The OpenVPN Interactive Service documentation from was
upgraded with a description of the client-service communication flow,
service registry configuration, and non-default instance installation.
 doc/                   |   1 -
 doc/interactive-service-notes.txt | 329 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 2 files changed, 329 insertions(+), 1 deletion(-)
 create mode 100644 doc/interactive-service-notes.txt

diff --git a/doc/ b/doc/
index cd1bcfdf..7113ab87 100644
--- a/doc/
+++ b/doc/
@@ -30,4 +30,3 @@ openvpn.8.html: $(srcdir)/openvpn.8
 dist_man_MANS = openvpn.8
diff --git a/doc/interactive-service-notes.txt 
new file mode 100644
index 00000000..6f716800
--- /dev/null
+++ b/doc/interactive-service-notes.txt
@@ -0,0 +1,329 @@
+OpenVPN Interactive Service Notes
+OpenVPN Interactive Service, also known as "iservice" or
+"OpenVPNServiceInteractive", is a Windows system service which allows
+unprivileged openvpn.exe process to do certain privileged operations, such as
+adding routes. This removes the need to always run OpenVPN as administrator,
+which was the case for a long time, and continues to be the case for OpenVPN
+The 2.4.x release and git "master" versions of OpenVPN contain the Interactive
+Service code and OpenVPN-GUI is setup to use it by default. Starting from
+version 2.4.0, OpenVPN-GUI is expected to be started as user (do not 
+and "run as administrator" or do not set the shortcut to run as administrator).
+This ensures that OpenVPN and the GUI run with limited privileges.
+How It Works
+Here is a brief explanation of how the Interactive Service works, based on
+`Gert's email`_ to openvpn-devel mailing list. The example user, *joe*, is not
+an administrator, and does not have any other extra privileges.
+- OpenVPN-GUI runs as user *joe*.
+- Interactive Service runs as a local Windows service with maximum privileges.
+- OpenVPN-GUI connects to the Interactive Service and asks it to "run
+  openvpn.exe with the given command line options".
+- Interactive Service starts openvpn.exe process as user *joe*, and keeps a
+  service pipe between Interactive Service and openvpn.exe.
+- When openvpn.exe wants to perform any operation that require elevation (e.g.
+  ipconfig, route, configure DNS), it sends a request over the service pipe to
+  the Interactive Service, which will then execute it (and clean up should
+  openvpn.exe crash).
+- ``--up`` scripts are run by openvpn.exe itself, which is running as user
+  *joe*, all privileges are nicely in place.
+- Scripts run by the GUI will run as user *joe*, so that automated tasks like
+  mapping of drives work as expected.
+This avoids the use of scripts for privilege escalation (as was possible by
+running an ``--up`` script from openvpn.exe which is run as administrator).
+Client-Service Communication
+The client (OpenVPN GUI) and the Interactive Service communicate using a named
+message pipe. By default, the service provides the ``\\.\pipe\openvpn\service``
+named pipe.
+The client connects to the pipe for read/write and sets the pipe state to
+   HANDLE pipe = CreateFile(_T("\\\\.\\pipe\\openvpn\\service"),
+       0,
+       NULL,
+       NULL);
+   if (pipe == INVALID_HANDLE_VALUE)
+   {
+       // Error
+   }
+   if (!SetNamedPipeHandleState(pipe, &dwMode, NULL, NULL)
+   {
+       // Error
+   }
+openvpn.exe Startup
+After the client is connected to the service, the client must send a startup
+message to have the service start the openvpn.exe process. The startup message
+is comprised of three UTF-16 strings delimited by U0000 zero characters::
+   startupmsg     = workingdir WZERO openvpnoptions WZERO stdin WZERO
+   workingdir     = WSTRING
+   openvpnoptions = WSTRING
+   stdin          = WSTRING
+   WSTRING        = *WCHAR
+   WCHAR          = %x0001-FFFF
+   WZERO          = %x0000
+   Represents the folder openvpn.exe process should be started in.
+   String contains ``--config`` and other OpenVPN command line options, without
+   the ``argv[0]`` executable name ("openvpn" or "openvpn.exe"). When there is
+   only one option specified, the ``--config`` option is assumed and the option
+   is the configuration filename.
+   Note that the interactive service validates the options. OpenVPN
+   configuration file must reside in the configuration folder defined by
+   ``config_dir`` registry value. The configuration file can also reside in any
+   subfolder of the configuration folder. For all other folders the invoking
+   user must be a member of local Administrators group, or a member of the 
+   defined by ``ovpn_admin_group`` registry value ("OpenVPN Administrators" by
+   default).
+   The content of the ``stdin`` string is sent to the openvpn.exe process to 
+   stdin stream after it starts.
+   When a ``--management ... stdin`` option is present, the openvpn.exe process
+   will prompt for the management interface password on start. In this case, 
+   ``stdin`` must contain the password appended with an LF (U000A) to simulate
+   the [Enter] key after the password is "typed" in.
+   The openvpn.exe's stdout is redirected to ``NUL``. Should the client require
+   openvpn.exe's stdout, one should specify ``--log`` option.
+The message must be written in a single ``WriteFile()`` call.
+   // Prepare the message.
+   size_t msg_len =
+       wcslen(workingdir) + 1 +
+       wcslen(options   ) + 1 +
+       wcslen(manage_pwd) + 1;
+   wchar_t *msg_data = (wchar_t*)malloc(msg_len*sizeof(wchar_t));
+   _snwprintf(msg_data, msg_len, L"%s%c%s%c%s",
+       workingdir, L'\0',
