Changes to behavior in PowerShell Desired State Configuration for machine configuration

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

A video walk-through of this document is available.

Machine configuration uses PowerShell Desired State Configuration (PSDSC) version 3 to audit and configure machines. The DSC configuration defines the state that the machine should be in. There's many notable differences in how DSC is implemented in machine configuration.

Machine configuration uses PowerShell 7 cross platform

Machine configuration is designed so the experience of managing Windows and Linux can be consistent. Across both operating system environments, someone with PowerShell DSC knowledge can create and publish configurations using scripting skills.

Machine configuration only uses PowerShell DSC version 3 and doesn't rely on the previous implementation of DSC for Linux or the nx* providers included in that repository.

As of version 1.26.33, machine configuration operates in PowerShell 7.1.2 for Windows and PowerShell 7.2 preview 6 for Linux. Starting with version 7.2, the PSDesiredStateConfiguration module moved from being part of the PowerShell installation and is instead installed as a module from the PowerShell Gallery.

Multiple configurations

Machine configuration supports assigning multiple configurations to the same machine. There's no special steps required within the operating system of machine configuration extension. There's no need to configure partial configurations.

Dependencies are managed per-configuration

When a configuration is packaged using the available tools, the required dependencies for the configuration are included in a .zip file. Machines extract the contents into a unique folder for each configuration. The agent delivered by the machine configuration extension creates a dedicated PowerShell session for each configuration. It uses a $Env:PSModulePath that limits automatic module loading to only the path where the package was extracted.

This change has multiple benefits:

  • It's possible to use different module versions for each configuration, on the same machine.
  • When a configuration is no longer needed on a machine, the agent safely deletes the entire folder where the configuration was extracted. You don't need to manage shared dependencies across configurations.
  • It's not required to manage multiple versions of any module in a central service.

Artifacts are managed as packages

The Azure Automation State Configuration feature includes artifact management for modules and configuration scripts. Once both are published to the service, the script can be compiled to MOF format. Similarly, the Windows Pull Server also required managing configurations and modules at the web service instance. By contrast, the DSC extension has a simplified model where all artifacts are packaged together and stored in a location accessible from the target machine using an HTTPS request. Azure Blob Storage is the popular option for hosting the artifacts.

Machine configuration only uses the simplified model where all artifacts are packaged together and accessed from the target machine over HTTPS. There's no need to publish modules, scripts, or compile in the service. One change is that the package should always include a compiled MOF. It isn't possible to include a script file in the package and compile on the target machine.

Maximum size of custom configuration package

In Azure Automation State Configuration, DSC configurations were limited in size. Machine configuration supports a total package size of 100 MB before compression. There's no specific limit on the size of the MOF file within the package.

Configuration mode is set in the package artifact

When you create the configuration package, the mode is set using the following options:

  • Audit - Verifies the compliance of a machine. No changes are made.
  • AuditandSet - Verifies and remediates the compliance state of the machine. Changes are made if the machine isn't compliant.

The mode is set in the package rather than in the Local Configuration Manager service because each configuration may be applied with a different mode.

Parameter support through Azure Resource Manager

Parameters set by the configurationParameter property array in machine configuration assignments overwrite the static text within a configuration MOF file when the file is stored on a machine. Parameters enable customization and an operator to control changes from the service API without needing to run commands within the machine.

Parameters in Azure Policy that pass values to machine configuration assignments must be string type. It isn't possible to pass arrays through parameters, even if the DSC resource supports arrays.

Trigger Set from outside machine

A challenge in previous versions of DSC has been correcting drift at scale without much custom code and reliance on WinRM remote connections. Guest configuration solves this problem. Users of machine configuration have control over drift correction through Remediation On Demand.

Sequence includes Get method

When machine configuration audits or configures a machine the same sequence of events is used for both Windows and Linux. The notable change in behavior is that the Get method is called by the service to return details about the state of the machine.

  1. The agent first runs Test to determine whether the configuration is in the correct state.
  2. If the package is set to Audit, the boolean value returned by the function determines if the Azure Resource Manager status for the Guest Assignment should be Compliant or NonCompliant.
  3. If the package is set to AuditandSet, the boolean value determines whether to remediate the machine by applying the configuration using the Set method. If the Test method returns $false, Set is run. If Test returns $true, then Set isn't run.
  4. Last, the provider runs Get to return the current state of each setting so details are available both about why a machine isn't compliant and to confirm that the current state is compliant.

Special requirements for Get

The DSC Get method has special requirements for machine configuration that haven't been needed for DSC.

  • The hash table that's returned should include a property named Reasons.
  • The Reasons property must be an array.
  • Each item in the array should be a hash table with keys named Code and Phrase.
  • No values other than the hash table should be returned.

The Reasons property is used by the service to standardize how compliance information is presented. You can think of each item in Reasons as a message about how the resource is or isn't compliant. The property is an array because a resource could be out of compliance for more than one reason.

The properties Code and Phrase are expected by the service. When authoring a custom resource, set the text you would like to show as the reason the resource isn't compliant as the value for Phrase. Code has specific formatting requirements so reporting can clearly display information about the resource used to do the audit. This solution makes guest configuration extensible. Any command could be run as long as the output can be returned as a string value for the Phrase property.

