Connect to an Azure VM via Bastion with native RDP using only Azure PowerShell

Connect to an Azure VM via Bastion with native RDP using only Azure PowerShell

To connect to an Azure VM via Bastion with native RDP using only RDP requires a custom solution. By default, the user must leverage Azure CLI. It also requires the user to know the Bastion subscription and the resource ID of the virtual machine. That’s all fine for an IT Pro or developer, but it is a bit much to handle for a knowledge worker.

That is why I wanted to automate things for those users and hide that complexity away from the users. One requirement was to ensure the solution would work on a Windows Client on which the user has no administrative rights. So that is why, for those use cases, I wrote a PowerShell script that takes care of everything for an end user. Hence, we chose to leverage the Azure PowerShell modules. These can be installed for the current user without administrative rights if needed. Great idea, but that left us with two challenges to deal with. These I will discuss below.

A custom PowerShell Script

The user must have the right to connect to their Virtual Machine in Azure over the (central) bastion deployment. These are listed below. See Connect to a VM using Bastion – Windows native client for more information.

  • Reader role on the virtual machine.
  • Reader role on the NIC with private IP of the virtual machine.
  • Reader role on the Azure Bastion resource.
  • Optionally, the Virtual Machine Administrator Login or Virtual Machine User Login role

When this is OK, this script generates an RDP file for them on the desktop. That script also launches the RDP session for them, to which they need to authenticate via Azure MFA to the Bastion host and via their VM credentials to the virtual machine. The script removes the RDP files after they close the RDP session. The complete sample code can be found here on GitHub.

I don’t want to rely on Azure CLI

Microsoft uses Azure CLI to connect to an Azure VM via Bastion with native RDP. We do not control what gets installed on those clients. If an installation requires administrative rights, that can be an issue. There are tricks with Python to get Azure CLI installed for a user, but again, we are dealing with no technical profiles here.

So, is there a way to get around the requirement to use Azure CLI? Yes, there is! Let’s dive into the AZ CLI code and see what they do there. As it turns out, it is all Python! We need to dive into the extension for Bastion, and after sniffing around and wrapping my brain around it, I conclude that these lines contain the magic needed to create a PowerShell-only solution.

See for yourself overhere: azure-cli-extensions/src/bastion/azext_bastion/ at d3bc6dc03bb8e9d42df8c70334b2d7e9a2e38db0 · Azure/azure-cli-extensions · GitHub

In PowerShell, that translates into the code below. One thing to note is that if this code is to work with PowerShell for Windows, we cannot use “keep-alive” for the connection setting. PowerShell core does support this setting. The latter is not installed by default.

# Connect & authenticate to the correct tenant and to the Bastion subscription
Connect-AzAccount -Tenant $TenantId -Subscription $BastionSubscriptionId | Out-Null

 #Grab the Azure Access token
    $AccessToken = (Get-AzAccessToken).Token
    If (!([string]::IsNullOrEmpty($AccessToken))) {
        #Grab your centralized bastion host
        try {
            $Bastion = Get-AzBastion -ResourceGroupName $BastionResoureGroup -Name $BastionHostName
            if ($Null -ne $Bastion ) {
                write-host -ForegroundColor Cyan "Connected to Bastion $($Bastion.Name)"
                write-host -ForegroundColor yellow "Generating RDP file for you to desktop..."
                $target_resource_id = $VmResourceId
                $enable_mfa = "true" #"true"
                $bastion_endpoint = $Bastion.DnsName
                $resource_port = "3389"

                $url = "https://$($bastion_endpoint)/api/rdpfile?resourceId=$($target_resource_id)&format=rdp&rdpport=$($resource_port)&enablerdsaad=$($enable_mfa)"

                $headers = @{
                    "Authorization"   = "Bearer $($AccessToken)"
                    "Accept"          = "*/*"
                    "Accept-Encoding" = "gzip, deflate, br"
                    #"Connection" = "keep-alive" #keep-alive and close not supported with PoSh 5.1 
                    "Content-Type"    = "application/json"

