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Configure sshd on MSYS2 and run it as a Windows service
# — configure sshd on MSYS2 and run it as a Windows service
# Please report issues and/or improvements to Sam Hocevar <>
# Prerequisites:
# — MSYS2 itself:
# — admin tools: pacman -S openssh cygrunsrv mingw-w64-x86_64-editrights
# This script is a cleaned up and improved version of the procedure initially
# found at
# Changelog:
# 24 Aug 2015 — run server with -e to redirect logs to /var/log/sshd.log
set -e
# Configuration
PRIV_NAME="Privileged user for sshd"
UNPRIV_USER=sshd # DO NOT CHANGE; this username is hardcoded in the openssh code
UNPRIV_NAME="Privilege separation user for sshd"
# Check installation sanity
if ! /mingw64/bin/editrights -h >/dev/null; then
echo "ERROR: Missing 'editrights'. Try: pacman -S mingw-w64-x86_64-editrights."
exit 1
if ! cygrunsrv -v >/dev/null; then
echo "ERROR: Missing 'cygrunsrv'. Try: pacman -S cygrunsrv."
exit 1
if ! ssh-keygen -A; then
echo "ERROR: Missing 'ssh-keygen'. Try: pacman -S openssh."
exit 1
# The privileged cyg_server user
# Some random password; this is only needed internally by cygrunsrv and
# is limited to 14 characters by Windows (lol)
tmp_pass="$(tr -dc 'a-zA-Z0-9' < /dev/urandom | dd count=14 bs=1 2>/dev/null)"
# Create user
add="$(if ! net user "${PRIV_USER}" >/dev/null; then echo "//add"; fi)"
if ! net user "${PRIV_USER}" "${tmp_pass}" ${add} //fullname:"${PRIV_NAME}" \
//homedir:"$(cygpath -w ${EMPTY_DIR})" //yes; then
echo "ERROR: Unable to create Windows user ${PRIV_USER}"
exit 1
# Add user to the Administrators group if necessary
admingroup="$(mkgroup -l | awk -F: '{if ($2 == "S-1-5-32-544") print $1;}')"
if ! (net localgroup "${admingroup}" | grep -q '^'"${PRIV_USER}"'$'); then
if ! net localgroup "${admingroup}" "${PRIV_USER}" //add; then
echo "ERROR: Unable to add user ${PRIV_USER} to group ${admingroup}"
exit 1
# Infinite passwd expiry
passwd -e "${PRIV_USER}"
# set required privileges
for flag in SeAssignPrimaryTokenPrivilege SeCreateTokenPrivilege \
SeTcbPrivilege SeDenyRemoteInteractiveLogonRight SeServiceLogonRight; do
if ! /mingw64/bin/editrights -a "${flag}" -u "${PRIV_USER}"; then
echo "ERROR: Unable to give ${flag} rights to user ${PRIV_USER}"
exit 1
# The unprivileged sshd user (for privilege separation)
add="$(if ! net user "${UNPRIV_USER}" >/dev/null; then echo "//add"; fi)"
if ! net user "${UNPRIV_USER}" ${add} //fullname:"${UNPRIV_NAME}" \
//homedir:"$(cygpath -w ${EMPTY_DIR})" //active:no; then
echo "ERROR: Unable to create Windows user ${PRIV_USER}"
exit 1
# Add or update /etc/passwd entries
touch /etc/passwd
for u in "${PRIV_USER}" "${UNPRIV_USER}"; do
sed -i -e '/^'"${u}"':/d' /etc/passwd
mkpasswd -l -u "${u}" | sed -e 's/^[^:]*+//' | sed -ne "${SED}" \
>> /etc/passwd
# Finally, register service with cygrunsrv and start it
cygrunsrv -R sshd || true
cygrunsrv -I sshd -d "MSYS2 sshd" -p \
/usr/bin/sshd.exe -a "-D -e" -y tcpip -u "${PRIV_USER}" -w "${tmp_pass}"
# The SSH service should start automatically when Windows is rebooted. You can
# manually restart the service by running `net stop sshd` + `net start sshd`
if ! net start sshd; then
echo "ERROR: Unable to start sshd service"
exit 1
bagong commented May 21, 2015

