What are configuration profiles?

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper|Updated May 2, 2024
General IT Article background
General IT Article background

Configuration profiles are a fundamental component of all device management strategies. In the simplest terms, they are XML files that allow administrators to distribute configuration information to Apple devices. Consider these profiles the blueprints of your device's behavior and attributes.

As you start to deploy configuration profiles, you'll notice that there is frequently a direct correlation between configuration profile components and the various configurable settings available in System Settings. For example, In System Settings, you can upload an image to become your wallpaper picture. Similarly, you can create a wallpaper configuration profile, upload an image, and then deploy that profile to multiple devices (with supervision).

These profiles can be pushed to devices over the air, giving admins zero-touch control over many parameters for devices en masse, from Wi-Fi settings to wallpapers, application permissions, password policies, and more.

Config profiles are building blocks, and they help get things done.

It's giving mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell. 🦠

But perhaps you're not quite ready to be transported to ninth-grade science with me today, so let me break it down.

Attributes of configuration profiles

A configuration profile is an XML-based plist file and consists of several components such as payload identifier, UUID, organization identity, payload type, description, scope, and version. The payload content is a critical component, containing the specific settings and commands that the profile will enforce or apply. 

payload content = the part that has the stuff that does the things 


XML, or Extensible Markup Language, establishes rules for encoding documents in a format intuitive to humans and computers alike. Allowing custom tagging schemes fosters document diversity while delivering a perfect balance of readability and flexibility for data storage and transmission.

Property list (plist)

Plist, a shortened term for "property list," is a data file used across macOS to store user preferences and application data. These files, serializing objects like numbers or strings, typically utilize XML or Binary formats. When written in XML, plist files use this language as a "vessel" for structuring and storing data.

In short, plist is the nature of the data file, and XML is the format that structures that data. Okay, so configuration profiles are XML written in plist format. Cool, I feel smart. 🧠

Plist is the data format, XML is the markup language used for constructing the data, and configuration profiles directly apply these technologies to manage settings on Apple devices. It's like getting from A to B: plist defines the car, XML is the roadmap, and configuration profiles are the destination.

Configuration profile keys

Configuration profile keys encompass those within a configuration profile, including payload dictionary keys and payload-specific property keys. They may also refer to top-level keys defining the profile structure. For instance, PayloadDisplayName and PayloadRemovalDisallowed set the profile's name and removal permission, respectively.

Each payload contains a set collection of configuration profile keys within the configuration profile, stipulating a device's enforced settings or configurations. The values are set, encoded into a profile, and subsequently take effect when installed.

You keep mentioning payloads… 

The configuration profile XML's core content or payload contains managed devices' settings, restrictions, and rules. Each payload has payload-specific keys denoting key settings.

Payload dictionary keys

Every configuration profile contains payloads and dictionaries of key-value pairs. Payload dictionary keys constitute the main payload properties, conveying essential information: PayloadType, PayloadVersion, PayloadIdentifier, and PayloadUUID, for example.

Payload-specific property keys

These apply specifically to individual payloads. Unique to their payload type, they determine actual settings or configurations, like a Wi-Fi payload specifying SSID and password. 

Think of configuration profiles as books:

Configuration profile keys are chapters.

Payload dictionary keys serve as chapter titles.

Payload-specific property keys are the detailed content within.

What configuration profiles control

With SimpleMDM, you can use configuration profiles to cater to different business requirements. These include:

1. Wi-Fi profiles: Configure access to Wi-Fi networks, including SSID, security type, and associated passwords. No more wasting time manually entering Wi-Fi credentials on every device.

2. Email profiles: Set up email accounts, including inbound and outbound servers and port numbers. Supports major email providers such as Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo, etc.

3. VPN profiles: Set up VPN configurations, giving employees secure, remote access to your organization's network.

4. Active Directory/LDAP profiles: Integrate your devices with your existing Active Directory or LDAP setups for user authentication.

