In this article, I will try to explain the steps to enable anonymous access on SharePoint 2013 site. Anonymous access is available in previous versions of SharePoint as well.

About anonymous access

There may be few cases that in a SharePoint based application (having any kind of authentication machenisum like Window, Form or SSO), there is a business need to give public access to some portion of content or pages without any authentication.

Anonymous access allow the anonymous users (users who have not been granted access to the site) to access the entire website, lists and libraries, content in list or libraries.

How to enable anonymous access

This is the first step that need to be done by a server administrator. To do this -

Go to the Central Administration website

Choose the web application on which you want to enable this

Click on Authentication Providers in ribbon control as shown in Figure 1. 

Figure 1


It will show different zones and respective membership providers as shown in Figure 2. I have extended this site three times so it is showing three zones. 

Figure 2

Figure 2

Please note that each zone is representing a different independent IIS website connected to a common SharePoint content database. Or we can say that it is a website having three different entry doors which has their own authentication providers. In this case I am trying to enable anonymous access on Intranet zone. So, after click on Intranet zone, it will open the popup for Edit Authentication for this zone. Click on "Enable anonymous access" check box and click OK to save the changes. 

Figure 3

Figure 3

Now anonymous access is enable on Intranet zone of this SharePoint web application. To check this, go to Site Action > Site Settings > Site Permissions under Users and Groups. In the ribbon bar, there is one more option availbale "Anonymous Access". See Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

But still external users cannot access website. Next step is to grant access to anonymous user. There are three level premissions a Site Owner can set - 

  • Anonymous access on a site
  • Anonymous access only on lists and libraries
  • Block anonymous access on the site

Anonymous access on a site

Click on Anonymous Access button in ribbon bar. A popup window will open as shown in Figure 4. 

Figure 7

Figure 5

Select "Entire Web site" and click on OK. This will allow anonymous users to browse the entire web site with read only permisisons by default.

Figure 6

Figure 6

Anonymous access only on Lists and Libraries

If you want to enable anonymous access only to Lists and Libraries, choose Lists and Libraries option and click on OK button as shown in Figure 6 below. 

Figure 5

Figure 7

By default it will assign Limited Access permission level  to anonymous users at the site level which enables anonymous users to access lists and libraries. But still anonymous users can not view the content of the lists and libraries because the View Items permission is not set by default.  

Figure 8

Figure 8

To set the View Items permission on a list or library, the list or library must be using unique permissions. Lists and libraries that inherit permissions from the site cannot be viewed by anonymous users. You can change the style for code block by choosing "Formatted" from the style menu:

Points to be noted

  • Enabling anonymous access allows external users to discover site information, including user e-mail addresses and any content posted to lists, libraries, and discussions.
  • Anonymous users can contribute (insert, update, delete) to lists, discussions etc., which can adversely affect server disk space and other resources.
  • Anonymous users cannot open sites for editing in programs such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Designer 2007.
  • Actions of authenticated users can be traced back to users.
  • If you grant anonymous access on a site, you also grant anonymous access on subsites that inherit permissions from the site.

Note: To create a more secure site, list, or library, do not enable anonymous access.


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