                $DesktopPath = [Environment]::GetFolderPath("Desktop")
                $DateStamp = Get-Date -Format yyyy-MM-dd
                $TimeStamp = Get-Date -Format HHmmss
                $DateAndTimeStamp = $DateStamp + '@' + $TimeStamp 
                $RdpPathAndFileName = "$DesktopPath\$AzureVmName-$DateAndTimeStamp.rdp"
                $progressPreference = 'SilentlyContinue'
            else {
                write-host -ForegroundColor Red  "We could not connect to the Azure bastion host"
        catch {
            <#Do this if a terminating exception happens#>
        finally {
            <#Do this after the try block regardless of whether an exception occurred or not#>

Finding the resource id for the Azure VM by looping through subscriptions is slow

As I build a solution for a Windows client, I am not considering leveraging a tunnel connection (see Connect to a VM using Bastion – Windows native client). I “merely” want to create a functional RDP file the user can leverage to connect to an Azure VM via Bastion with native RDP.

Therefore, to make life as easy as possible for the user, we want to hide any complexity for them as much as possible. Hence, I can only expect them to know the virtual machine’s name in Azure. And if required, we can even put that in the script for them.

But no matter what, we need to find the virtual machine’s resource ID.

Azure Graph to the rescue! We can leverage the code below, and even when you have to search in hundreds of subscriptions, it is way more performant than Azure PowerShell’s Get-AzureVM, which needs to loop through all subscriptions. This leads to less waiting and a better experience for your users. The Az.ResourceGraph module can also be installed without administrative rights for the current users.

$VMToConnectTo = Search-AzGraph -Query "Resources | where type == 'microsoft.compute/virtualmachines' and name == '$AzureVmName'" -UseTenantScope

Note using -UseTenantScope, which ensures we search the entire tenant even if some filtering occurs.

Creating the RDP file to connect to an Azure Virtual Machine over the bastion host

Next, I create the RDP file via a web request, which writes the result to a file on the desktop from where we launch it, and the user can authenticate to the bastion host (with MFA) and then to the virtual machine with the appropriate credentials.

        try {
            $progressPreference =  'SilentlyContinue'
            Invoke-WebRequest $url -Method Get -Headers $headers -OutFile $RdpPathAndFileName -UseBasicParsing
            $progressPreference =  'Continue'

            if (Test-Path $RdpPathAndFileName -PathType leaf) {
                Start-Process $RdpPathAndFileName -Wait
                write-host -ForegroundColor magenta  "Deleting the RDP file after use."
                Remove-Item $RdpPathAndFileName
                write-host -ForegroundColor magenta  "Deleted $RdpPathAndFileName."
            else {
                write-host -ForegroundColor Red  "The RDP file was not found on your desktop and, hence, could not be deleted."
        catch {
            write-host -ForegroundColor Red  "An error occurred during the creation of the RDP file."
        finally {
            $progressPreference = 'Continue'

Finally, when the user is done, the file is deleted. A new one will be created the next time the script is run. This protects against stale tokens and such.

Pretty it up for the user

I create a shortcut and rename it to something sensible for the user. Next, I changed the icon to the provided one, which helps visually identify the shortcut from any other Powershell script shortcut. They can copy that shortcut wherever suits them or pin it to the taskbar.

Connect to an Azure VM via native RDP using only Azure PowerShell

Visualize an Always On VPN device tunnel connection while disabling the disconnect button

Visualize an Always On VPN device tunnel connection while disabling the disconnect button

The need to visualize an Always On VPN device tunnel connection while disabling the disconnect button arises when the user experiences connectivity issues. End users should be able to communicate quickly to their support desk whether or not they have a connected Always On VPN device tunnel. They usually do not see the device VPN tunnel in the modern UI. Only user VPN tunnels show up. Naturally, we don’t want them to disconnect the device VPN or change its properties, so we want to disable the “disconnect” and the “advanced setting buttons. Since a device VPN tunnel runs as a “SYSTEM,” they cannot do this anyway. The GUI shows “Disconnecting” but never complete.

Refreshing the GUI correctly shows “Connected” again. However, it makes sense to disable the buttons to indicate this. So how to we set all of this up?

Visualize an Always On VPN device tunnel connection

Visualizing the Always On VPN device tunnel in the modern GUI is something we achieve via the registry. Scripting deploying these registry settings via GPO or Intune is the way to go.

