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User Login For WinForm Applications

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4.44 (61 votes)
2 Oct 2008CPOL
Discusses windows authentication and application-specific authentication for WinForm applications


A question was posed in the C# forum today about logging in to an application using the user's Windows account. In essence, if the user is logged into his account, and he tries to run an application, it's kind of pointless (and annoying) to re-request his login info. However, making a user login to an application does allow the programmer to dictate the terms, specifically, what roles the user has on the computer in question. This article demonstrates not only this aspect of application access, but also allows the program to have its own xml-based database of users.

The Windows Authentication Problem

Since we don't have to worry about the user's name and/or password, this process is reduced to a much easier task - determining if the user is in an acceptable group/role. With the .Net framework, this is easy as pie, involving just three lines of code:

using System.Security.Principal;

public bool UserInSystemRole(WindowsBuiltInRole role)
    WindowsIdentity  identity = WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent();
    WindowsPrincipal principal = new WindowsPrincipal(identity);
    return principal.IsInRole(role);

The function above is from the supplied sample application, and is called by passing the desired WindowsBuiltInRole ordinal (like WindowsBuiltInRole.Administrator). You can also check for custom roles such as "MySuperRole". Below is the function from the sample application:

using System.Security.Principal;

public bool UserInCustomRole(string role)
    WindowsIdentity  identity = WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent();
    WindowsPrincipal principal = new WindowsPrincipal(identity);
    return principal.IsInRole(role);

Sometimes, .Net really does make things too easy on us. :)

The Application Authentication Problem

When you want something application-specific, this is probably the best way to go. The data file can be stored on any network share (for easy administration), and you can go as far as you want or need regarding security. For this sample application, I chose not to implement any kind of encryption or hashing of passwords because that's not what this article is about (and I pretty much didn't feel like doing it). Here's the function used to authenticate via the application's XML-based user database:

public bool ValidateApplicationUser(string userName, string password)
    bool validUser = false;

    // if you want to do encryption, I recommend that you encrypt the password 
    // here so that you don't have to mess with the LINQ query below, but you 
    // can still do a direct comparison.

        // setup the filename
        string fileName = System.IO.Path.Combine(Application.StartupPath, "users.xml");

        // load the file
        XDocument users = XDocument.Load(fileName);

        // query the file with LINQ - this query only returns one record from 
        // the file, and only if the user name and password match.
        XElement userElement = (from subitem in 
                    (from item in users.Descendants("user") select item) 
                     where subitem.Element("name").Value.ToLower() == userName.ToLower() 
                     && subitem.Element("password").Value == password 
                     select subitem).SingleOrDefault();

        // if you get here without an exception, and if the returned XElement isn't null
        // then the user is valid
        validUser = (userElement != null);

    catch (Exception ex)
        if (ex != null) {}

    return validUser;

Notice that we used our new friend, LINQ, again. LINQ is just too handy to ignore. While I wouldn't use it all the time, it's great for dealing with XML files like our user database.


You can easily combine the application-specific authentication with the role validation to further control access to your applications. 

The provided sample application has NOT been thoroughly tested (I simply don't have the time right now), so run your login code through the debugger a couple of times to make sure it's going to do what you want it to do.


10/03/2008: Changed the LINQ statement that retrieves the userElement in the ValidateApplicationUser() method to return null instead of waiting for an exception in the event that the user isn't found. I did not change the code in the download file, so remember to make the same change in your own code.

10/02/2008: Original article posted.



This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Software Developer (Senior) Paddedwall Software
United States United States
I've been paid as a programmer since 1982 with experience in Pascal, and C++ (both self-taught), and began writing Windows programs in 1991 using Visual C++ and MFC. In the 2nd half of 2007, I started writing C# Windows Forms and ASP.Net applications, and have since done WPF, Silverlight, WCF, web services, and Windows services.

My weakest point is that my moments of clarity are too brief to hold a meaningful conversation that requires more than 30 seconds to complete. Thankfully, grunts of agreement are all that is required to conduct most discussions without committing to any particular belief system.

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Sepehr Mohammadi26-Oct-13 7:15
memberSepehr Mohammadi26-Oct-13 7:15 
QuestionHave you implemented Windows Authentication? Pin
nithinkamble23-Sep-13 20:22
membernithinkamble23-Sep-13 20:22 
AnswerRe: Have you implemented Windows Authentication? Pin
#realJSOP24-Sep-13 0:58
mve#realJSOP24-Sep-13 0:58 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Yoda018-Aug-12 0:19
memberYoda018-Aug-12 0:19 
QuestionCongradulations Pin
Member 362447927-Feb-12 7:27
memberMember 362447927-Feb-12 7:27 
QuestionHow to do this against a database? Pin
ernieball_261-Feb-12 10:11
memberernieball_261-Feb-12 10:11 
AnswerRe: How to do this against a database? Pin
#realJSOP1-Feb-12 11:25
mve#realJSOP1-Feb-12 11:25 
GeneralRe: How to do this against a database? Pin
chenandczh21-Feb-12 15:29
memberchenandczh21-Feb-12 15:29 
Questionconfused by too many negatives Pin
Steve_T18-Aug-11 4:30
memberSteve_T18-Aug-11 4:30 
Questionif (ex != null) { } Pin
Alexander Batishchev26-Jun-11 6:37
memberAlexander Batishchev26-Jun-11 6:37 
AnswerRe: if (ex != null) { } Pin
#realJSOP27-Jun-11 11:43
mve#realJSOP27-Jun-11 11:43 
GeneralRe: if (ex != null) { } Pin
Alexander Batishchev27-Jun-11 20:15
memberAlexander Batishchev27-Jun-11 20:15 
GeneralMy vote of 5 Pin
Sergey Alexandrovich Kryukov15-May-11 12:14
memberSergey Alexandrovich Kryukov15-May-11 12:14 
GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
IAbstract25-Dec-10 22:18
memberIAbstract25-Dec-10 22:18 
GeneralGood aarticle Pin
Donsw22-Jan-09 11:20
memberDonsw22-Jan-09 11:20 
GeneralVery nice article John Pin
Sacha Barber13-Oct-08 7:52
mvaSacha Barber13-Oct-08 7:52 
GeneralRe: Very nice article John Pin
#realJSOP13-Oct-08 8:00
mve#realJSOP13-Oct-08 8:00 
GeneralRe: Very nice article John Pin
Sacha Barber13-Oct-08 8:02
mvaSacha Barber13-Oct-08 8:02 
GeneralChange To Article Pin
#realJSOP2-Oct-08 23:26
mve#realJSOP2-Oct-08 23:26 
GeneralSome suggestions Pin
N a v a n e e t h2-Oct-08 17:32
memberN a v a n e e t h2-Oct-08 17:32 
GeneralRe: Some suggestions [modified] Pin
#realJSOP2-Oct-08 23:10
mve#realJSOP2-Oct-08 23:10 
GeneralRe: Some suggestions Pin
N a v a n e e t h5-Oct-08 17:23
memberN a v a n e e t h5-Oct-08 17:23 
GeneralYour work Pin
nelsonpaixao2-Oct-08 13:37
membernelsonpaixao2-Oct-08 13:37 
GeneralUseful Pin
DaveyM692-Oct-08 12:36
mentorDaveyM692-Oct-08 12:36 
GeneralNice, but some suggestions... Pin
marco_br2-Oct-08 10:50
membermarco_br2-Oct-08 10:50 

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Posted 2 Oct 2008

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