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Ben Scott

~/Enabling Windows authentication in IIS Express

21 Sep 2013

So I’m changing a site developed using Forms authentication to use Windows authentication, testing in IIS Express.


The first thing to be aware of is that in Forms authentication you set the thread principal yourself when logging in. With Windows authentication Thread.CurrentPrincipal.Identity.Name is set automatically (as long as the rest of these instructions are correct). So nothing should have to be changed in the application code as long as you’re already using Thread.CurrentPrincipal.Identity.Name with the Forms authentication.


The first step is to get rid of the Forms authentication section in the application’s Web.config. Mine looked like this:


	<!-- Comment out this to disable Forms authentication -->
	<authentication mode="Forms">
		<forms loginUrl="/LogIn" timeout="30">
			<credentials passwordFormat="Clear">
				<user name="admin" password="test" />
				<user name="state_admin" password="test" />
				<user name="api" password="test" />


IIS Express configuration

You can find the IIS Express configuration in X:\Users\your_account\Documents\IISExpress\config\applicationhost.config. First you need to find the name of the site. Search for the <sites> node and look for the site. It should be something like this:

<site name="YourSite" id="6">
    <application path="/" applicationPool="Clr4IntegratedAppPool">
        <virtualDirectory path="/" physicalPath="C:\source\YourSolution\src\YourSite.Web" />
        <binding protocol="http" bindingInformation="*:57635:localhost" />
        <binding protocol="http" bindingInformation="*:57635:" />

This site’s name is YourSite. You need to add (or alter) the site’s system.webServer overrides. Search for location path="YourSite" but chances are you need to create a new one. Add this right at the bottom of the file, just before the closing </configuration> tag:

<location path="YourSite">
                <anonymousAuthentication enabled="false" />
                <windowsAuthentication enabled="true" />

That should be all that is required to enable Windows authentication in an IIS Express ASP.NET application.

Check the authentication mode

One thing you can change in the application code is a check for the authentication mode being used. This can be used to hide a “Log out” link for example. You can get the authentication mode using this method:

public AuthenticationMode GetAuthenticationMode()
    var configuration = WebConfigurationManager.OpenWebConfiguration("/");
    var authenticationSection = (AuthenticationSection)configuration.GetSection("system.web/authentication");
    return authenticationSection.Mode;

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