SharePoint: 403 Forbidden accessing libraries and certain links in Site Settings

This was a special situation where most of the site appeared to work, but certain links under Site Settings would fail with 403 Forbidden. For example:

  • Themes
  • Master Pages
  • Solutions
  • Composed looks
  • List Templates
  • Most document libraries

Actually, in some cases, the page request would result in Access Denied, and redirect the user to the Access Denied page (_layouts/15/AccessDenied.aspx), and that request would fail with 403 Forbidden.

This would occur for users with full control permission on the site, even site collection administrators.



This turned out to be a configuration problem with Host-Named Site Collections (HNSC).

Due to a host header / IIS binding configuration issue, the request was actually being served by a different SharePoint web app / IIS site than the one we expected. That other IIS site was running in a different application pool, which was running as a different service account. That service account did not have enough permission to the SharePoint content to access the site. In that case, most requests were working, but any request that called into the “SPSecurity.RunWithElevatedPrivileges” method would fail because “RunWithElevatedPrivileges” runs as the application pool account instead of the logged-on user.



Configure your Web Apps and IIS bindings properly for HNSCs.

Typically, host-named site collections do not use host header bindings in IIS as described here:

Host-named site collections should ideally all be hosted under the same SharePoint web application, in which case, host header bindings in IIS are unnecessary.  Or if there are multiple HNSC web apps, they all should run as the same service account, which would also avoid this problem.


Here’s a sample of the error sequence seen in the SharePoint ULS logs.

The giveaway is that every access denied stack contains a call to SPSecurity.RunWithElevatedPrivileges:


10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    Authentication Authorization    ajmmv    VerboseEx    VsecurableObject: EffectiveRightsMask=0x00000000, OriginalEffectiveRightsMask=0x00000000    922c9d9e-f771-9026-a024-8163eefb3d05

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    8xfr    Verbose    PermissionMask check failed. asking for 0x08000000, have 0x00000000    922c9d9e-f771-9026-a024-8163eefb3d05

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    8e2s    Medium    Unknown SPRequest error occurred. More information: 0x80070005    922c9d9e-f771-9026-a024-8163eefb3d05

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    aix9j    High    SPRequest.GetUsersDataAsSafeArray: UserPrincipalName=, AppPrincipalName= ,bstrUrl= ,dwUsersScope=5 ,dwUserCollectionFlags=0 ,bstrValue= ,dwValue=1073741823    922c9d9e-f771-9026-a024-8163eefb3d05

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    ai1wu    Medium    System.UnauthorizedAccessException: Access is denied. (Exception from HRESULT: 0x80070005 (E_ACCESSDENIED)), StackTrace:

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPUser.InitMember()

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPUser..ctor(SPWeb web, SPSecurableObject scope, String strIdentifier, Object[,] arrUsersData, UInt32 index, Int32 iByParamId, String strByParamSID, String strByParamEmail, SPUserCollectionType userCollectionType, SPUserCollectionFlags ucf, Boolean isSiteAuditor)

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPUserCollection.GetByIDNoThrow(Int32 id)

at SharePointBoost.SharePoint.Security.SecurityUtility. . ()

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPSecurity.<>c__DisplayClass5.<RunWithElevatedPrivileges>b__3()

at Microsoft.SharePoint.Utilities.SecurityContext.RunAsProcess(CodeToRunElevated secureCode)

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPSecurity.RunWithElevatedPrivileges(WaitCallback secureCode, Object param)

at Microsoft.SharePoint.SPSecurity.RunWithElevatedPrivileges(CodeToRunElevated secureCode)

<stack truncated>

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    aep94    High    UnauthorizedAccessException for the request. 403 Forbidden will be returned. Error=Exception of type ‘System.Web.HttpUnhandledException’ was thrown.

at System.Web.UI.Page.HandleError(Exception e)

at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequestMain(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint)

at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest(Boolean includeStagesBeforeAsyncPoint, Boolean includeStagesAfterAsyncPoint)

at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest()

at System.Web.UI.Page.ProcessRequest(HttpContext context)

at System.Web.HttpApplication.CallHandlerExecutionStep.System.Web.HttpApplication.IExecutionStep.Execute()

at System.Web.HttpApplication.ExecuteStep(IExecutionStep step, Boolean& completedSynchronously)

10/29/2018 10:16:01.47    w3wp.exe (0x51F4)    0x41D0    SharePoint Foundation    General    b6p2    VerboseEx    Sending HTTP response 403 – text/plain:403 FORBIDDEN.    922c9d9e-f771-9026-a024-8163eefb3d05

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