Thursday 8 November 2007

How to enable anonymous access for an existing SharePoint web application

It can be a little daunting if you're new to SharePoint and tasked with doing something you've never done before. Can it be done in SharePoint? Will doing it break your site or the entire installation? Is doing it so difficult it's not worth doing? Configuring anonymous access is one of those tasks because you're dealing with SharePoint (and ASP.NET indirectly), your site collection (and potentially your database indirectly), IIS, and occasionally the file system.

At the time of writing there are a number of sites and blog posts out there offering instructions on how to configure anonymous access. Some are extremely detailed--and depending on what you're trying to accomplish, unnecessarily so. Others are a bit vague. For my own sake I therefore thought it might be useful to file this under Things to Remember but I hope it helps you too...

What you'll find below is a detailed step-by-step set of instructions for setting up anonymous access for a fully branded web site like The anonymous access site gives internet users the ability to browse the site without having to log in and another site allows content editors to post content updates using their domain accounts.

A bit of background information

In brief, the steps below involve 'extending an existing web application' (that's a SharePoint concept) by creating a sister web app from an existing web app. The extended web app will use the same content database as the original and will be configured to support anonymous access. The top-level site of the database will also be configured to support anonymous access. As a final option, I'll show you how to disable all other types of non-anonymous access.

The following tasks should be completed by a server administrator and assume you have already created a web application the normal way (it might be a good idea to ensure it's working before you begin...)

1. Extend an existing web application

  • Open the Central Administration console and select the Application Management tab.
  • Select Create or extend Web application from the SharePoint Web Application Management section.
  • Select Extend an existing Web application on the next screen.
  • Select an existing web application to extend.
  • Modify the description and configure the port and, optionally, the host header.
  • Set Allow Anonymous to Yes.
  • Set the Load Balanced URL Zone to Internet (you may choose another zone here if you like but Internet generally means anonymous so it's the best option).

Once you've extended a web application, the new (i.e. extended) application seems to disapper from the Central Administration screens: it won't be listed as a web application and it doesn't appear as an option when selecting a web app. You will, however, get a new directory for the extended web app under inetpub\wwwroot\wss\virtualdirectories\ and a new IIS site; you can also remove the extended site from SharePoint if required.

2. Enable anonymous access on the site's corresponding site collection

Although the site collection will be shared by the existing web application and the anonymous web application, the following steps must be completed via the anonymous web application.
  • Browse to the home page of the extended web application
  • Select Site Settings --> Modify All Site Settings from the Site Actions drop-down menu.
  • Under Users and Permissions, select the Advanced permissions link.
  • Select Anonymous Access from the Settings menu.
  • Set Anonymous Access to Entire Web site.

Sites inherit the permissions of their parent by default so if you have any problems with a specific site you can ensure it's set to inherit permission from here as well (browse to the site settings screen for the relevant site first).

If you can’t see the Anonymous Access menu item, either the web app hasn’t been configured for anonymous access (see above or below) or you’re accessing the site via the default zone instead of the internet zone—you must access the site via the internet zone (at the extended URL).

3. Test
  • Browse to the anonymous site in Firefox (or turn off integrated windows authentication if you're using IE); the site should be rendered without the Site Actions menu and other SharePoint controls.
  • Browse to a SharePoint administration screen (eg. /_layouts/settings.aspx) and you should be prompted to supply login credentials.

At this point your site is set up to allow anonymous access but will also prompt you to log in as an administrator if you hit any of the SharePoint screens. This may be desirable but alternatively you may want to lock down external access to your public site; if that's the case, read on...

4. Remove integrated authentication from the anonymous web application (optional)
  • Open the Central Administration console and select the Application Management tab.
  • Select Authentication providers from the Application Security section.
  • Select the Internet zone (this is the zone specified when the anonymous application was extended).
  • Deselect Integrated Windows authentication.
  • Set Enable Client Integration to No.

5. Test

  • Browse to the anonymous site in Firefox (restart any open browser windows if you receive a 401 error immediately after completing step 4). The home page should appear as it did previously.
  • Browse to a SharePoint administration screen (eg. /_layouts/settings.aspx); you should receive a 401 UNAUTHORIZED HTTP error (which, in this case, is appropriate).

6. Troubleshooting

If you run into difficulties (mainly with 401s and 403s popping up where they shouldn't), these ideas may help.

  • Make sure the page you're trying to access is published. It's easy to forget this simple step in all the excitement but if a page (or image, etc) doesn't have at least one published version MOSS won't serve it up
  • Reset IIS--it's quick an easy ;-)
  • Grant the Read & Execute permission to the Authenticated Users group on the anonymous site's web.config and /bin directory (both can be found below Inetpub\wwwroot\wss\VirtualDirectories); do the same again for the authenticated site. Permissions on these files are reset every time the authentication method is changed in SharePoint.
  • Recognise extending a web app creates a new site in IIS and corresponding directory under wwwroot with its own web.config. Ensure the newly-created web.config in the extended site contains everything it needs to; ensure any virtual directories and applications are properly configured
  • Redeploy any solutions, features, etc to make sure everything’s where it needs to be (custom private assemblies in particular)
  • It's possible your custom code is doing something that requires elevated permissions. The Visual Studio debugger will help you locate the culprit. If you can't remove the offending code, you can wrap it using a delegate:

SPSecurity.CodeToRunElevated elevatedAction =
new SPSecurity.CodeToRunElevated(delegate() { /* dodgy stuff */ });

  • If necessary, remove the extended web application using the Central Administration console (also remove the IIS site) and start again.


  1. A question. After I extendend my site I have two entries, one for anonymous and one for editors. However, if the editors later on wants to change available pages for the anonymous site, they should do this by setting anonymous access for that list, right?
    But the "Anonymous access" option is not available on the editor's site since this has only been set for the extended site. And if I enable it, both my site has anonymous enabled, which doesn't seem right to me.
    And I still want this to be configured in the editor's site, not the anonymous.
    Am I missing something?

  2. Your anonymous site extends your read/write site and while you end up with two IIS sites both sites are pointing to the same content database. Your content editors can therefore edit within the context of the read/write site and any published changes will become available in the anonymous site (note checking in isn't enough--they need to fully publish the page and all related images, etc). You don't need to enable anonymous access on your first site.

  3. thanks alot , actualy i was trying to do different tricks in so many ways n' i have googled it for pretty long tym , i didnt though it was that easy and still no information on the web , thx alot

  4. thank you! all and just what i needed


Spam comments will be deleted

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.