+       options, L'\0',
+       manage_pwd)
+   // Send the message.
+   DWORD dwBytesWritten;
+   if (!WriteFile(pipe,
+       msg_data,
+       msg_len*sizeof(wchar_t),
+       &dwBytesWritten,
+       NULL))
+   {
+       // Error
+   }
+   // Sanitize memory, since the stdin component of the message
+   // contains the management interface password.
+   SecureZeroMemory(msg_data, msg_len*sizeof(wchar_t));
+   free(msg_data);
+openvpn.exe Process ID
+After receiving the startup message, the Interactive Service validates the user
+and specified options before launching the openvpn.exe process.
+The Interactive Service replies with a process ID message. The process ID
+message is comprised of three UTF-16 strings delimited by LFs (U000A)::
+   pidmsg  = L"0x00000000" WLF L"0x" pid WLF L"Process ID"
+   pid     = 8*8WHEXDIG
+   WHEXDIG = WDIGIT / L"A" / L"B" / L"C" / L"D" / L"E" / L"F"
+   WDIGIT  = %x0030-0039
+   WLF     = %x000a
+   A UTF-16 eight-character hexadecimal process ID of the openvpn.exe process
+   the Interactive Service launched on client's behalf.
+openvpn.exe Termination
+The pipe between the client and the service is kept open until the openvpn.exe
+process terminates.
+Should the openvpn.exe process terminate with an error, the Interactive Service
+sends an error message to the client before disconnecting the pipe.
+Note that Interactive Service never terminates the openvpn.exe process. Not 
+when the service is stopped or restarted. Therefore, the client must monitor 
+openvpn.exe process itself. OpenVPN Management Interface is recommended for
+Error Messages
+In case of an error, the Interactive Service sends an error message to the
+client. Error messages are comprised of three UTF-16 strings delimited by LFs
+   errmsg = L"0x" errnum WLF func WLF msg
+   errnum = 8*8WHEXDIG
+   func   = WSTRING
+   msg    = WSTRING
+   A UTF-16 eight-character hexadecimal error code. Typically, it is one of the
+   Win32 error codes returned by ``GetLastError()``.
+   However, it can be one of the Interactive Service specific error codes:
+   ===================== ==========
+   Error                 Code
+   ===================== ==========
+   ERROR_STARTUP_DATA    0x20000001
+   ERROR_MESSAGE_DATA    0x20000002
+   ERROR_MESSAGE_TYPE    0x20000003
+   ===================== ==========
+   The name of the function call that failed or an error description.
+  The error description returned by a
+  ``FormatMessageW(FORMAT_MESSAGE_FROM_SYSTEM, 0, errnum, ...)`` call.
+Interactive Service Configuration
+The Interactive Service settings are read from the
+``HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\OpenVPN`` registry key by default.
+All the following registry values are of the ``REG_SZ`` type:
+   Installation folder (required, hereinafter ``install_dir``)
+   The absolute path to the openvpn.exe binary; defaults to
+   ``install_dir "\bin\openvpn.exe"``.
+   The path to the configuration folder; defaults to ``install_dir "\config"``.
+   openvpn.exe process priority; one of the following strings:
+   - ``"NORMAL_PRIORITY_CLASS"`` (default)
+   The name of the local group, whose members are authorized to use the
+   Interactive Service unrestricted; defaults to ``"OpenVPN Administrators"``
+Multiple Interactive Service Instances
+OpenVPN 2.4.5 extended the Interactive Service to support multiple side-by-side
+running instances. This allows clients to use different Interactive Service
+versions with different settings and/or openvpn.exe binary version on the same
+OpenVPN installs the default Interactive Service instance only. The default
+instance is used by OpenVPN GUI client and also provides backward 
+Installing a Non-default Interactive Service Instance
+1. Choose a unique instance name. For example: "$v2.5-test". The instance name
+   is appended to the default registry path and service name. We choose to 
+   it with a dollar "$" sign analogous to Microsoft SQL Server instance naming
+   scheme. However, this is not imperative.
+   Appending the name to the registry path and service name also implies the
+   name cannot contain characters not allowed in Windows paths: "<", ">", 
+   quote etc.
+2. Create an ``HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\OpenVPN$v2.5-test`` registry key and
+   configure the Interactive Service instance configuration appropriately.
+   This allows using slightly or completely different settings from the default
+   instance.
+   See the `Interactive Service Configuration`_ section for the list of 
+   values.
+3. Create and start the instance's Windows service from an elevated command
+   prompt::
+      sc create "OpenVPNServiceInteractive$v2.5-test" \
+         start= auto \
+         binPath= "<path to openvpnserv.exe> -instance interactive $v2.5-test" 
+         depend= tap0901/Dhcp \
+         DisplayName= "OpenVPN Interactive Service (v2.5-test)"
+      sc start "OpenVPNServiceInteractive$v2.5-test"
+   This allows using the same or a different version of openvpnserv.exe than 
+   default instance.
+   Note the space after "=" character in ``sc`` command line options.
+4. Set your OpenVPN client to connect to the
+   ``\\.\pipe\openvpn$v2.5-test\service``.
+   This allows the client to select a different installed Interactive Service
+   instance at run-time, thus allowing different OpenVPN settings and versions.
+   At the time writing, the OpenVPN GUI client supports connecting to the
+   default Interactive Service instance only.
+.. _`Gert's email`:
2.15.1 (Apple Git-101)


