Enable SSL for all customers who interact with your Web site in IIS

This article describes how to enable Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for all customers who interact with your Web site in Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).

Original product version:   Internet Information Services
Original KB number:   298805


This article contains the following topics:

  • How to set up and enable server certificates so that your customers can be certain that your Web site is valid, and that any information that they send to you stays private and confidential.
  • How to use third-party certificates to enable Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), as well as a general overview of the process that is used to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR), which is used to obtain a third-party certificate.
  • How to enable SSL connectivity for your Web site.
  • How to enforce SSL for all connections, and set the required encryption length between your clients and your Web site.

You can use your Web server's SSL security features for two types of authentication. You can use a server certificate to allow users to authenticate your Web site before they transmit personal information, such as a credit card number. Also, you can use client certificates to authenticate users that request information on your Web site.

This article assumes that you will use a third-party certificate authority (CA) to provide authentication for your Web server.

To enable SSL server certificate verification, and to provide the level of security that your customers desire, you should obtain a certificate from a third-party CA. Certificates that are issued to your organization by a third-party CA are typically tied to the Web server, and more specifically to the Web site to which you to bind SSL. You can create your own certificate with the IIS server, but if you do so, your clients must implicitly trust you as the certificate authority.

This article assumes the following:

  • You have installed IIS.
  • You have created and published the Web site that you wish to secure with SSL.

Obtain a certificate

To begin the process to obtain the certificate, you must generate a CSR. You do this through the IIS management console; therefore, IIS must be installed before you can generate a CSR. A CSR is basically a certificate that you generate on your server that validates the computer-specific information about your server when you request a certificate from a third-party CA. The CSR is simply an encrypted text message that is encrypted with a public/private key pair.

Typically, the following information about your computer is included in the CSR that you generate:

  • Organization
  • Organizational unit
  • Country/region
  • State/province
  • City/locality
  • Common name


The common name is usually comprised of your host computer name and the domain to which it belongs, such as xyz.com. In this case, the computer is part of the .com domain, and is named XYZ. This may be the root server for your corporate domain, or simply a Web site.

Generate the CSR

  1. Access the IIS Microsoft Management Console (MMC). To do this, right-click My Computer and select Manage. This opens the Computer Management Console. Expand the Services and Application section. Locate IIS and expand the IIS console.

  2. Select the specific Web site on which you want to install a server certificate. Right-click the site and select Properties.

  3. Select the Directory Security tab. In the Secure Communication section, select Server Certificate. This starts the Web Server Certificate Wizard. Select Next.

  4. Select Create a New Certificate and select Next.

  5. Select Prepare the request now, but send it later and select Next.

  6. In the Name field, enter a name that you can remember. It will default to the name of the Web site for which you're generating the CSR.


    When you generate the CSR, you need to specify a bit length. The bit length of the encryption key determines the strength of the encrypted certificate which you send to the third-party CA. The higher the bit length, the stronger the encryption. Most third-party CAs prefer a minimum of 1024 bits.

  7. In the Organization Information section, enter your organization and organizational unit information. This must be accurate, because you are presenting these credentials to a third-party CA and you must comply with their licensing of the certificate. Select Next to access the Your Site's Common Name section.

  8. The Your Site's Common Name section is responsible for binding the certificate to your Web site. For SSL certificates, enter the host computer name with the domain name. For Intranet servers, you may use the NetBIOS name of the computer that is hosting the site. Select Next to access geographical information.

  9. Enter your country or region, state or province, and city or locality information. Completely spell out your state or province and city or locality. And don't use abbreviations. Select Next.

  10. Save the file as a .txt file.

  11. Confirm your request details. Select Next to finish, and exit the Web Server Certificate Wizard.

Request the certificate

There are different methods of submitting your request. Contact the certificate provider of your choice for the method to use and to determine the best certificate level for your needs. Depending on the method that is chosen for sending your request to the CA, you may send the CSR file from step 10 in the Generate the CSR section, or you may have to paste the contents of this file into the request. This file will be encrypted and will contain a header and a footer for the contents. You must include both the header and the footer when you request the certificate. Your CSR should resemble the following:


Install the certificate

Once the third-party CA has completed your request for a server certificate, you will receive it by email or download site. The certificate must be installed on the Web site on which you want to provide secure communications.

To install the certificate, follow these steps:

  1. Download or copy the certificate that you obtained from the CA to the Web server.
  2. Open the IIS MMC as described in the Generating the CSR section.
  3. Access the Properties dialog box for the Web site on which you are installing the certificate.
  4. Select the Directory Security tab, and then select Server Certificate. This starts the Web Server Certificate Wizard. Select Next.
  5. Select Process the Pending Request and install the certificate, and then select Next.
  6. Browse to the location of the certificate that you saved in step 1. Select Next twice, and then select Finish.

Enforce SSL connections

Now that the server certificate is installed, you can enforce SSL secure channel communications with clients of the Web server. First, you need to enable port 443 for secure communications with the Web site. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. From the Computer Management console, right-click the Web site on which you want to enforce SSL and select Properties.
  2. Select the Web Site tab. In the Web Site Identification section, verify that the SSL Port field is populated with the numeric value 443.
  3. Select Advanced. You should see two fields. The IP address and port of the Web site should already be listed in the Multiple identities for this web site field. Under the Multiple SSL Identities for this web site field, select Add if port 443 isn't already listed. Select the server's IP address, and type the numeric value 443 in the SSL Port field. Select OK.

Now that port 443 is enabled, you can enforce SSL connections. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Select the Directory Security tab. In the Secure Communication section, Edit is now available. Select Edit.

  2. Select Require Secure Channel (SSL).


    If you specify 128-bit encryption, clients who use 40-bit or 56-bit strength browser will not be able to communicate with your site unless they upgrade their encryption strength.

  3. Open your browser and try to connect to your Web server by using the standard http:// protocol. If SSL is being enforced, you receive the following error message:

    The page must be viewed over a secure channel
    The page you are trying to view requires the use of 'https' in the address.
    Please try the following: Try again by typing https:// at the beginning of the address you are attempting to reach. HTTP 403.4 - Forbidden: SSL required Internet Information Services
    Technical Information (for support personnel) Background: This error indicates that the page you are trying to access is secured with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

You can now connect to your Web site only by using the https:// protocol.