Resource Tips and Examples: File on Windows

Included in Puppet Enterprise 3.3. A newer version is available; see the version menu above for details.

Puppet’s built-in file resource type can manage files and directories on Windows, including ownership, group, permissions, and content. Symbolic links are supported in Puppet 3.4.0 / PE 3.2 and later on Windows 2008 / Vista and later; for details, see the notes in the type reference under file’s ensure attribute.

    file { 'c:/mysql/my.ini':
      ensure => 'file',
      mode   => '0660',
      owner  => 'mysql',
      group  => 'Administrators',
      source => 'N:/software/mysql/my.ini',

The file type was originally developed for *nix systems, and has a few unusual behaviors on Windows. Here’s what you’ll want to know before using it.

Take Care With Backslashes in Paths

The issue of backslashes and forward-slashes in file paths can get complicated. It’s covered in full detail in Handling File Paths on Windows.

Watch for Filesystem Redirection in system32

When accessing files in the %windir%\system32 directory on 64-bit versions of Windows, Puppet is affected by Windows’ File System Redirector. This is covered in full detail in Handling File Paths on Windows.

Be Consistent With Case in File Names

If you need to refer to a file resource in multiple places in a manifest (e.g. when creating relationships between resources), be consistent with the case of the file name. If you use my.ini in one place, don’t use MY.INI in another place.

Windows NTFS filesystems are case-insensitive (albeit case-preserving); Puppet is case-sensitive. While Windows itself won’t get confused by inconsistent case, Puppet will think you’re referring to completely different files.

Make Sure Puppet’s User Account Has Appropriate Permissions

To manage files properly, Puppet needs the “Create symbolic links” (Vista/2008 and up), “Back up files and directories,” and “Restore files and directories” privileges. The easiest way to handle this is:

  • When Puppet runs as a service, make sure its user account is a member of the local Administrators group.
  • Before running Puppet interactively (on Vista/2008 and up), be sure to start the command prompt window with elevated privileges by right-clicking on the start menu and choosing “Run as Administrator.”

Always Block Source Permissions on Windows

If you set the source attribute, Puppet defaults to applying the ownership and permissions that the source files have on the puppet master server.

This is almost never what you want when managing files on Windows, and the default behavior is now deprecated, scheduled for change in a future version of Puppet.

In the meantime, you can change or disable this behavior with the file type’s source_permissions attribute; for Windows systems, you will usually want to set it to ignore with a resource default in site.pp:

    if $osfamily == 'windows' {
      File { source_permissions => ignore }

Managing File Permissions

The *nix and Windows permission models are quite different. When you use the mode attribute, the file type manages them both like *nix permissions, and translates the mode to roughly equivalent access controls on Windows. This makes basic controls fairly simple, but doesn’t work for managing really complex access rules.

Consider Using the ACL Resource Type Instead

The mode attribute is a somewhat blunt instrument on Windows. If you need truly Windows-like access controls, you should install:

This module provides an optional acl resource type that manages permissions in a Windows-centric way. If you need to do anything complicated, leave mode unspecified and add an acl resource. See the acl module’s documentation for more details.

How *nix Modes Map to Windows Permissions

*nix permissions are expressed as either an octal number or a string of symbolic modes. See the reference for the file type’s mode attribute for more details about the syntax.

These mode expressions generally manage three kinds of permission (read, write, execute) for three kinds of user (owner, group, other). They translate to Windows permissions as follows:

  • The read, write, and execute permissions are interpreted as the FILE_GENERIC_READ, FILE_GENERIC_WRITE, and FILE_GENERIC_EXECUTE access rights, respectively.
  • The Everyone SID is used to represent users other than the owner and group.
  • Directories on Windows can have the sticky bit, which makes it so users can only delete files if they own the containing directory.
  • The owner of a file can be a group (e.g. owner => 'Administrators') and the group of a file can be a user (e.g. group => 'Administrator').
    • The owner and group can even be the same, but don’t do that. (It can cause problems when the mode gives different permissions to the owner and group, e.g. 0750.)
  • The group can’t have higher permissions than the owner. Other users can’t have higher permissions than the owner or group. (That is, 0640 and 0755 are supported, but 0460 is not.)

Extra Behavior When Managing Permissions

When you manage permissions with the mode attribute, it has the following side effects:

  • The owner of a file/directory always has the FULL_CONTROL access right.
  • The security descriptor is always set to protected. This prevents the file from inheriting any more permissive access controls from the directory that contains it.

File Sources

The source attribute of a file can be a puppet URL, a local path, or a path to a file on a mapped drive.

Handling Line Endings

Windows usually uses CRLF line endings instead of *nix’s LF line endings. In most cases, Puppet will not automatically convert line endings when managing files on Windows.

  • If a file resource uses the content attribute, Puppet will write the content in “binary” mode, using whatever line endings are present in the content.
    • If the manifest or template file is saved with CRLF line endings, Puppet will use those endings in the destination file.
    • If the manifest or template file is saved with LF line endings, you can use the \r\n escape sequence to create literal CRLFs.
  • If a file resource uses the source attribute, Puppet will transfer the file in “binary” mode, leaving the original newlines untouched.
  • Non-file resource types that make partial edits to a system file (most notably the host type, which manages the %windir%\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file) manage their files in text mode, and will automatically translate between Windows and *nix line endings.

    Note: When writing your own resource types, you can get this same behavior by using the flat filetype.


Known Issues Prior to Puppet 3.4 / PE 3.2

Prior to Puppet 3.4 / Puppet Enterprise 3.2, the file type had several limitations and problems. These were fixed as part of an NTFS support cleanup in 3.4.0. If you are writing manifests for Windows machines running an older version of Puppet, please be aware:

  • If an owner or group are specified for a file, you must also specify a mode. Failing to do so can render a file inaccessible to Puppet. See here for more details.
  • Setting a permissions mode can prevent the SYSTEM user from accessing the file (if SYSTEM isn’t the file’s owner or part of its group). This can make it so Puppet can access the file when run by a user, but can’t access it when run as a service. In 3.4 and later, this is fixed, and Puppet will always ensure the SYSTEM user has the FULL_CONTROL access right (unless SYSTEM is specified as the owner or group for that file, in which case it will have the rights specified by the permissions mode).
  • Puppet will copy file permissions from the remote source; this isn’t ideal, since the *nix permissions on the puppet master are unlikely to match what you want on your Windows machines. The only way to prevent this is to specify ownership, group, and mode for every file (or with a resource default). In 3.4 and up, the source_permissions attribute provides a way to turn this behavior off.

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