Installing powershell on Window Server 2008 with Chef

Here is a simple example of automation on Windows using Chef. Powershell is our gateway to nearly all parts of modern Windows servers so it is one of the first packages we want to install.

This was tested on EC2 (ami-c3e40daa) running Microsoft Windows Server 2008 Datacenter edition. You will need to start with the Chef installation directions for Windows, with either your own Chef server built out or an Opscode Platform account.

Those familiar with Chef will notice this looks exactly like a recipe for a Linux system, provided that we were installing software without the benefit of a package manager. This recipe simply downloads the installer and then executes it with a switch to perform the installation silently. Also note that I pass the “/norestart” switch as well. MSU is a standalone microsoft update installer, rather than a plain executable. This installation will trigger hooks normally associated with updates, which also means that it triggers a restart. I hadn’t thought about this the first time I ran this recipe and thought for a moment that my system had crashed. In actuality it performed flawlessly and the system restarted with powershell installed.

The remote file resource (line nineteen) only downloads the installer if it isn’t present or has changed. If Microsoft changes the placement of this package on their website, you would have to update this resource. Alternately, you could place these important files on an internal web server or file server, or place them directly in the cookbook and transfer them to the server using the cookbook file resource.

The execute resource (line twenty-three) only runs the installer if the remote file resource has chosen to download this file. The “:nothing” action tells the resource to not run, specifically so that it wouldn’t run everything. However the subscribes attribute hooks into the prior remote file resource so that it will run if that resource performs an action. You can find more information regarding resources in the Chef wiki.

Windows servers no longer need to remain in the land of “as-built” documentation, where a wiki page or word doc specified the individual steps someone ran to build out this particular system, where additional builds took days as we found the time to run all of the software installers by hand. Chef recipes can both build out your systems and simultaneously document the process for you naturally.

More to come, stay tuned.

# Cookbook Name:: powershell
# Recipe:: default
# Author:: Bryan McLellan <>
# Copyright 2010, Opscode, Inc
# Licensed under the Apache License, Version 2.0 (the "License");
# you may not use this file except in compliance with the License.
# You may obtain a copy of the License at
# Unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing, software
# distributed under the License is distributed on an "AS IS" BASIS,
# See the License for the specific language governing permissions and
# limitations under the License.

remote_file "c:/windows/temp/Windows6.0-KB968930-x86.msu" do
  source ""

execute "c:/windows/temp/Windows6.0-KB968930-x86.msu /quiet /norestart" do
  action :nothing
  subscribes :run, resources(:remote_file => "c:/windows/temp/Windows6.0-KB968930-x86.msu")

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