  • Code (string): The name of the resource, repeated, and then a short name with no spaces as an identifier for the reason. These three values should be colon-delimited with no spaces.
    • An example would be registry:registry:keynotpresent
  • Phrase (string): Human-readable text to explain why the setting isn't compliant.
    • An example would be The registry key $key isn't present on the machine.
$reasons = @()
$reasons += @{
  Code   = 'Name:Name:ReasonIdentifer'
  Phrase = 'Explain why the setting is not compliant'
return @{
    reasons = $reasons

When using command-line tools to get information that returns in Get, you might find the tool returns output you didn't expect. Even though you capture the output in PowerShell, output might also have been written to standard error. To avoid this issue, consider redirecting output to null.

The Reasons property embedded class

In script-based resources (Windows only), the Reasons class is included in the schema MOF file as follows.

class Reason
  [Read] String Phrase;
  [Read] String Code;

[ClassVersion(""), FriendlyName("ResourceName")]
class ResourceName : OMI_BaseResource
  [Key, Description("Example description")] String Example;
  [Read, EmbeddedInstance("Reason")] String Reasons[];

In class-based resources (Windows and Linux), the Reason class is included in the PowerShell module as follows. Linux is case-sensitive, so the C in Code and P in Phrase must be capitalized.

enum ensure {

class Reason {
  [string] $Code

  [string] $Phrase

class Example {

  [ensure] $ensure

  [Reason[]] $Reasons

  [Example] Get() {
    # return current current state

  [void] Set() {
    # set the state

  [bool] Test() {
    # check whether state is correct

If the resource has required properties, those properties should also be returned by Get in parallel with the Reason class. If Reason isn't included, the service includes a "catch-all" behavior that compares the values input to Get and the values returned by Get, and provides a detailed comparison as Reason.

Configuration names

The name of the custom configuration must be consistent everywhere. These items must have the same name:

  • The .zip file for the content package
  • The configuration name in the MOF file
  • The machine configuration assignment name in the Azure Resource Manager template

Running commands in Windows PowerShell

Running Windows modules in PowerShell can be achieved using the below pattern in your DSC resources. The below pattern temporarily sets the PSModulePath to run Windows PowerShell instead of PowerShell to discover required modules available in Windows PowerShell. This sample is a snippet adapted from the DSC resource used in the Secure Web Server built-in DSC resource.

This pattern temporarily sets the PowerShell execution path to run from Windows PowerShell and discovers the required cmdlet, which in this case is Get-WindowsFeature. The output of the command is returned and then standardized for compatibility requirements. Once the cmdlet has been executed, $env:PSModulePath is set back to the original path.

# The Get-WindowsFeature cmdlet needs to be run through Windows PowerShell
# rather than through PowerShell, which is what the Policy engine runs.
$null = Invoke-Command -ScriptBlock {
    param ([string]$FileName)

    $InitialPSModulePath   = $env:PSModulePath
    $WindowsPSFolder       = "$env:SystemRoot\System32\WindowsPowershell\v1.0"
    $WindowsPSExe          = "$WindowsPSFolder\powershell.exe"
    $WindowsPSModuleFolder = "$WindowsPSFolder\Modules"
    $GetFeatureScriptBlock = {

        if (Get-Command -Name Get-WindowsFeature -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue) {
            Get-WindowsFeature -Name Web-Server |
                ConvertTo-Json |
                Out-File $FileName
        } else {
            Add-Content -Path $FileName -Value 'NotServer'

    try {
        # Set env variable to include Windows Powershell modules so we can find
        # the Get-WindowsFeature cmdlet.
        $env:PSModulePath = $WindowsPSModuleFolder
        # Call Windows PowerShell to get the info about the Web-Server feature
        & $WindowsPSExe -command $WindowsFeatureScriptBlock -args $FileName
    } finally {
        # Reset the env variable even if there's an error.
        $env:PSModulePath = $InitialPSModulePath

Common DSC features not available during machine configuration public preview

During public preview, machine configuration doesn't support specifying cross-machine dependencies using WaitFor* resources. It isn't possible for one machine to watch and wait for another machine to reach a state before progressing.

Reboot handling isn't available in the public preview release of machine configuration, including, the $global:DSCMachineStatus isn't available. Configurations aren't able to reboot a node during or at the end of a configuration.

Known compatibility issues with supported modules

The PsDscResources module in the PowerShell Gallery and the PSDesiredStateConfiguration module that ships with Windows are supported by Microsoft and have been a commonly used set of resources for DSC. Until the PSDscResources module is updated for DSCv3, be aware of the following known compatibility issues.

  • Don't use resources from the PSDesiredStateConfiguration module that ships with Windows. Instead, switch to PSDscResources.
  • Don't use the WindowsFeature, WindowsFeatureSet, WindowsOptionalFeature, and WindowsOptionalFeatureSet resources in PsDscResources. There's a known issue loading the DISM module in PowerShell 7.1.3 on Windows Server that requires an update.

The nx* resources for Linux that were included in the DSC for Linux repository were written in a combination of the languages C and Python. Because the path forward for DSC on Linux is to use PowerShell, the existing nx* resources aren't compatible with DSCv3. Until a new module containing supported resources for Linux is available, it's required to author custom resources.

Coexistence with DSC version 3 and previous versions

DSC version 3 in machine configuration can coexist with older versions installed in Windows and Linux. The implementations are separate. However, there's no conflict detection across DSC versions, so don't try to manage the same settings.

Next steps