.3 short name for any file paths that contain spaces. There's a bug in OpenSSH for Windows that prevents spaces from working in subsystem executable paths. For more information, see this GitHub issue.

    The 8.3 short name for the Program Files folder in Windows is usually Progra~1. However, you can use the following command to make sure:

    Get-CimInstance Win32_Directory -Filter 'Name="C:\\Program Files"' |
      Select-Object EightDotThreeFileName
    
    EightDotThreeFileName
    ---------------------
    c:\progra~1
    

    Optionally, enable key authentication:

    PubkeyAuthentication yes
    

    For more information, see Managing OpenSSH Keys.

  4. Restart the sshd service.

    Restart-Service sshd
    
  5. Add the path where OpenSSH is installed to your Path environment variable. For example, C:\Program Files\OpenSSH\. This entry allows for the ssh.exe to be found.

Set up on an Ubuntu 16.04 Linux computer

  1. Install the latest version of PowerShell, see Installing PowerShell Core on Linux.

  2. Install Ubuntu OpenSSH Server.

    sudo apt install openssh-client
    sudo apt install openssh-server
    
  3. Edit the sshd_config file at location /etc/ssh.

    Make sure password authentication is enabled:

    PasswordAuthentication yes
    

    Optionally, enable key authentication:

    PubkeyAuthentication yes
    

    For more information about creating SSH keys on Ubuntu, see the manpage for ssh-keygen.

    Add a PowerShell subsystem entry:

    Subsystem powershell /usr/bin/pwsh -sshs -NoLogo
    

    Note

    The default location of the PowerShell executable is /usr/bin/pwsh. The location can vary depending on how you installed PowerShell.

    Optionally, enable key authentication:

    PubkeyAuthentication yes
    
  4. Restart the ssh service.

    sudo service ssh restart
    

Set up on a macOS computer

  1. Install the latest version of PowerShell. For more information, Installing PowerShell Core on macOS.

    Make sure SSH Remoting is enabled by following these steps:

    1. Open System Preferences.
    2. Click on Sharing.
    3. Check Remote Login to set Remote Login: On.
    4. Allow access to the appropriate users.
  2. Edit the sshd_config file at location /private/etc/ssh/sshd_config.

    Use a text editor such as nano:

    sudo nano /private/etc/ssh/sshd_config
    

    Make sure password authentication is enabled:

    PasswordAuthentication yes
    

    Add a PowerShell subsystem entry:

    Subsystem powershell /usr/local/bin/pwsh -sshs -NoLogo
    

    Note

    The default location of the PowerShell executable is /usr/local/bin/pwsh. The location can vary depending on how you installed PowerShell.

    Optionally, enable key authentication:

    PubkeyAuthentication yes
    
  3. Restart the sshd service.

    sudo launchctl stop com.openssh.sshd
    sudo launchctl start com.openssh.sshd
    

Authentication

PowerShell remoting over SSH relies on the authentication exchange between the SSH client and SSH service and doesn't implement any authentication schemes itself. The result is that any configured authentication schemes including multi-factor authentication are handled by SSH and independent of PowerShell. For example, you can configure the SSH service to require public key authentication and a one-time password for added security. Configuration of multi-factor authentication is outside the scope of this documentation. Refer to documentation for SSH on how to correctly configure multi-factor authentication and validate it works outside of PowerShell before attempting to use it with PowerShell remoting.

Note

Users retain the same privileges in remote sessions. Meaning, Administrators have access to an elevated shell, and normal users will not.

PowerShell remoting example

The easiest way to test remoting is to try it on a single computer. In this example, we create a remote session back to the same Linux computer. We're using PowerShell cmdlets interactively so we see prompts from SSH asking to verify the host computer and prompting for a password. You can do the same thing on a Windows computer to ensure remoting is working. Then, remote between computers by changing the host name.

# Linux to Linux
#
$session = New-PSSession -HostName UbuntuVM1 -UserName TestUser
The authenticity of host 'UbuntuVM1 (9.129.17.107)' cannot be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:2kCbnhT2dUE6WCGgVJ8Hyfu1z2wE4lifaJXLO7QJy0Y.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?
TestUser@UbuntuVM1s password:
$session
 Id Name   ComputerName    ComputerType    State    ConfigurationName     Availability
 -- ----   ------------    ------------    -----    -----------------     ------------
  1 SSH1   UbuntuVM1       RemoteMachine   Opened   DefaultShell             Available
Enter-PSSession $session
[UbuntuVM1]: PS /home/TestUser> uname -a
Linux TestUser-UbuntuVM1 4.2.0-42-generic 49~16.04.1-Ubuntu SMP Wed Jun 29 20:22:11 UTC 2016 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

[UbuntuVM1]: PS /home/TestUser> Exit-PSSession
Invoke-Command $session -ScriptBlock { Get-Process powershell }
Handles  NPM(K)    PM(K)      WS(K)     CPU(s)     Id  SI ProcessName                    PSComputerName
-------  ------    -----      -----     ------     --  -- -----------                    --------------
      0       0        0         19       3.23  10635 635 powershell                     UbuntuVM1
      0       0        0         21       4.92  11033 017 powershell                     UbuntuVM1
      0       0        0         20       3.07  11076 076 powershell                     UbuntuVM1
#
# Linux to Windows
#
Enter-PSSession -HostName WinVM1 -UserName PTestName
PTestName@WinVM1s password:
[WinVM1]: PS C:\Users\PTestName\Documents> cmd /c ver
Microsoft Windows [Version 10.0.10586]
#
# Windows to Windows
#
C:\Users\PSUser\Documents>pwsh.exe
PowerShell
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
$session = New-PSSession -HostName WinVM2 -UserName PSRemoteUser
The authenticity of host 'WinVM2 (10.13.37.3)' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is SHA256:kSU6slAROyQVMEynVIXAdxSiZpwDBigpAF/TXjjWjmw.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?
Warning: Permanently added 'WinVM2,10.13.37.3' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
PSRemoteUser@WinVM2's password:
$session
 Id Name            ComputerName    ComputerType    State         ConfigurationName     Availability
 -- ----            ------------    ------------    -----         -----------------     ------------
  1 SSH1            WinVM2          RemoteMachine   Opened        DefaultShell             Available
Enter-PSSession -Session $session
[WinVM2]: PS C:\Users\PSRemoteUser\Documents> $PSVersionTable

Name                           Value
----                           -----
PSEdition                      Core
PSCompatibleVersions           {1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0...}
SerializationVersion           1.1.0.1
BuildVersion                   3.0.0.0
CLRVersion
PSVersion                      6.0.0-alpha
WSManStackVersion              3.0
PSRemotingProtocolVersion      2.3
GitCommitId                    v6.0.0-alpha.17


[WinVM2]: PS C:\Users\PSRemoteUser\Documents>

Limitations

  • The sudo command doesn't work in a remote session to a Linux computer.

  • PSRemoting over SSH does not support Profiles and does not have access to $PROFILE. Once in a session, you can load a profile by dot sourcing the profile with the full filepath. This is not related to SSH profiles. You can configure the SSH server to use PowerShell as the default shell and to load a profile through SSH. See the SSH documentation for more information.

  • Prior to PowerShell 7.1, remoting over SSH did not support second-hop remote sessions. This capability was limited to sessions using WinRM. PowerShell 7.1 allows Enter-PSSession and Enter-PSHostProcess to work from within any interactive remote session.

See also

Installing PowerShell Core on Linux

Installing PowerShell Core on macOS

Installing PowerShell Core on Windows

Manage Windows with OpenSSH

Managing OpenSSH Keys

Ubuntu SSH