New-Item -Path ‘HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Flyout\VPN’ -Force
New-ItemProperty -Path ‘HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Flyout\VPN\’ -Name ‘ShowDeviceTunnelInUI’ -PropertyType DWORD -Value 1 -Force

Disable the disconnect button and the advanced options buttons

Now that the Always On VPN device tunnel is visible in the GUI, we want to disable the disconnect button and the advanced options buttons. How? Well, we can do this in Windows 11 22H2 or more recent versions. For this, we add the following to the VPN configuration file.

<!-- The below 2 GUI settings are only available in Windows 11 22H2 or higher. --><DisableAdvancedOptionsEditButton>true</DisableAdvancedOptionsEditButton><DisableDisconnectButton>true</DisableDisconnectButton>

  <!– These GUI settings below are only available in Windows 11 22H2 or higher. –>    <DisableAdvancedOptionsEditButton>true</DisableAdvancedOptionsEditButton>    <DisableDisconnectButton>true</DisableDisconnectButton>

Visualize a device VPN tunnel connection while disabling the disconnect button


For an administrative account, the Always On VPN device tunnel is visible, but the buttons are dimmed (greyed out).

As before, the administrator can still use the rasphone GUI to hang up the Always On VPN device tunnel or edit the properties like before. Usually, you’ll configure the setting with Intune or via GPO with Powershell and custom XML. There is also a 3rd party option for configuring Always On VPNs via GPO (AOVPN Dynamic Profile Configurator).

For a non-administrator user account, the GUI looks precisely the same. The big difference is that when such a user launches the rasphone GUI, they cannot “Hang Up” the connection. The error message may not be the clearest, but in the end, a user with non-administrative rights cannot disconnect the Always On VPN device tunnel.

So now we have the best of both worlds. An administrator and a standard user can see that the Always On VPN device tunnel is connected. Remember that disabling the buttons requires Windows 11 22H2 or more recent. This blog was written using 23H2. The administrator can use the rasphone GUI or rasdial CLI to access the Always On VPN device tunnel like before.


Device VPN tunnels are supposed to be connected at all times, whether a user is logged on or not. It is also something that users are not supposed to be concerned about in contrast to a user VPN tunnel. However, it can be beneficial to see whether the Always On VPN device tunnel is connected. That is most certainly so when talking to support about an issue. We showed you how to achieve this, combined with disabling the “disconnect” and “advanced” options buttons), in this blog post.

Bug when changing the “store this conditional forwarder in active directory” setting

Bug when changing the “store this conditional forwarder in active directory” setting

Recently I encountered a bug when changing the “store this conditional forwarder in active directory” setting. I have been doing quite some active directory extensions to Azure lately. Part of that, post-process, is making sure that DNS name resolution from on-premises to Azure and vice versa is working optimally. When it comes to resolving Azure private endpoints and other private DNS zones from on-premises we need to add the conditional forwarders for the respective Azure DNS zones.

As we have different needs for this configuration on-premises versus in Azure we disable “Store this conditional forwarder in Active Directory, and replicate as follows” for all zones. This is the defaultm when you add a conditional forwarder.

However, you will also need to do this, in certain cases for other conditional forwarders depending on the DNS infrastructure between Azure and on-premises. I tend to change those non-Azure resource conditional forwarders before I add the one needed for Azure.

Bug when changing the "store this conditional forwarder in active directory" setting
The “store this conditional forwarder in active directory” setting

While that sounds easy enough, you can easily get into a pickle. When you change this, while the configuration seems perfectly fine, the name resolution for those zones where you change this stops working. That is bad. No bueno!

That can break a lot of services and applications leading to support calls, causing upset application owners, and lost revenue while leaving you scrambling to find a fix.

So how do we fix this?

Well, the only solution is to remove each and every conditional forwarder involved and add them again, While re-adding it you might get an “unknown error” in the GUI, but ignore it. Just go ahead. When your reverse lookup zones are in order it will resolve to the FQDN and name resolution will start working again. You can also use PowerShell or the command line. It is worth checking if changing the setting via PowerShell or the command line triggers the bug or not.

Please note that, as your are not replication the conditional forwarders in Active Directory, you must do that on all DNS servers on-premises involved in resolving Azure resources.

Is this a known bug?

Well, it looks like it, but I have yet to find a knowledge base article about it. There are mentions of other people running into the issue. This is not per se Azure-related. Take a look here DNS Conditional Forwarder stops working as soon as it’s Domain Replicated – Microsoft Q&A and AD Integrating conditional DNS forwarders stops them working (

Note that this bug when changing the “store this conditional forwarder in active directory” setting will appear when you either enable or disable it.

