Windows Clients

Windows 7 and newer releases support IKEv2 and MOBIKE (RFC 4555) through Microsoft’s Agile VPN functionality and are therefore able to interoperate with a strongSwan VPN gateway using these protocols. The Windows client does not currently support IKE redirection (RFC 5685) and multiple authentication rounds (RFC 4739).

Enable Strong Key Exchange

By default Windows 7 up to Windows 11 propose only the weak modp1024 Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm that has been deprecated by NIST Special Publication 800-57 Part 3 Revision 1 since 2015:

ike = 3des-aes128-aes192-aes256-sha1-sha256-sha384-modp1024

Additionally Windows 11 proposes the AES-GCM authenticated encryption algorithm (AEAD) but unfortunately with the weak modp1024 DH group, too.

ike = aes128gcm16-aes256gcm16-sha1-sha256-sha384-modp1024

So if you don’t want any major secret service to eavesdrop on your communication we strongly urge you to enable the modp2048 Diffie-Hellman group by adding the NegotiateDH2048_AES256 DWORD in the windows registry using regedit:


The values that can be used are 0, 1 or 2. The table below tells you what the values mean.

Value Meaning


Disable AES-256-CBC and MODP-2048. This is the default


Enable AES-256-CBC and MODP-2048


Enforce the usage of AES-256-CBC and MODP-2048

With the value set to 2, Windows 11 proposes

ike = aes256-sha1-sha256-sha384-modp2048

Unfortunately the ESP proposals still contain the weak single DES and even NULL encryption algorithms and data integrity is restricted to SHA1

esp = aes256-aes128-3des-des-null-sha1

By using the Set-VpnConnectionIPsecConfiguration PowerShell cmdlet it is possible to use even more algorithms like AES-GCM and ECP Diffie-Hellman groups (at least on Windows 10). The VPN connection may be added in the GUI or via the Add-VpnConnection cmdlet.

Authentication Methods

strongSwan currently can authenticate Windows clients either on the basis of

Using X.509 Machine Certificates

The strongSwan VPN gateway and each Windows VPN client needs an X.509 certificate issued by a Certification Authority (CA). OpenSSL or the pki tool can be used to generate these certificates, see our Quickstart tutorial. Make sure to fulfill the certificate requirements, so that Windows VPN clients and strongSwan VPN gateways can mutually authenticate themselves successfully.

Using X.509 User Certificates

Certificates are stored in a user-specific keystore and it’s also possible to use smart cards. The client authentication has to be done with EAP-TLS on top of IKEv2 EAP.

On the strongSwan VPN Gateway

The use of EAP-TLS requires the eap-tls and eap-identity plugins to be loaded by the strongSwan VPN gateway.

Using Passwords with EAP-MSCHAPv2

In order to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks the strongSwan VPN gateway always authenticates itself with an X.509 certificate using a strong RSA/ECDSA signature. After a secure communication channel has been set up by the IKEv2 protocol, the Windows clients authenticate themselves using the EAP-MSCHAPv2 protocol based on user name, optional windows domain and user password. As an EAP identity exchange is needed for this to work, make sure to have the eap-identity plugin loaded.

EAP-MSCHAPv2 requires MD4 to generate the NT-Hashes, so either the md4 plugin or one of the crypto library plugins (openssl or gcrypt) is required. This is not needed if the authentication is delegated to an AAA server via the eap-radius plugin.

Some Windows clients will always send a domain part in the user name field (e.g. Windows Phone\User). Depending on the backend used to authenticate the users, the domain part may have to be stripped away or be included when defining the credentials (e.g. in the secrets section of swanctl.conf).

Rekeying Behavior

IKE SA Rekeying

The Windows client supports IKE_SA rekeying but can’t handle unsupported Diffie Hellman groups. If a strongSwan gateway initiates an IKE_SA rekeying, it must use modp2048 as the DH group in the first attempt, otherwise rekeying fails. You can achieve this by setting modp2048 as the first (or only) DH group in the gateways ike proposal of the VPN gateway.

CHILD SA Rekeying

Rekeying CHILD_SAs is also supported by the Windows client. For some reason, a client behind NAT does not accept a rekeying attempt and rejects it with a Microsoft specific notify 12345 containing an error code ERROR_IPSEC_IKE_INVALID_SITUATION.

To work around the issue, let the client initiate the rekeying by setting

connections.<conn>.children.<child>.rekey_time = 0

on the strongSwan VPN gateway.

Bugs and Features

IKEv2 Fragmentation

IKEv2 fragmentation is supported since the v1803 release of Windows 10 and Windows Server. All versions of Windows also support the proprietary IKEv1 fragmentation.

Split Routing since Windows 10

Microsoft changed the Windows 10 VPN routing behavior for new VPN connections. Option "Use default gateway on remote network option" in the Advanced TCP/IP settings of the VPN connection is now disabled by default but can be enabled if desired. Fortunately Windows sends a DHCP request upon connection and add routes supplied in option 249 of the DHCP reply.

Sample configuration file for dnsmasq:

dhcp-vendorclass=set:msipsec,MSFT 5.0

where is your (internal) network. It pushes two separate routes which cover the entire IPv4 range. Gateway could be anything (set to in an example) as it is ignored by Windows. Note that you can’t ignore DHCP routes in Windows.


Windows doesn’t add an IPv6 route by default. There are two workarounds:

  • Add a permanent default route manually using the following or a similar command

    netsh interface ipv6 add route ::/0 interface=27

    where 27 is your IKEv2 interface ID or

    netsh interface ipv6 add route ::/0 interface="<interface name>"

    to avoid problems with interface ID change between reboots.

  • On Windows 10 and presumably all future versions where PowerShell is available, you can use MS PowerShell Add-VpnConnectionRoute cmdlet. This cmdlet will not allow you add default route 0::/0. However in most cases you do not really need a default route over VPN. Current (as of 2/2020) IANA IPv6 space assignment specifies only the 2000::/3 block as Global Unicast, and adding this prefix is perfectly sufficient for routing all traffic over the VPN interface. Cmdlet will will take care of adding the route upon VPN connection and also removing it upon disconnection. Also, unlike netsh, this usually does not require administrator privileges and is fully integrated with the Windows GUI, saving you trouble with batch files.

    Add-VpnConnectionRoute -ConnectionName "<interface name>" -DestinationPrefix "2000::/3"

Serving different IDs/Domain names

The native Windows VPN Client does not send a responder identity (IDr) when initiating an IKE_SA, so two connection configurations can only be distinguished if their authentication type differs or the clients send different certificate for the different certificates' root CAs.

Accessing the VPN server via VPN

Windows doesn’t seem to be able to reach the VPN server’s physical IP address (to which the IKE_SA was established) via VPN connection. To access the server via VPN, use any other IP address that is assigned to it and included in the traffic selector (if necessary, assign an IP address to any local interface and maybe adjust the traffic selector).