Hey, this is cool, I tried it and it worked...
Two things somebody else in my situation might want to know in advance ;) : you need to run the script in an admin shell, and you have to open the windows firewall for sshd (at least I had to).
Another thing I had to do: create a file /etc/passwd by running mkpasswd > /etc/passwd before running the script, otherwise the script wouldn't complete without error. In theory that shouldn't be necessary, but that's how it went for me.
Thanks for this!

ghost commented Jun 1, 2015

By default, MSYS2 does not create /etc/passwd, but MSYS2 will use /etc/passwd if it exists (see /etc/nsswitch.conf). The /etc/passwd modifications are needed if and only if you have an existing /etc/passwd. I put an if-guard around that section (I don't use /etc/passwd) and it worked.


Worked for me. I already had the /etc/passwd and didn't have to do anything except restart shell as admin.


I need the /etc/passwd file here, otherwise sshd won’t even start, complaining that Privilege separation user sshd does not exist. Did you not run against this issue?

Thanks for the script!

Worked for me on a Windows 10 virtual machine by running the script in an admin MSYS2 shell and allowing SSH in Windows firewall (thanks for pointing this out @bagong). The connection just hangs and eventually times out without opening up the firewall.

I don't have /etc/passwd and it's working fine. Scratch that, I was looking in C:\msys32, but installed the SSH server for C:\msys64...

I'm still having some problems with using an SSH key for authentication, but that could have something to do with setting HOME="/c/Users/$USER", or having a space in the user name (intentionally, to make sure that my scripts don't break because of it).

SSH keys work fine too, there's just something wrong with the way I'm changing HOME.

ghost commented Jan 23, 2016

@samhocevar, I did not run into that issue.

I just set up, again, sshd on a fresh install of msys2 on a fresh install of Windows 10 (home computer, no domain or anything). I edited /etc/nsswitch.conf, setting "db_home: windows" to unify the home directories, but otherwise it's bog standard defaults. I ran the script (my edit, with the /etc/passwd stuff omitted), and it all worked. I still have no /etc/passwd.

(I did get a complaint about /var/log/lastlog not found, so I just touched it. But that's probably irrelevant.)

Did not ran for me.

sushovan@LAPTOP-5755G MINGW64 ~
$ ssh sushovan@localhost
sushovan@localhost's password:
Connection to localhost closed by remote host.
Connection to localhost closed.

Server listening on :: port 22.
Server listening on port 22.
Accepted password for sushovan from ::1 port 50258 ssh2
chown(/dev/pty1, 197609, 197121) failed: Invalid argument

sbleon commented Jul 5, 2016

@samhocevar this worked great! Thanks!

Has anyone gotten ChrootDirectory working with this setup? I always get fatal: bad ownership or modes for chroot directory component "/". sshd expects / to be owned by root, and there's no root user in this setup.

aaptel commented Oct 31, 2016

@samhocevar the password generated this way (random + tr) sometime don't pass the password complexity requirement enabled by default on Windows (server 2016, probably other windows too I guess) resulting in the net command failing. Might want to add a constant suffix/prefix with uppercase and digits to make it pass the requirement.

artygus commented Nov 9, 2016

to start shell as mingw64/mingw32:

  • set PermitUserEnvironment to yes in /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • add MSYSTEM=MINGW64 to ~/.ssh/environment
Globik commented Nov 25, 2016

Is sshd just like cygserver? Can it be using for dynamic shared memory stuff like a shm_open()?

caedn commented Apr 7, 2017

This worked great, thank you!

elieux commented Apr 7, 2017

Another way to start a specific shell (MSYS/MINGW32/MINGW64):

  • Put AcceptEnv MSYSTEM into /etc/ssh/sshd_config on the remote machine.
  • Put SendEnv MSYSTEM into /etc/ssh/ssh_config or ~/.ssh/config on the local machine.

Then you can connect from MSYS2 to MSYS2 and it will use the same shell, or just prefix your ssh command with MSYSTEM=....

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