This bug has existed for many years and over many versions of Windows DNS. The last encounters I had was with Windows Server 2019 and 2022. But beware with Windows Server 2016 and 2012 (R2) as well.

Symbolic Link to an Azure File Share

Symbolic link to an Azure file share

We recently used a symbolic link to an Azure file share to transparently replace a local folder in which data sets are cached for download. That means that the existing service transparently copies the data sets to an Azure file share without having to change anything in the code to do so. With a small adaptation of the code, we can now provide download links to data in the Azure file share so this process is also transparent for the clients downloading the data sets.

You can already guess the reason for this exercise. We did this to fix a bandwidth issue on-premises by creating an easy workaround with minimal code changes. As more and more clients download more and more data sets, this service consumes too much bandwidth. This means we have to throttle the service and/or implement QoS to it. While this helps the other services using that internet connection, it does nothing to improve download speeds for the clients. This is just an example and is not meant as architectural or design advice. It is an interim fix to an existing problem. This trick is something that is used with AKS as well for example.

How to add a symbolic link to an Azure file share

Create an Azure file share

Create a storage account and create a file share.

Symbolic Link to an Azure File Share
Our Azure file share.

Handling credentials

Dealing with the credentials needed for this is easy. All we need to do is add the information into the credential manager as a Windows credential. That would be the user, the password, and the file share UNC path. Note that here the password is our storage account key.

Symbolic Link to an Azure File Share
Go to the connect settings of your file share.

Grab the info you need from the “connect” settings for your Azure file share. We will not map the the files hare to a drive, so there is no need to run this PowerShell script.

So in this example that is:
Internet or networkk address: \\\fscache
User name: localhost\datasets
Password: real2Nonsense4Showing8AfakeStorage28Accountkey/goobledeGookStuffa/AndSomeMoreNonsentMD==

We will add these credentials to the Credential Manager as Windows Credentials.

Click on “Add a Windows Credential”.
Add the file share UNC path, the username and the storage account key

That is it, if you entered everything correctly, this will work.

Creating the symbolic link

Once you have added the credentials creating the symbolic link is very easy.

mklink /d "E:\Download\Cache" "\\\fscache"

You do need to take care you create the symbolic in the right place in your folder structure. But other than that, that is all you need to do.

Symbolic Link to an Azure File Share
the symbolic link to the Azure file share

The symbolic link is available and can be used transparently by the service/application.

To test the file share in Azure you can upload or download data via azcopy or Azure Storage Explorer. The download functionality in our case is handled in the code, But here is a quick example of how to do a download it via azcopy using a shared access key signature.

azcopy copy "" "ED:\MyDataSetDownloads" --recursive

Pro tip: if you need to remove the symbolic link but keep the data, use rmdir “E:\Download\Cache” and not del “E:\Download\Cache” or you will delete the data. That might not be what you want.

Next steps

Mind you, this was the easy and quick fix for a problem this service was facing. This is not a design or architecture. We are considering replacing the symbolic link solution with Azure File Sync. With a bandwidth cap and QoS on-premises, we would offer the primary download link to the cloud. There they can get all the bandwidth Azure can offer. Next to that, we would have an alternative link, marked as slow, that still points to the on-prem version of the data. This means the current implementation is still fully functional even when the Azure files share has an issue. Sure, the local copy comes with a significantly reduced performance, but it provides a failsafe.

The future

Well, the future lies in turning this into a solution running 100% in the cloud. Now, due to a large number of dependencies on various on-premies data sources, this is a long-term effort. We decided no to let perfection be the enemy of the good and fixed their biggest pain point today.


For sure, the use of a symbolic link to access an Azure file share is not something that will amaze people that have been working in the cloud for a while. It is however a nice example of how the use of Azure combined with on-premises services can result in a hybrid solution that solves real-world problems

This particular scenario enables them to distribute their data sets without having to worry about bandwidth limitations on-premises. That means they do to invest in a bigger internet pipe and a firewall with more throughput, or having to port their service and all its dependencies to a full-blown Azure solution.

Sometimes successful and cost-effective solutions come in the form of little tweaks that allow us to fix pain points easily.