IIS7 Hijacking my custom error pages

Custom error pages replaced by IIS?

Development Machine W7, Production IIS7 Windows 2008

Just had a sticky problem crop up in production. Custom error pages that used to work no longer work, I don’t know when but sometime our custom ASP.NET error pages have been replaced by stock IIS error pages.

How we use custom error pages

If a website user or search bot attempts to access a product page and the product no longer exists, we send them to a custom error page. The page suggests they try another product or search for alternatives. This page sends back a http 404 status so that the search engines know to drop the accessed URL from the index. It also causes our Google Mini to drop the page from its database too. If the user navigates to another url that has never had content they get a default 404 page returned.

Lets have a look

So you have a great little custom error page like this;

Protected Sub Page_Load1(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles Me.Load
        'Ensure a 404 not found sent for SEO purposes
        Response.StatusCode = 404
        Response.TrySkipIisCustomErrors = True
    End Sub

However even browsing direct to the page you only get,

IIS7 404 default error page

This is not your crafted custom page, instead this is the IIS7 page kicking in. IIS has put itself in the pipeline to the end user, replacing its own page with in place of the custom page.

IIS custom page configuration

The configuration for this is found in the site Error Pages section;

IIS7 Management Link to Error Pages

If you go into this menu you see all the custom error pages set up in IIS, now select the edit feature settings link on the right hand side;

IIS7 Error Pages Configuration

This is where the behaviour is set and currently this is set to show detail errors for users local to the machine but custom errors for people elsewhere. Note this is not ASP.NET, although the idea is the same, this is above ASP.NET, it is the handling IIS does for these pages.

You do not want normal users to see the detailed errors as it can give away important information about the configuration of your server thus the setting shown is fine and looking at it one would guess it would show our custom pages as we saw by the returned IIS 404 page this is not the case.

IIS7 Custom Errors Settings

So why do we not see our custom pages? Well back in the page code behind shot earlier is the key, you must set

Response.TrySkipIisCustomErrors = True

This tells IIS to get its nose out of what we’re up to and let us get on with it. Trying to browse the custom error page, now we get our custom error page retuned as would be expected in the first case.

Lesson learnt

The real nasty bit of this is that our development machines do not exhibit this behaviour, everything looks fine there. As Rick Strahl says it is another good case for using the staging servers with the production environment so that you test everything.

Rick Strahl's Web Log has an almost identical post here

What to expect from IIS7 custom error modulethis link was the one that taught me what I needed to solve the problem.