How to run StarterSTS on IIS 6 / Windows 2003

I’ve been using the awesome StarterSTS project created by Dominick Baier.  In the words of Dominick:

StarterSTS is a compact, easy to use security token service that is completely based on the ASP.NET provider infrastructure. It is built using the Windows Identity Foundation and supports WS-Federation., WS-Trust, REST, OpenId and Information Cards.

The StarterSTS System Requirements specify IIS 7.x which implies a Windows 2008 variant operating system.  I recently had a requirement to get it running on a Windows 2003 server (with IIS 6), and it isn’t all that straightforward so I thought I’d post the steps (and as much reasoning as possible here).


You’ll need the following things to hand to get going:


Follow the StarterSTS instructions to extract the web package and create the site in IIS.  Make sure you install the SSL certificate on the IIS web site, and follow the subsequent instructions to set up the relevant StarterSTS configuration files.

If you haven’t installed the WIF package you’ll get an error similar to this:

Could not load file or assembly Microsoft.IdentityModel, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35 or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.

Run the WIF install package and that error will go away.

You should then be able to bring up the StarterSTS homepage:


Go ahead and create yourself a user account by visiting /signup.aspx (remember to create the database as in the StarterSTS instructions):


Token Issuance

This is where the configuration gets a bit more involved.

Note: The auto-generation of federation meta-data doesn’t work on IIS 6 (normally you would hit /FederationMetadata/2007-06/FederationMetadata.xml).

Try visiting the following URL:


(Remember to replace the first part with the address of your server.  The value of wtrealm depends on what you’ve put in the configuration/relyingParties.config file in StarterSTS.  In this example I’m just using the sample entry that comes with the source download.)

The first error you’ll see is:

The handle is invalid. System.Security.Cryptography.CryptographicException: The handle is invalid.

This error comes about because the identity of the IIS Process executing the StarterSTS code cannot access the private key of your signing certificate (as specified in configuration/certificates.config).  In Windows 2008, this is easily fixed using the Certificates MMC Snap-In, but not so in Windows 2003 (the option isn’t available).  This is where the WinHTTPCertCfg tool comes in handy.  It allows us to check and set the user identities with access to certificates installed on the machine [read X509 Certificates on Windows Server 2003 for more info].

If you followed the default install settings, then the tool will have installed to c:Program FilesWindows Resource Kitstools.  Open a Command Prompt, switch to this directory and run the following command to see which user identities have access to the certificate:

winhttpcertcfg.exe -l -c LOCAL_MACHINEMy -s "sts.gws.lab.local"


Note: Replace the “sts.gws.lab.local” with the Common Name on your certificate.

Now you need to check which user is running IIS.  This is done by looking at the properties on the Application Pool assigned to the StarterSTS virtual directory:


My server is running with the out-of-the-box account Network Service.  Now that we know this, we can go back to the Command Prompt and grant this account permissions over the private key:

winhttpcertcfg.exe -g -c LOCAL_MACHINEMy -s "sts.gws.lab.local" -a "NetworkService"


Restart IIS and go back to the the issue.aspx URL and you’ll likely get this error now:

Object identified (OID) is unknown. System.Security.Cryptography.CryptographicException: Object identifier (OID) is unknown.


This comes about due to the need to configure RSA-SHA256 on Windows 2003.  For more details on this see this MSDN Forum Post – CryptographicException – Object identifier (OID) is unknown.  Follow the steps in the forum answer:

using Security.Cryptography;

class Program
    static void Main(string[] args)
  • Build and run the console application (alongside the DLL) on the server

Alternatively, save yourself the hassle and download the ZIP that I made earlier.

After that, everything should fly, and StarterSTS should issue a token and redirect you back to the relying party specified in the wtrealm parameter.  I grabbed a couple of screenshots using Fiddler to show it working:


And that’s it!  I hope this has been helpful, it was very rewarding when I got this working and I have repeated it several times on different boxes.

2 thoughts on “How to run StarterSTS on IIS 6 / Windows 2003

Add yours

  1. I’m excited to find this site. I want to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it and I have you saved to fav to check out new stuff on your website.

  2. Hello just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a
    few of the pictures aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same outcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: