How to create custom machine configuration policy definitions


Azure Policy Guest Configuration is now called Azure Automanage Machine Configuration. Learn more about the recent renaming of Microsoft configuration management services.

Before you begin, it's a good idea to read the overview page for machine configuration, and the details about machine configuration policy effects How to configure remediation options for machine configuration.


The machine configuration extension is required for Azure virtual machines. To deploy the extension at scale across all machines, assign the following policy initiative: Deploy prerequisites to enable machine configuration policies on virtual machines

To use machine configuration packages that apply configurations, Azure VM guest configuration extension version 1.29.24 or later, or Arc agent 1.10.0 or later, is required.

Custom machine configuration policy definitions using either AuditIfNotExists or DeployIfNotExists are now Generally Available.

Use the following steps to create your own policies that audit compliance or manage the state of Azure or Arc-enabled machines.

Install PowerShell 7 and required PowerShell modules

First, make sure you've followed all steps on the page How to set up a machine configuration authoring environment to install the required version of PowerShell for your OS and the GuestConfiguration module.

Create and publish a machine configuration package artifact

If you haven't already, follow all steps on the page How to create custom machine configuration package artifacts to create and publish a custom machine configuration package and How to test machine configuration package artifacts to validate the machine configuration package locally in your development environment.

Policy requirements for machine configuration

The policy definition metadata section must include two properties for the machine configuration service to automate provisioning and reporting of guest configuration assignments. The category property must be set to "Guest Configuration" and a section named guestConfiguration must contain information about the machine configuration assignment. The New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet creates this text automatically.

The following example demonstrates the metadata section that is automatically created by New-GuestConfigurationPolicy.

    "metadata": {
      "category": "Guest Configuration",
      "guestConfiguration": {
        "name": "test",
        "version": "1.0.0",
        "contentType": "Custom",
        "contentUri": "CUSTOM-URI-HERE",
        "contentHash": "CUSTOM-HASH-VALUE-HERE",
        "configurationParameter": {}

The category property must be set to "Guest Configuration". If the definition effect is set to "DeployIfNotExists", the then section must contain deployment details about a machine configuration assignment. The New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet creates this text automatically.

Create an Azure Policy definition

Once a machine configuration custom policy package has been created and uploaded, create the machine configuration policy definition. The New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet takes a custom policy package and creates a policy definition.

The PolicyId parameter of New-GuestConfigurationPolicy requires a unique string. A globally unique identifier (GUID) is required. For new definitions, generate a new GUID using the cmdlet New-GUID. When making updates to the definition, use the same unique string for PolicyId to ensure the correct definition is updated.

Parameters of the New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet:

  • PolicyId: A GUID.
  • ContentUri: Public HTTP(s) URI of machine configuration content package.
  • DisplayName: Policy display name.
  • Description: Policy description.
  • Parameter: Policy parameters provided in hashtable format.
  • PolicyVersion: Policy version.
  • Path: Destination path where policy definitions are created.
  • Platform: Target platform (Windows/Linux) for machine configuration policy and content package.
  • Mode: (ApplyAndMonitor, ApplyAndAutoCorrect, Audit) choose if the policy should audit or deploy the configuration. Default is "Audit".
  • Tag adds one or more tag filters to the policy definition
  • Category sets the category metadata field in the policy definition

For more information about the "Mode" parameter, see the page How to configure remediation options for machine configuration.

Create a policy definition that audits using a custom configuration package, in a specified path:

$PolicyConfig      = @{
  PolicyId      = '_My GUID_'
  ContentUri    = $contenturi
  DisplayName   = 'My audit policy'
  Description   = 'My audit policy'
  Path          = './policies/auditIfNotExists.json'
  Platform      = 'Windows'
  PolicyVersion = 1.0.0

New-GuestConfigurationPolicy @PolicyConfig

Create a policy definition that deploys a configuration using a custom configuration package, in a specified path:

$PolicyConfig2      = @{
  PolicyId      = '_My GUID_'
  ContentUri    = $contenturi
  DisplayName   = 'My audit policy'
  Description   = 'My audit policy'
  Path          = './policies/deployIfNotExists.json'
  Platform      = 'Windows'
  PolicyVersion = 1.0.0
  Mode          = 'ApplyAndAutoCorrect'

New-GuestConfigurationPolicy @PolicyConfig2

The cmdlet output returns an object containing the definition display name and path of the policy files. Definition JSON files that create audit policy definitions have the name auditIfNotExists.json and files that create policy definitions to apply configurations have the name deployIfNotExists.json.

