User Secrets

User secrets are a new concept in ASP.NET 5 which provide a way to use configuration values that are outside of the set of files that would be check into version control. An example of a good use case is the Google client ID and client secret I used in my OAuth post. This is information you would not want in a public repo.

If you are using the ASP.NET 5 Preview Web Site Template then user secrets is already set up and ready to go. If not check out this site which explains all about the user secrets functionality as well as how to use dnu to install the secret manager.

Even with user secrets already set up with the Visual Studio template I am going to point out some of the important bits.

In the project.json file there are a couple of items related to user secrets. The first item is the user secrets ID for the project. The ID seems to be a combination of the project name and some randomly generated text.

The next item in the project.json is in the dependencies section.

The next reference is found in Startup.cs in the constructor where the rest of the configuration is set up.

It is important to note that the last configuration added takes priority. Using the above configuration setup with user secrets added first and environment variables added second if both configurations contained a setting for connection string then the one in environment variables would be used. If the connection string did not exist in environment variables then the values from user secrets would be used.

To access user secrets right-click on the project file and select manage user secrets.


The Manage User Secrets menu choice will open up the secrets.json file. This file will not be located anywhere in the project’s directory structure. The actual file location can be found at “%APPDATA%\Microsoft\UserSecrets\<userSecretsId>\” but you should not really need to know the location or edit the file outside of Visual Studio or user-secret command line tool. Especially while using the beta since the location may not be finalized.

This is my set up of my current secret.json which I am using to store the values needed for OAuth with Google.

In Statup.cs the ConfigureServices function I was able to replace my hard-coded Client Id and Client Secret with values from my secrets.json.

With those changes above sensitive information will be less likely to accidentally get check in to GitHub or any other repo. The only concern I have with setup is a configuration value getting added to a developer’s user secret but that setting never making it into the other develops or production configurations. That worry exists even when checking in configuration to source control just seem more likely to get missed when the values are outside of the project. Even with that concern user secrets are a great features that should help prevent private information from making it out into the public.

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