Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio Code

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeWindows 10 Always On VPN is designed to be implemented and managed using a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform such as Microsoft Intune. With Intune specifically, there is an option to configure an Always On VPN profile in the UI. However, it provides only limited support and does not include all settings and options required for many deployments. Crucially, IKEv2 advanced security settings cannot be configured using the Intune portal. Also, there is currently no option for configuring a device tunnel with Intune. In these scenarios the administrator must manually create a ProfileXML file and provision it using Intune, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or PowerShell.

ProfileXML

ProfileXML includes all settings that define the Always On VPN connection. The options and settings available are documented in the VPNv2 Configuration Service Provider (CSP) reference on Microsoft’s web site. ProfileXML is formatted using elements and settings within those elements. The formatting and syntax are critical to ensuring proper operation. Any error in syntax or formatting can result in an error, such as those described here.

XML Readability

Formatting is also important for readability, which is often helpful when reviewing configuration settings or troubleshooting syntax errors. For example, an element may be defined correctly but may be nested wrong. Often XML files are created with all text being left-justified, or with everything on a single line, making the content difficult to read. Using a file editor that recognizes XML files can be beneficial.

Visual Studio Code

To create, edit, and review ProfileXML it is recommended that a proper editing tool be used. I recommend using Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code. It is free, and it is especially helpful when editing XML files. Visual Studio Code can be downloaded here.

XML Tools VS Code Plug-In

To further enhance Visual Studio Code’s XML editing and formatting capabilities I recommend installing the XML Tools plug-in. This tool extends the native features of VS code for handling XML files. One important thing it adds is a formatting feature that will make your ProfileXML much easier to manage. The XML Tools plug-in for VS Code can be downloaded here.

XML Formatting

Once the XML Tools plug-in for VS code has been installed, formatting XML for readability is straightforward. Simply right-click anywhere in the document and choose Format Document.

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeOnce complete, the XML document will be formatted with proper indenting and nesting of elements, as shown here.

Always On VPN ProfileXML Editing and Formatting with Visual Studio CodeSummary

Formatting and syntax must be strictly adhered to when creating a ProfileXML file for Windows 10 Always On VPN. Using Visual Studio Code with the XML Tools plug-in allow the administrator to create and edit XML with proper formatting, which greatly improves readability and allows for streamlined configuration review and troubleshooting.

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Colin, an avid reader of the articles on this web site for this tip. Thanks, Colin! 🙂

Additional Information

Always On VPN and DirectAccess Scripts and Sample Files on GitHub

Always On VPN IKEv2 Security Configuration

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Step-by-Step Configuration using PowerShell

Always On VPN Hands-On Training Classes in 2019

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in Windows 10 UI

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in Windows 10 UIUnlike DirectAccess, Always On VPN connections are provisioned to the user, not the machine. Beginning with Windows 10 release 1709 Microsoft introduced the device tunnel option to provide feature parity with DirectAccess. The device tunnel provides pre-logon network connectivity to support important deployment scenarios such as logging on without cached credentials and unattended remote systems management.

Device Tunnel Configuration

Guidance for creating and deploying a device tunnel connection can be found here. It’s important to note that the device tunnel is always on by default. Also, there can only be a single device tunnel configured per device. You must remove an existing device tunnel before configuring a new one.

Known Issues

After configuring a Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel the administrator may notice two anomalies. First, the device tunnel is missing in the Windows UI after it is created. Second, viewing the status of the device tunnel connection using PowerShell indicates the connection is “disconnected” even though it is connected.

Device Tunnel Missing

As you can see below, event though both a device and user tunnel have been provisioned, the Windows UI reports only a single Always On VPN connection, that being the user connection.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in Windows 10 UI

However, the device tunnel does appear in the Network Connections control panel applet (ncpa.cpl), as shown here.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in Windows 10 UI

This is expected and by design. The device tunnel is not displayed to the user in the Windows UI as it is provisioned to the machine, not the user. It appears on the Control Panel because the applet is capable of enumerating both user and system connections.

Device Tunnel Disconnected

The status of the Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel connection can be viewed by running the Get-VpnConnection -AllUserConnection PowerShell command. However, at the time of this writing, PowerShell always reports the connection status as “Disconnected”. This appears to be a bug; one which Microsoft is hopefully working to address.

Always On VPN Device Tunnel Missing in Windows 10 UI

Summary

The Windows 10 Always On VPN device tunnel option allows administrators to enable scenarios previously supported with DirectAccess, including logging on without cached credentials and unattended remote support. Not all deployments require a device tunnel, but it is an important option available to administrators to address specific use cases.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel Configuration using PowerShell

Windows 10 Always On VPN RasMan Device Tunnel Failure

Deleting a Windows 10 Always On VPN Device Tunnel

 

PowerShell Recommended Reading for DirectAccess and Always On VPN Administrators

PowerShell Recommended Reading for DirectAccess and Always On VPN AdministratorsPowerShell is an important skill for administrators supporting Microsoft workloads including DirectAccess and Always On VPN. Using PowerShell to install required roles and features is much simpler and quicker than using the Graphical User Interface (GUI), with only a single command required to accomplish this task. Some settings aren’t exposed in the GUI and can only be configured using PowerShell. In addition, PowerShell makes the task of troubleshooting DirectAccess and Always On VPN much easier.

Learn PowerShell

One of the best resources for learning PowerShell is the book Learn PowerShell in a Month of Lunches authored by Microsoft MVPs and recognized PowerShell experts Don Jones and Jeff Hicks. This book, now in its third edition, should be considered essential reading for all Microsoft administrators. Click here for more details.

PowerShell Recommended Reading for DirectAccess and Always On VPN Administrators

Learn PowerShell Scripting

Recently Don and Jeff released a new book entitled Learn PowerShell Scripting in a Month of Lunches. This new book builds upon the skills learned in their first title by focusing on the development of PowerShell scripts to automate many common administrative tasks. PowerShell scripts can also be used to build custom, reusable tools to more effectively manage and monitor Microsoft workloads. Click here for more details.

PowerShell Recommended Reading for DirectAccess and Always On VPN Administrators

PowerShell for the Future

In my experience, far too many administrators today lack crucial PowerShell abilities. Don’t get left behind! PowerShell is rapidly becoming a required skill, so get these books and start learning PowerShell today!

Additional Resources

Top 5 DirectAccess Troubleshooting PowerShell Commands

Configure Windows Server Core to use PowerShell by Default

 

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