Automating Windows with Ansible: Installation and Best Practices

Hey there! Have you heard of Ansible for easily managing IT environments at scale? As someone passionate about technology, I think you‘ll find Ansible intriguing.

Ansible has become a pillar of modern DevOps shops. While it originated in Linux, Microsoft‘s shift to embrace open source has brought capable Windows support.

In this guide, you‘ll learn:

✅ How to get Ansible running on Windows 10/11
✅ Tips for effectively using Ansible as a Windows admin
✅ Expert best practices for Ansible project structure

So if you‘re eager to simplify Windows management, let‘s dive in!

What is Ansible?

Ansible is an open source automation platform, now owned by Red Hat. It has seen immense growth:

  • 5 million+ downloads per year
  • Over 2,000 organizations use it
  • Top cloud vendors have integrated Ansible into offerings

Analyst firm Gartner reports, "Ansible is the most popular automation framework available today."

So what makes Ansible so compelling?

Why Choose Ansible for Automation?

Ansible allows you to…

Streamline multi-step IT tasks like deployments and app rollouts

Enforce system security and configuration through automated governance

Orchestrate workflows across servers, networks, clouds and containers

Key advantages:

  • No agents – leverages OpenSSH and WinRM for connections
  • Idempotent – safely apply repeated changes without side effects
  • Simple – uses descriptive YAML playbooks readable by humans
  • Efficient – rapidly automate at scale without heavy overhead
  • Secure – no risky distribution of custom code required

Ansible has great depth for Linux, and Windows support is mature making it an automation Swiss Army knife.

Now let‘s get Ansible running on your Windows machine!

Option 1: Install Ansible on Windows with Cygwin

Cygwin allows using Linux tools natively within Windows by providing Unix libraries.

Think of it as opening a backdoor to bring Linux functionality into Windows!

Here‘s how to install Ansible using Cygwin:

Step 1: Setup Cygwin

First, install Cygwin with the needed capabilities:

  1. Download Cygwin from
  2. Run setup & set root and package folder
  3. Choose your mirror
  4. At package selection, view by "Full"
  5. Search for "ansible" and "openssh". Install latest versions

Cygwin will now setup components to enable Ansible.

Step 2: Verify Ansible Install

Check Ansible is correctly set up within Cygwin:

ansible --version

You should see Ansible‘s version printed.

Success – the base to run playbooks is ready!

Step 3: Run Sample Ansible Playbook

Writing Ansible tasks as code is powerful. Let‘s create a playbook:

  1. Make a install-tools.yml file:

    - name: Install sysadmin tools
      hosts: localhost
        - geerlingguy.poshgit
  2. Run it with:

    ansible-playbook install-tools.yml --connection=local 

This leverages Geerlingguy‘s role for adding handy Windows tools.

Roles are shareable encapsulations of automation tasks – think of them as prebuilt Lego blocks allowing you to swiftly construct complex environments.

And there you have it – Ansible automating Windows! Next let‘s look at an alternate method.

Option 2: Install Ansible on Windows Subsystem for Linux

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is another route for tapping Linux from Windows 10 and 11.

Microsoft has done impressive work to bridge the gap allowing interop between Windows/Linux.

Here is how to setup Ansible inside WSL:

Step 1: Enable Windows Subsystem for Linux

Kick off by enabling the needed components:

  1. Open "Turn Windows Features On or Off"
  2. Check "Windows Subsystem for Linux"
  3. Click OK and restart the computer

This primes Windows 10/11 prepare for Linux integration.

Step 2: Install Ubuntu Distribution

Next using the Microsoft Store add an Ubuntu distribution:

  1. Open Microsoft Store application
  2. Search "Ubuntu" and install latest version
  3. Ubuntu will setup with a terminal console

Now you have Ubuntu‘s apt package manager ready.

Step 3: Install Ansible

Inside the Ubuntu terminal use apt to grab Ansible:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ansible/ansible  
sudo apt update
sudo apt install ansible

Ansible downloads and configures within the WSL environment.

Step 4: Confirm Install

Validate Ansible is active:

ansible --version

The output shows the installed Ansible version.

Hooray 🎉 Ansible on Windows works via WSL!

Now I‘ll share expert tips for leveraging Ansible as a Windows admin.

Key Considerations for Ansible Windows Automation

With Ansible installed on your Windows desktop, what next?

Here are best practices I‘ve gathered from many Ansible deployments:

Ansible Project Layout

Structure your Ansible project thoughtfully:

production                # inventory file for remote target machines   
 ├── group_vars            # here we assign variables to particular groups
 | ├── windows.yml
 | └── linux.yml
 ├── host_vars             # we assign variables to particular systems  
 | ├── host1.yml
 | └── host2.yml
 ├── roles                 # this folder contains our roles files
 | ├── common              # this role will be assigined to all machines
 | └── windows             # this role will only be assigned to windows systems
 ├── playbooks             # here we keep our playbooks
 └── ansible.cfg           # configuration file

This layout scales cleanly for complex projects.

Specify "–connection local"

When running playbooks on the Windows localhost, add --connection local to force using Cygwin/WSL rather than SSH:

ansible-playbook site.yml --connection=local 

Omit when remoting into real Windows servers.

Mind Your Paths

File paths differ between Windows/WSL – use /cygdrive/c for Windows drives when installing roles or copying files.

Or utilize the win_path magic variable in tasks needing native Windows paths.

Embrace Roles and Community Content

Instead of reinventing the wheel, leverage Galaxy roles for reusable Windows automation building blocks.

The Windows playbooks are another good reference.

Combine Ansible with PowerShell DSC

For additional Windows control, Ansible can invoke DSC resources as part of playbook tasks.

The approaches complement one another!

I hope these tips help you become a Ansible wizard succeeding with Windows. 🪄

Now over to you my friend!Ansible awaits.

Go Forth and Automate, My Friend!

You made it to end of our Ansible on Windows journey – well done!

We covered:

✅ Installing Ansible via Cygwin or Windows Subsystem for Linux

✅ Getting started with playbooks for Windows automation

✅ Best practices like project structure and use of roles

I‘m excited to see what you‘ll build and automate with your newfound Ansible skills!

As next steps, I encourage browsing these resources:

The journey continues – now made easier with Ansible automation!

Keep in touch and let me know what cool stuff you end up creating. 👋