The inclusion of the doc/interactive-service-notes.txt file in the 
doc/ introduced in v2 was dropped in v3. Giving it a second thought, 
there is no point into packaging this file for non-Windows distributions, since 
the Interactive Service is Windows-specific.

I am reluctant to rewrite the "How It Works" section to a more formal language. 
Nor do I feel a need to. Gert's easy-going language describes the big picture 
of the Interactive Service idea anyone can understand in ten seconds. Not 
something you can easily achieve using a formal language. In v3 of this patch, 
I did made it a bit more formal nevertheless.

Selva, thank you for your remarks. I have updated the text.

BTW, the "_" after the quoted section name is a reStructuredText markup that 
renders the section name as a reference/hyperlink to that section. You don't 
need to install the Docutils -- use a nice reStructuredText online 
editor/renderer at to get the final document look. Nice 
thing with reStructuredText is that the markup clutters the original text a bit 
less than Markdown.

I don't plan to document the service pipe between Interactive Service and 
openvpn.exe. I am not experienced in it. The service pipe is internal OpenVPN 
affair, not something you need to know when developing a custom OpenVPN 
frontend. The target audience of doc/interactive-service-notes.txt document as 
it is now are developers looking to automate openvpn.exe use on Windows. 
However, I don't mind somebody extend it with service pipe documentation.

Best regards,

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