How to create custom machine configuration package artifacts

Before you begin, it's a good idea to read the overview page for machine configuration.

Machine configuration uses Desired State Configuration (DSC) when auditing and configuring both Windows and Linux. The DSC configuration defines the condition that the machine should be in.


Custom packages that audit the state of an environment and apply configurations are in Generally Available (GA) support status. However, the following limitations apply:

To use machine configuration packages that apply configurations, Azure VM guest configuration extension version 1.26.24 or later, or Arc agent 1.10.0 or later, is required.

The GuestConfiguration module is only available on Ubuntu 18 and later. However, the package and policies produced by the module can be used on any Linux distribution and version supported in Azure or Arc.

Testing packages on macOS isn't available.

Don't use secrets or confidential information in custom content packages.

Use the following steps to create your own configuration for managing the state of an Azure or non-Azure machine.

Install PowerShell 7 and required PowerShell modules

First, follow the steps in How to set up a machine configuration authoring environment. Those steps help you to install the required version of PowerShell for your OS, the GuestConfiguration module, and the PSDesiredStateConfiguration module.

Author a configuration

Before you create a configuration package, author and compile a DSC configuration. Example configurations are available for Windows and Linux.


When compiling configurations for Windows, use PSDesiredStateConfiguration version 2.0.7 (the stable release). When compiling configurations for Linux install the prerelease version 3.0.0.

This example configuration is for Windows machines. It configures the machine to create the MC_ENV_EXAMPLE environment variable in the Process and Machine scopes. The value of the variable sets to 'This was set by machine configuration'.

Configuration MyConfig {
    Import-DscResource -Name 'Environment' -ModuleName 'PSDscResources'
    Environment MachineConfigurationExample {
        Name   = 'MC_ENV_EXAMPLE'
        Value  = 'This was set by machine configuration'
        Ensure = 'Present'
        Target = @('Process', 'Machine')


With that definition saved in the MyConfig.ps1 script file, you can run the script to compile the configuration.

. .\MyConfig.ps1
    Directory: C:\dsc\MyConfig

Mode                 LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                 -------------         ------ ----
-a---           5/16/2023 10:39 AM           1080 localhost.mof

The configuration is compiled into the localhost.mof file in the MyConfig folder in the current working directory. Rename localhost.mof to the name you want to use as the package name, such as MyConfig.mof.

Rename-Item -Path .\MyConfig\localhost.mof -NewName MyConfig.mof -PassThru
    Directory: C:\dsc\MyConfig

Mode                 LastWriteTime         Length Name
----                 -------------         ------ ----
-a---           5/16/2023 10:40 AM           1080 MyConfig.mof


This example shows how to author and compile a configuration for a Windows machine. For Linux, you need to create a custom DSC resource module using PowerShell classes. The article Writing a custom DSC resource with PowerShell classes includes a full example of a custom resource and configuration, tested with machine configuration.

The rest of this article applies to configurations defined for Linux and Windows machines except where it mentions platform-specific considerations.

Create a configuration package artifact

Once the MOF is compiled, the supporting files must be packaged together. The completed package is used by machine configuration to create the Azure Policy definitions.

The New-GuestConfigurationPackage cmdlet creates the package. Modules required by the configuration must be in available in $Env:PSModulePath for the development environment so the commands in the module can add them to the package.

Parameters of the New-GuestConfigurationPackage cmdlet when creating Windows content:

  • Name: machine configuration package name.
  • Configuration: Compiled DSC configuration document full path.
  • Path: Output folder path. This parameter is optional. If not specified, the package is created in current directory.
  • Type: (Audit, AuditandSet) Determines whether the configuration should only audit or if the configuration should change the state of the machine if it's out of the desired state. The default is Audit.

This step doesn't require elevation. The Force parameter is used to overwrite existing packages, if you run the command more than once.

The following commands create a package artifact:

# Create a package that will only audit compliance
$params = @{
    Name          = 'MyConfig'
    Configuration = './MyConfig/MyConfig.mof'
    Type          = 'Audit'
    Force         = $true
New-GuestConfigurationPackage @params
# Create a package that will audit and apply the configuration (Set)
$params = @{
    Name          = 'MyConfig'
    Configuration = './MyConfig/MyConfig.mof'
    Type          = 'AuditAndSet'
    Force         = $true
New-GuestConfigurationPackage @params

An object is returned with the Name and Path of the created package.

Name     Path
----     ----
MyConfig C:\dsc\

Expected contents of a machine configuration artifact

The completed package is used by machine configuration to create the Azure Policy definitions. The package consists of:

  • The compiled DSC configuration as a MOF
  • Modules folder
    • GuestConfiguration module
    • DscNativeResources module
    • DSC resource modules required by the MOF
  • A metaconfig file that stores the package type and version

The PowerShell cmdlet creates the package .zip file. No root level folder or version folder is required. The package format must be a .zip file and can't exceed a total size of 100 MB when uncompressed.

You can expand the archive to inspect it by using the Expand-Archive cmdlet.

Expand-Archive -Path .\ -DestinationPath MyConfigZip

You can get the total size of the uncompressed package with PowerShell.

Get-ChildItem -Recurse -Path .\MyConfigZip |
    Measure-Object -Sum Length |
    ForEach-Object -Process {
        $Size = [math]::Round(($_.Sum / 1MB), 2)
        "$Size MB"

Extending machine configuration with third-party tools

The artifact packages for machine configuration can be extended to include third-party tools. Extending machine configuration requires development of two components.

  • A Desired State Configuration resource that handles all activity related to managing the third-party tool
    • Install
    • Invoke
    • Convert output
  • Content in the correct format for the tool to natively consume

The DSC resource requires custom development if a community solution doesn't already exist. Community solutions can be discovered by searching the PowerShell Gallery for tag GuestConfiguration.


Machine configuration extensibility is a "bring your own license" scenario. Ensure you have met the terms and conditions of any third party tools before use.

After the DSC resource has been installed in the development environment, use the FilesToInclude parameter for New-GuestConfigurationPackage to include content for the third-party platform in the content artifact.

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