Common scenarios for unexpected credential prompting when opening Office documents from a web server


Consider the following scenario....

A user browses to a WebDav or other website site, clicks into a document library and chooses to open (let's say) a Word document.  A challenge for credentials occurs.  Since the user was already prompted for credentials when browsing to the site, he/she was not expected to be prompted again every time they open a new document in the rich client.


Some general info first:  When switching from a browser's session (IE, etc) to an Office application, the two cannot (directly) share authentication.  All access to a web server, like SharePoint, requires some form of authentication.  A user will always be challenged, even if said user never sees the challenge for credentials (it may be occurring automatically behind the scenes).   

Here are some common causes....

1. Some authentication types like Basic Authentication will always prompt.  Get used to it, it's by-design.

2. If a cookie-based authentication is using session cookies, there will always be a challenge.  

3. Non-IE browsers will not pass the persistent cookie to Office.

4. Zone settings in IE may not be set optimally for passing credentials such as NTLM or persistent cookies.

5. In older versions of Office, the WebClient Service was used for WebDav calls.  Since this service uses WinHTTP - instead of WinInet like IE - the IE zones are not checked/adhered to.  If the URL is not a local address and no proxy is configured, WinHTTP will not pass the credentials.

6. NTLM authentication is used, but users log into their client machines with one account, while browsing with another.  Since NTLM, by it's nature, automatically grabs the logged-in user account; it initially sends the wrong credentials in this scenario.


1. For older authentication types that are designed to always challenge a user, the only workaround is to use another authentication type.

2. If an organization allows it, consider using a persistent cookie authentication.

3.  Office ends up getting the cookie from IE's cookie jar.  Either use IE or ensure, at some point, IE was also browsed to the same site and stored the cookie first..

4. If the zone isn't set to automatically pass credentials, Windows authentication will not be passed.  Also, Protected mode - if set on the zone -  will segregate a persistent cookie from other applications, like Office.

**See the following blog for more info around #s 3 & 4:

5. Since the WebClient Service does not use IE's security zones to determine if it should pass credentials automatically, the following registry key will need to be set.

NOTE:  Always back up your registry before making changes!

  Open regedit and find the following key:

  Create a new multi-string value called:  AuthForwardServerList

  Add site URLs to this key that are considered safe to forward creds to.

See the following KB for more details:

6.  For Windows authentication, try setting 'remember my password' check-box after the first time credentials are entered.  This should cache the account to the Windows Credential Manager for later use.  Not all organizations allow using stored credentials from this location, so this may or may not work.

NOTE: It's considered a security risk for multiple users to share a machine that logs in as one (shared) account, browse as their corpnet account and cache those credentials on the shared machine.

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