Digest Authentication <digestAuthentication>


The <digestAuthentication> element contains configuration settings for the Internet Information Services (IIS) 7 Digest authentication module. You configure this element to enable or disable Digest authentication, and optionally you can specify the Digest authentication realm.

Digest authentication is not as widely used as Basic authentication, but has some distinct advantages over Basic authentication or Windows authentication. The major disadvantage to using Basic authentication over non-encrypted means of communication is that the client's user name and password are sent as a base-64-encoded plaintext message, making it very easy for a malicious user to eavesdrop on the communication and retrieve the user name and password. Windows authentication resolves that issue through a variety of security options, but Windows authentication does not typically work in an Internet environment.

Digest authentication addresses both of the above limitations by the following means:

  • Unlike the plaintext scheme used by Basic authentication, Digest authentication has the client send a hash of the client's information over the communication channel, therefore the client's user name and password are never sent over the network.
  • Digest authentication works well over the Internet, making Digest authentication better-suited for that environment than Windows authentication.

Note: Digest authentication only protects the client's user name and password - the body of the HTTP communication is still in plaintext. To secure the body of your communication, you should use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).


Version Notes
IIS 7.5 The <digestAuthentication> element was not modified in IIS 7.5.
IIS 7.0 The <digestAuthentication> element was introduced in IIS 7.0.
IIS 6.0 The <digestAuthentication> element replaces portions of the IIS 6.0 AuthType and AuthFlags metabase properties.


The default installation of IIS 7 does not include the Digest authentication role service. To use Digest authentication on IIS 7, you must install the role service, disable Anonymous authentication for your Web site or application, and then enable Digest authentication for the site or application.

To install the Digest authentication role service, use the following steps.

Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2

  1. On the taskbar, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Server Manager.
  2. In the Server Manager hierarchy pane, expand Roles, and then click Web Server (IIS).
  3. In the Web Server (IIS) pane, scroll to the Role Services section, and then click Add Role Services.
  4. On the Select Role Services page of the Add Role Services Wizard, select Digest Authentication, and then click Next.
  5. On the Confirm Installation Selections page, click Install.
  6. On the Results page, click Close.

Windows Vista or Windows 7

  1. On the taskbar, click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. In Control Panel, click Programs and Features, and then click Turn Windows Features on or off.
  3. Expand Internet Information Services, expand World Wide Web Services, expand Security, select Digest Authentication, and then click OK.

How To

How to enable Digest authentication and disable Anonymous authentication

  1. Open Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager:
    • If you are using Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2:
      • On the taskbar, click Start, point to Administrative Tools, and then click Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.
    • If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7:
      • On the taskbar, click Start, and then click Control Panel.
      • Double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Internet Information Services (IIS) Manager.
  2. In the Connections pane, expand the server name, expand Sites, and then click the site, application or Web service for which you want to enable basic authentication.
  3. Scroll to the Security section in the Home pane, and then double-click Authentication.

  4. In the Authentication pane, select Digest Authentication, and then, in the Actions pane, click Enable.
  5. In the Authentication pane, select Anonymous Authentication, and then click Disable in the Actions pane.


The <digestAuthentication> element is configurable at the site, application, virtual directory, and URL level. After you install the role service, IIS 7 commits the following configuration settings to the ApplicationHost.config file.

<digestAuthentication enabled='false' />


Attribute Description
enabled Optional Boolean attribute.

Specifies whether Digest authentication is enabled.

The default value is false.
realm Optional String attribute.

Specifies the realm for Digest authentication.

Child Elements


Configuration Sample

The following configuration sample enables Digest authentication for a Web site, Web application, or Web service. By default these settings must be included in your ApplicationHost.config file, and you must include them in a <location> element and use the path attribute to define the Web site or application where you want to apply the authentication settings.

      <anonymousAuthentication enabled="false" />
      <digestAuthentication enabled="true" />

Sample Code

The following examples enable Digest authentication for a site.


appcmd.exe set config "Contoso" -section:system.webServer/security/authentication/digestAuthentication /enabled:"True" /commit:apphost

Note: You must be sure to set the commit parameter to apphost when you use AppCmd.exe to configure these settings. This commits the configuration settings to the appropriate location section in the ApplicationHost.config file.


using System;
using System.Text;
using Microsoft.Web.Administration;

internal static class Sample {

   private static void Main() {

      using(ServerManager serverManager = new ServerManager()) { 
         Configuration config = serverManager.GetApplicationHostConfiguration();

         ConfigurationSection digestAuthenticationSection = config.GetSection("system.webServer/security/authentication/digestAuthentication", "Contoso");
         digestAuthenticationSection["enabled"] = true;



Imports System
Imports System.Text
Imports Microsoft.Web.Administration

Module Sample
   Sub Main()
      Dim serverManager As ServerManager = New ServerManager
      Dim config As Configuration = serverManager.GetApplicationHostConfiguration

      Dim digestAuthenticationSection As ConfigurationSection = config.GetSection("system.webServer/security/authentication/digestAuthentication", "Contoso")
      digestAuthenticationSection("enabled") = True

   End Sub
End Module


var adminManager = new ActiveXObject('Microsoft.ApplicationHost.WritableAdminManager');
adminManager.CommitPath = "MACHINE/WEBROOT/APPHOST";

var digestAuthenticationSection = adminManager.GetAdminSection("system.webServer/security/authentication/digestAuthentication", "MACHINE/WEBROOT/APPHOST/Contoso");
digestAuthenticationSection.Properties.Item("enabled").Value = true;



Set adminManager = CreateObject("Microsoft.ApplicationHost.WritableAdminManager")
adminManager.CommitPath = "MACHINE/WEBROOT/APPHOST"

Set digestAuthenticationSection = adminManager.GetAdminSection("system.webServer/security/authentication/digestAuthentication", "MACHINE/WEBROOT/APPHOST/Contoso")
digestAuthenticationSection.Properties.Item("enabled").Value = True

Deprecated Elements