charon-svc is the strongSwan IKE service to run on the Windows platform. It builds upon libcharon and is the Windows counterpart of charon on Unix systems.


charon-svc is a hybrid application that can run both as a command line application and as a system service.

When invoked from the console, the application runs in the foreground and can be terminated by hitting ^C. This is mostly useful for testing and debugging purposes, e.g. to run charon in a debugger.

Alternatively and better suited for productive use, the application can be installed as a Windows service. This can be achieved by any method appropriate, for example using the sc utility:

sc create “strongSwan IKE service” binPath= C:\path\to\charon-svc.exe
After creating the service, it can be controlled using the sc utility or the Services Management Console Snap-In.


ipsec.conf based configuration is currently not supported, as starter has not been ported to Windows. Instead, the new swanctl configuration backend based on the vici protocol can be used.

The application itself currently does not have any strongswan.conf options. However, all options for libcharon, libhydra or libstrongswan and the related plugins apply. Instead of the charon section, configuration keys are located under the charon-svc root section.

To configure logging, the instructions of LoggerConfiguration apply. Unless explicitly built against a syslog client library, under Windows no default logging to syslog is performed. A simple logger configuration example is:

charon-svc {
    filelog { 
        log.txt {
            flush_line = yes
        stdout {

All configured file paths are relative to the application binary, as charon-svc changes its working directory after startup.

Automatic configuration loading

A Windows build usually uses swanctl as configuration backend. When running charon-svc as a service, there is no init script that could take care of loading configurations and credentials after service startup. Therefore libcharon has the capability of invoking start- and stop-scripts to perform these (and other) tasks. To load a swanctl configuration, the following strongswan.conf section can be used:

charon-svc {
  start-scripts {
    swanctl-creds = swanctl --load-creds --noprompt
    swanctl-conns = swanctl --load-conns

Credentials should be loaded before connections, as connections may reference credentials.