5. Mobile Device Management (MDM) settings: Control how devices interact with your MDM. This includes Security & Privacy settings, Software Update Delay settings, and MDM removal permissions.

6. Certificate profiles: Deploy private certificates for secure identification and communication.

7. iOS- and macOS-specific profiles: You can create custom profiles specific to the operating system. Examples include Home Screen Layout for iOS and FileVault settings for macOS.

8. Application configuration profiles: You can set predefined settings and data for specific device apps.

9. Passcode configuration profiles: Define passcode complexity requirements, auto-lock settings, and more to ensure device security.

10. Web content filter profiles: Control access to certain websites on the device for a safer browsing environment, especially for education sectors.

11. Device restrictions: Set the policies about what features of their devices personnel can use, like screen capture.

Custom profiles can also be created based on business-specific needs using the Apple Configurator tool and imported to SimpleMDM. And thankfully, pushing Apple Configurator profiles to devices to devices is quick and easy.

SimpleMDM has introduced support for the "Gatekeeper Policy" profile within the SimpleMDM admin interface. This profile empowers administrators to manage app security on controlled devices. It oversees Gatekeeper settings related to app installation on macOS.

What are custom configuration profiles?

Custom configuration profiles are configuration profiles that exist outside the premade profiles your MDM already has available for deployment.

A custom configuration profile for SimpleMDM would be any profile you build out, typically excluding the following list:

Configuration Name 

Allows you to define... 

App Restrictions 

an app allowlist or denylist to hide undesired apps from iOS. Requires supervision. 

AirPlay Destination 

an available destination to stream audio and video. 

AirPrint Printer 

an AirPrint-compatible printer for devices to use. 


an Access Point Name. This is also called a cellular payload. Sometimes used in advanced deployments. 


a WebDAV or CalDAV calendar account. 


a WebDAV or CardDAV contacts account. 


deploy custom certificates to devices. 


an Exchange, IMAP, or POP-based email account. 


requirements around using FileVault full disk encryption. It also supports escrowing and rotating personal recovery keys. 


Firewall settings on macOS devices. 

Firmware Password 

Firmware password settings and saves passwords to SimpleMDM. 

Global HTTP Proxy 

an HTTP proxy that all web traffic on the device will be forced to pass through. Requires supervision. 

Google Account 

a Google account to use for email, contacts, and calendaring. 

Home Screen Layout 

an icon and folder layout on the iOS home screen and dock. Requires supervision. 

Kernel Extension Policy 

approvals for specific kernel extensions on macOS. 


an LDAP account typically used to populate Contacts in iOS. 

Passcode Policy 

complexity requirements for passcodes on iOS and macOS, as well as screen lock settings. 

Privacy Preferences 

accessibility permissions for specific applications on macOS. 


a list of iOS functionalities that should be disabled. 

Single App Lock 

is an app that is forced to run at all times on a device. Requires supervision. 

Single Sign-On Account 

a Kerberos account to be used to sign into websites and apps. 

Software Update Policy for iOS 

settings to automatically download/install iOS and tvOS updates. Requires supervision. 

Software Update Policy for macOS 

settings to configure Software Update preferences and automatically download/install macOS updates. 

Subscribed Calendar 

a calendar subscription. These appear in the device's calendar list. 


a VPN account, such as L2TP, PPTP, Cisco, or other popular technologies. 


an image to appear in the background of the home and/or lock screen. Requires supervision. 

Web Clip 

an icon on the home screen that acts as a shortcut to a website. 

Web Content Filter 

a website allowlist or denylist to control web access in the Safari app. Requires supervision. 

Wireless Network 

a Wi-Fi network that the device can access. 

My personal preference is to build a custom profile with iMazing. It's a free download from the App Store and very simple to use.

iMazing Profile Editor

iMazing Profile Editor is a macOS tool designed to help system admins manage and configure Apple devices. It allows users to create, edit, and sign configuration profiles.

