Connecting to an iSCSI target using the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator

I’ve spent a good chunk of today trying to prepare a clustered virtual machine demonstration using the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator and Target.

I’ve done this before but only on training courses and I was more than a little bit rusty when it came to configuring iSCSI. It’s actually quite straightforward and I found Jose Barreto’s blog post on using the Microsoft iSCSI software target with Hyper-V a very useful guide (even though the Hyper-V part was irrelevant to me, the iSCSI configuration is useful).

The basic steps are:

  • Install the iSCSI Target (server) and Initiator (client) software (the Initiator is already supplied with Windows Vista and Server 2008).
  • Set up a separate network for iSCSI traffic (this step is optional – I didn’t do this in my demo environment – but it is recommended).
  • On the client(s):
    • Load the iSCSI Initiator, and answer yes to the questions about starting the iSCSI Service automatically and about allowing iSCSI traffic through the firewall.
    • Examine the iSCSI Initiator properties and make a note of the initiator name on the General page (it should be something like
    • On the Discovery page, add a target portal, using the DNS name or IP address of the iSCSI Target and the appropriate port number (default is 3260).
  • On the iSCSI server:
    • Create a new target, supplying a target name and the identifiers of all the clients that will require access. This is where the IQNs from the initiators will be required (you can also use DNS name, IP or MAC address but IQN is the normal configuration method).
    • Add one or more LUN(s) to the target (the Microsoft implementation uses the virtual hard disk format for this, so the method is to create a virtual disk within the iSCSI Target console).
    • Make a note of the IQN for the target on the Target properties and ensure that it is enabled (checkbox on the General page).
  • Back on the client(s):
    • Move to the Target properties page and refresh to see the details of the new target.
    • Click the Log on button and select the checkbox to automatically restore the connection when the computer starts.
    • Bring the disk online and initialise it in Disk Management, before creating one or more volume(s) as required.

After completing these steps, the iSCSI storage should be available for access as though it were a local disk.

It’s worth noting that the Microsoft iSCSI Target is not easy to come by (unless you have access to a Windows Storage Server). It is possible to get hold of an evaluation copy of Storage Server though and Jose explains how to install this in another blog post. Alternatively, you can use a third party iSCSI software target (it must support persistent reservations) or, even better, use a hardware solution.

3 thoughts on “Connecting to an iSCSI target using the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator

  1. Another thing I found (and which cost me a lot of time) was that, after adding the computer running as the iSCSI target to a domain, I could no longer connect from the initiators. I had to open port 3260 in the Windows Firewall manually – once that was done, communications started to flow.

    I haven’t had time to properly diagnose why this was only a problem after joining the domain (the Windows Firewall was enabled in both configurations) but it worked for me anyway!

  2. That’s fine as long as you don’t need MPIO (multi-path) connectivity. Microsoft DO NOT support MPIO on Vista (or the upcoming Windows 7), only on their server platforms.

    In addition, the iSCSI initiator software is built-in in Vista/Win7 and it’s not possible to uninstall, “enrich”, or replace it by the more capable iSCSI software for Windows Server 2008 (or relevant parts), even though there shouldn’t be any severe incompatibility involved.

    The Microsoft iSCSI intiator with MPIO is available as a separate installation package for Windows XP (along with the server OS), but this is no longer the case for the newer client OS (Vista/Win7).

    I’m puzzled about the Microsoft decision to abandon MPIO support on their future workstation OS since the market for iSCSI DAS/NAS/SAN storage is rapidly penetrating the consumer tier and growing fast. There are many scenarios where a customer would like to have a fast (MPIO) connection to a SAN from a workstation, i.e. without having to buy/build a server in addition only because MPIO is not available for workstations…

  3. The reason for tcp 3260 being closed after domain join is probably that you configured the iSCSI target before the domain join, which means that the Windows Firewall was using the Public or Private profile. After the join it was using the Domain profile, and there was no rule specified in it for this particular port or application.

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