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Windows GitHub Self Hosted Runner inside a Linux Container

With ever-increasing advancements in the world of CI/CD pipelines, innovation is inevitable. Welcome to the exploration of an efficient, cost-effective, and innovative approach to deploying self hosted GitHub Runner. This runner operates in a containerized Windows OS (x64) environment on a Linux system.

The approach leverages the strengths of Vagrant VM, libvirt, and Docker Compose, allowing seamless management of a Windows instance just like any Docker container. The takeaway is the creation of a plug-and-play solution, significantly enhancing convenience, optimizing resource allocation, and integrating flawlessly with existing workflows.

For those working in various dev-ops environments, this strategy provides a smooth and comprehensive solution that does not require prior knowledge of VM creation.

This guide is built upon the https://github.com/vaggeliskls/windows-github-custom-runner

📋 Prerequisites

  • Docker version 24 or higher
  • Docker-compose version 1.18 or higher

🚥 Authentication Methods for Self-Hosted

To authenticate your custom self-hosted runners, two methods are available:

  1. Personal Access Token (PAT): A static, manually created token that provides long-term and secure access to GitHub. This token requires Read and Write access to the GitHub organization’s self-hosted runners.

  2. Registration Token (TOKEN): A dynamic, short-lived token that is automatically generated by GitHub when creating a new self-hosted runner. This method offers a temporary but immediate solution for authentication.

⚠ Note: Only one of these authentication methods is needed. Choose the one that best suits your requirements.

🚀 Deployment Guide

1) Create/Update the environmental file .env

  • PAT: Personal access token from GitHub
  • TOKEN: Short lived Github token
  • RUNNER_URL: The URL of the GitHub that the runner connects to
  • RUNNERS: Number of runners
  • MEMORY: Amount of memory for the Vagrant image (in MB)
  • CPU: Number of CPUs for the Vagrant image
  • DISK_SIZE: Disk size for the Vagrant image (in GB)

Example with PAT

# Runner settings
PAT=<Your Personal access token>
RUNNER_URL=<runner url>
RUNNERS=1
# Vagrant image settings
MEMORY=8000 # 8GB
CPU=4
DISK_SIZE=100

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Example with TOKEN

# Runner settings
TOKEN=<Your short lived acess token>
RUNNER_URL=<runner url>
RUNNERS=1
# Vagrant image settings
MEMORY=8000 # 8GB
CPU=4
DISK_SIZE=100
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2) Create docker-compose.yml

version: "3.9"

services:
  windows-github-runner-vm:
    image: ghcr.io/vaggeliskls/windows-github-custom-runner:latest
    env_file: .env
    stdin_open: true
    tty: true
    privileged: true
    ports:
      - 3389:3389
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3) Run: docker-compose up -d

🌐 Access via Remote Desktop

For debugging purposes or testing you can always connect to the VM with remote desktop softwares.

Some software that used when developed was

  1. Linux: rdesktop rdesktop <ip>:3389 or remina
  2. MacOS: Windows remote desktop
  3. Windows: buildin Remote Windows Connection

🔑 User Login

The default users based on vagrant image are

1) Administrator

  • Username: Administrator
  • Password: vagrant

2) User

  • Username: vagrant
  • Password: vagrant

📚 Further Reading and Resources

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