How to use iMazing to create mobileconfigs for MDMs

1. Download and install iMazing Profile Editor from the official website. Install the application.

2. From the desktop, double-click the iMazing Profile Editor Application.


3. Create a new profile: Click File in the menu bar and select New (or press Command + N) to create a new configuration profile.

4. Add basic profile information. In the General settings, enter a profile Name and Identifier to identify the new profile uniquely.

5. Title your profile in the Name field.


6. Fill out the Identifier field, which you can name in the com.example.myprofile fashion. (Only fields with the blue dot highlighting them are required fields.)


7. Scroll to the bottom of the left menu items in the iMazing application and click iCloud Find My.


8. Click Add Configuration Payload.


9. Click the Disable Find My iCloud Setting box to enable the payload.


10. Press Cmd + s.

11. Click Save.


12. Open your browser and navigate to the SimpleMDM website.


13. Click Profiles.


14. Click Create Profile.


15. Click Custom Configuration Profile.


16. In the Name field, enter the name of your custom profile.


17. Type DisableFindmyMac

18. Click Choose File to upload your iMazing config.


19. Click Recents.


20. Click the mobileconfig you just created.


21. Click Upload.


22. Click the appropriate checkbox(es) to define your OS scope.


23. Click Save.


24. Click Groups.


25. Click the group you'd like to deploy your profile to.


26. Click Profiles.


27. Click Assign Profile.


28. Under Assign Profile, click the Filter by name or type the profile name in the text field.


29. Click Assign.


Our favorite custom configuration profiles


Here are a few custom config profiles you can try out yourself!

1. Conference Room Display [tvOS]

 Supervision required

This is one of my favorite configuration profiles, and honestly, Apple TV for enterprise is slept on when you consider features like this!

Conference Room Mode for Apple TV is a setting that transforms Apple TV into a SAM-type locked conference room display, preventing tampering and enabling simple screen sharing via AirPlay from Mac, iOS, or iPadOS devices.

Once activated, the TV display defaults to displaying AirPlay instructions and wireless network details and remains unmodifiable. In addition, the customizable screen allows organizations to configure the display's branding and messaging to match their corporate identity.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd"> <plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>PayloadContent</key> <array> <dict> <key>Message</key> <string>Please use Airplay to stream media from your device. </string> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>Conference Room Display</string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>com.apple.conferenceroomdisplay.82C0F5D6-4C8D-4D63-9F93-F9BFD1B8C47B</string> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>com.apple.conferenceroomdisplay</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>82C0F5D6-4C8D-4D63-9F93-F9BFD1B8C47B</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> </dict> </array> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>Conference Room Display</string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>com.conferenceroom.profile</string> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>Configuration</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>1D06C6F8-0680-4D6F-A787-83939CF52983</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> </dict> </plist>

Note: This profile is tvOS only, so check the box for tvOS when deploying this profile!   

2. Disable Find My Activation Lock [macOS]

Another favorite macOS custom configuration profile is this nifty restriction for disabling 'Find My' on macOS. Check out in-depth instructions on how to manage Activation Lock for enterprise environments.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd"> <plist version="1.0"> <dict> <key>PayloadContent</key> <array> <dict> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>Restrictions</string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>com.apple.applicationaccess.67A8AB6B-A67B-4193-8681-FA78886B143D</string> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>com.apple.applicationaccess</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>67A8AB6B-A67B-4193-8681-FA78886B143D</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> <key>allowAccountModification</key> <false/> <key>allowFindMyDevice</key> <false/> <key>allowFindMyFriends</key> <false/> </dict> </array> <key>PayloadDescription</key> <string>ios account settings restriction profile not managable </string> <key>PayloadDisplayName</key> <string>Disable modification of IOS account settings </string> <key>PayloadIdentifier</key> <string>com.accountsettingsmodify.disabled</string> <key>PayloadType</key> <string>Configuration</string> <key>PayloadUUID</key> <string>E08E9953-CA91-4924-9F85-8D90CFAE9C41</string> <key>PayloadVersion</key> <integer>1</integer> </dict> </plist>

3. Choose your own adventure!

From Zoom to Chrome, CrowdStrike, or Office, the whole point of custom configurations is endless possibilities!