Filtering machine configuration policies using tags

The policy definitions created by cmdlets in the Guest Configuration can optionally include a filter for tags. The Tag parameter of New-GuestConfigurationPolicy supports an array of hashtables containing individual tag entires. The tags are added to the If section of the policy definition and can't be modified by a policy assignment.

An example snippet of a policy definition that filters for tags is given below.

"if": {
  "allOf" : [
      "allOf": [
          "field": "tags.Owner",
          "equals": "BusinessUnit"
          "field": "tags.Role",
          "equals": "Web"
      // Original machine configuration content

Using parameters in custom machine configuration policy definitions

Machine configuration supports overriding properties of a Configuration at run time. This feature means that the values in the MOF file in the package don't have to be considered static. The override values are provided through Azure Policy and don't change how the Configurations are authored or compiled.

The cmdlets New-GuestConfigurationPolicy and Get-GuestConfigurationPackageComplianceStatus include a parameter named Parameter. This parameter takes a hashtable definition including all details about each parameter and creates the required sections of each file used for the Azure Policy definition.

The following example creates a policy definition to audit a service, where the user selects from a list at the time of policy assignment.

# This DSC resource definition...
Service 'UserSelectedNameExample'
    Name = 'ParameterValue'
    Ensure = 'Present'
    State = 'Running'

# ...can be converted to a hash table:
$PolicyParameterInfo     = @(
    # Policy parameter name (mandatory)
    Name                 = 'ServiceName'
    # Policy parameter display name (mandatory)
    DisplayName          = 'windows service name.'
    # Policy parameter description (optional)
    Description          = 'Name of the windows service to be audited.'
    # DSC configuration resource type (mandatory)
    ResourceType         = 'Service'
    # DSC configuration resource id (mandatory)
    ResourceId           = 'UserSelectedNameExample'
    # DSC configuration resource property name (mandatory)
    ResourcePropertyName = 'Name'
    # Policy parameter default value (optional)
    DefaultValue         = 'winrm'
    # Policy parameter allowed values (optional)
    AllowedValues        = @('BDESVC','TermService','wuauserv','winrm')

# ...and then passed into the `New-GuestConfigurationPolicy` cmdlet
$PolicyParam = @{
  PolicyId      = 'My GUID'
  ContentUri    = $contenturi
  DisplayName   = 'Audit Windows Service.'
  Description   = "Audit if a Windows Service isn't enabled on Windows machine."
  Path          = '.\policies\auditIfNotExists.json'
  Parameter     = $PolicyParameterInfo
  PolicyVersion = 1.0.0

New-GuestConfigurationPolicy @PolicyParam

Publish the Azure Policy definition

Finally, you can publish the policy definitions using the New-AzPolicyDefinition cmdlet. The below commands will publish your machine configuration policy to the policy center.

To run the New-AzPolicyDefinition command, you need access to create policy definitions in Azure. The specific authorization requirements are documented in the Azure Policy Overview page. The recommended built-in role is Resource Policy Contributor.

New-AzPolicyDefinition -Name 'mypolicydefinition' -Policy '.\policies\auditIfNotExists.json'

Or, if this is a deploy if not exist policy (DINE) please use

New-AzPolicyDefinition -Name 'mypolicydefinition' -Policy '.\policies\deployIfNotExists.json'

With the policy definition created in Azure, the last step is to assign the definition. See how to assign the definition with Portal, Azure CLI, and Azure PowerShell.

Policy lifecycle

If you would like to release an update to the policy definition, make the change for both the guest configuration package and the Azure Policy definition details.


The version property of the machine configuration assignment only effects packages that are hosted by Microsoft. The best practice for versioning custom content is to include the version in the file name.

First, when running New-GuestConfigurationPackage, specify a name for the package that makes it unique from previous versions. You can include a version number in the name such as PackageName_1.0.0. The number in this example is only used to make the package unique, not to specify that the package should be considered newer or older than other packages.

Second, update the parameters used with the New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet following each of the following explanations.

  • Version: When you run the New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet, you must specify a version number greater than what is currently published.
  • contentUri: When you run the New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet, you must specify a URI to the location of the package. Including a package version in the file name will ensure the value of this property changes in each release.
  • contentHash: This property is updated automatically by the New-GuestConfigurationPolicy cmdlet. It's a hash value of the package created by New-GuestConfigurationPackage. The property must be correct for the .zip file you publish. If only the contentUri property is updated, the Extension won't accept the content package.

The easiest way to release an updated package is to repeat the process described in this article and provide an updated version number. That process guarantees all properties have been correctly updated.

Next steps