Repairing the WS-Management service on the Windows server

Some features of the Windows 2019 server can easily and inadvertently be incapacitated and many seem to get screwed up on their own. And it is quite possible that one error triggers another and getting out of that tangled mess is very hard and time consuming. It takes a lot of time just to restore the basic functionality of the Windows server.

It took me months of on-and-off investigation to figure out how to persuade the DNS not to add an entry for each and every one of the server's IP addresses, because when it does so, the DNS queries return these different IPs in a round-robin fashion and this causes errors. And there are no good solutions on the internet, they all say that "Register this connection's addresses in DNS" should be unchecked, but that's not enough: you also need to unbind the DNS server from all IP addresses but one (it's in Properties-Interfeaces in the DNS app) and also removing the IPs from the Name Servers tab in your DNS zone's properties.

After I did this - and it may or may not be related - the Server Manager started reporting errors like "The WS-Management service is configured to not accept any remote shell requests." and because of this I was now unable to install or uninstall anything. I solved the by using PowerShell equivalent commands, but it worked for some tasks and for some it didn't. The predominant solution suggested on the net was to turn on AllowRemoteShellAccess using gpedit.msc, but it required me to do gpupdate /force and this in turn didn't work because of some policy replicating problem on Windows. And all the time, the stuff that worked in Windows still worked but it was a gamble trying to change anything on the server. There was a bunch of solutions on the internet for this but none of them worked: just using the File Explorer to browse through the problemmatic SYSVOL share, I got the impression that the domain shortcut that was there pointed to the wrong server - it actually pointed to the domain but that resolved to the wrong server's IP... I believe I did some tinkering in the DNS that may have helped but wasn't the final answer. In the end, a brute force solution was required, I just copied SYSVOL contents from the other domain server. (Having two domain servers could have been the root of the problem anyway, and possibly the DNS changes).

Back to the original WinRM problem, I was now able to turn AllowRemoteShellAccess on, to no effect. So I tried other suggestions - and once again, most solutions revolved around the same repeated stuff, none of which worked. Running winrm quickconfig returned "WsManFault" with error number -2144108526 0x80338012, saying "The client cannot connect to the destination specified in the request" and that I should run winrm quickconfig to configure the WinRM service. Issuing dir wsman:\localhost\Shell to check the active configuration said that the path does not exist, even if doing dir wsman:\ listed localhost as a result. A StackOverflow post suggested this bit of PowerShell scripting that finally shed some light on this:

$c = Get-Credential
New-CimSession -ComputerName localhost -Credential $c

Running this for localhost reported an error but did work if I used the name of my server. So WinRM worked, but not on localhost?!

I found the final bit of information on Robin CM's IT Blog, here somebody finally approached the problem instead of repeating the same mantras already present on the internet. Running netstat -aon | find "5985" to find what IP address is the WinRM port (5985) bound to (and note that this is command prompt, not Powershell) returned:

TCP              LISTENING       4

So the service really is bound to the external IP and not localhost!

The blog post suggested I do netsh http delete iplisten, but it seemed too drastic to me - from what I understand, this is actually the IIS binding (I could be wrong) and I didn't want IIS listening on all IP addresses. So I simply added localhost to the list (this was OK for IIS) and it worked:

netsh http add ipaddress=

(note that I also did iisrestart, which may or may not be necessary). The Server Manager now works and winrm quickconfig stopped erroring out... In the end, I don't have AllowRemoteShellAccess configured in the GPO at all, it allows the connections by default, and dir wsman:\localhost\Shell now shows this with no complaints.

Now let's see what else is faulty... How about "Windows cannot access the specified device, path, or file." when the settings app tries to run control.exe? No - maybe next year.

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