  1. Research the parameters for configuration profiles.

  2. Mix and match pre-built configurations.

  3. See what other profiles MacAdmins create!

Our favorite prebuilt profiles

By operating system

We know you want to keep your profile deployment time to a MINIMUM so you can keep your beer time to a MAXIMUM. 🍻 So SMDM has already prebuilt all the super handy ones for you! Here are a few notable ones that you can try out this week:


Web Content Filter

Supervision required


A Web Content Filter profile is a configuration profile applied to devices to manage and control access to specific web content. When a Web Content Filter profile is applied to a device, it can limit or block access to specific websites or categories based on predefined rules or settings. This helps prevent users from accessing inappropriate, unsafe, or unproductive content while using the device.



App Restrictions

Supervision required

The app restrictions profile is precisely what it sounds like. This profile allows you to create an allow-list or a deny-list for iOS devices and add applications to that list by searching the App Store or bundle ID.



Single App Lock

Supervision required

To no one's surprise, my go-to Profile favorite for iPads will always be Single App Lock. In our in-depth article, take a peek at this and how to utilize this profile to create Kiosk devices.


Overall Winner

Wireless Network

This one is a no-brainer! This profile is the first profile you need on each device and the last one you'll ever take off. Unlike most profiles, it's compatible with every OS (macOS, iOS, iPadOS, tvOS) and doesn't require supervision. This profile lets you quickly customize and deploy a preconfigured Wi-Fi network to any device. It's about the most standard profile you can create, but classics are classic for a reason.


SimpleMDM added support for Apple's "Printing" profile in the SimpleMDM admin interface. This profile enables Administrators to configure printing settings and preferences on macOS devices. It manages printing preferences, like default printers, quotas, job permissions, and user group access.

Config profile FAQs

What are config profiles?

Config profiles are XML files containing settings and restrictions that can be remotely applied to Apple devices managed by an MDM server.

How do I create custom configuration profiles in SimpleMDM?

You can create custom configuration profiles in SimpleMDM by following these steps:

  1. Obtain your XML payload:

    • Create an XML, copy an existing XML, or configure a custom XML using a tool like iMazing.

  2. Add the Profile in SimpleMDM: Go to Profiles > Add profile> Custom Configuration Profile. Name the Profile.

  3. Add the .mobileconfig:

    • Click Choose File and upload the .mobileconfig from your computer.

    • Alternatively, paste the code into the text editor field.

  4. Review the two boxes below the text editor:

    • "For macOS devices, deploy as a device profile..." — check this box for default device level deployment.

    • "Enable attribute support" — leave unchecked unless using custom attributes.  

  5. Save the Profile:

    • An error message will appear if there's an issue and prevent you from saving the profile.

  6. Deploy the Profile:

    • Assign the profile to your device groups by checking the box next to the profile name on the Device Group Details page.

Still have questions? Please read our full instructions on building a custom configuration profile from scratch and refer to the latest documentation for accurate and up-to-date steps.

How else can I deploy configuration profiles outside of MDM?

Configuration profiles can be deployed through various methods outside MDM, including:

  • Using Apple Configurator 2: You can utilize Apple Configurator 2, accessible on the App Store.

  • Via email: Deployment can be achieved by sending the profiles within an email message.

  • On a webpage: Profiles can also be placed on a webpage for deployment.

  • Over-the-air configuration: Employ the over-the-air profile delivery and configuration method detailed in Over-the-Air Profile Delivery and Configuration.

Ready to maximize your Mac management? From education to enterprise deployments, SimpleMDM is ready to go!

Headshot of Andrea Pepper, SimpleMDM writer and MacAdmin
Andrea Pepper

Andrea Pepper is an Apple SME MacAdmin with a problematic lack of impulse control around a software update prompt. When not poking at machines, Pepper enjoys being a silly goose in sunny Colorado with her two gigantic fluffer pups.

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