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Overview of Connection Strings and Permissions

To run database unit tests, you must connect to a database server by using one or two specific connection strings. Each connection string represents an account that has the specific permissions that you must have to perform the task or set of tasks in a particular script as part of the test. You can specify these strings in the Project Configuration dialog box or by manually editing the app.config file for your test project.

In the Project Configuration dialog box, you can specify connection strings for each of the following accounts.


The execution context and privileged context only differ if you use SQL Server authentication. If you use Windows authentication, the same credentials will be used for both connection strings.

  • Execution Context (Required) - a user account for running the test script. This connection string should have the same credentials that you expect your users to have. This is important because it ensures that the appropriate permissions have been applied to your database. For more information, see How to: Configure Database Unit Test Execution.

    In the app.config file for your test project, this is the ExecutionContext element.

  • Privileged Context (Optional) - an account that has higher permissions for running the pre-test action, post-test action, TestInitialize, and TestCleanup scripts. These scripts set the database state and for the post-test action, can be used to validate objects in the database. This connection string is also used to deploy database changes and generate data.

    In the app.config file for your test project, this is the PrivilegedContext element. If your database unit tests run the test script only, you do not have to specify a privileged context.

The strings that you specify in the Project Configuration dialog box are stored in your test project's app.config file. You could also edit that file directly and rebuild the project, after which the new values appear in the dialog box.

When you specify connection strings, you must choose between the use of Windows authentication and SQL authentication. One reason to choose Windows authentication is that it supports the use of tests by a team better than SQL authentication does. If you choose SQL authentication, the connection strings are encrypted, using Data Protection API (DPAPI), based on your user credentials. This means that tests in this test project will run only for you, not for team members who obtain the tests through the source-control system after you check them in. To run tests in this test project, others on your team would have to reconfigure the test project by using their own credentials. To do this, they would edit their copy of the app.config file or use the Project Configuration dialog box.

The test script runs at the execution context permission level, which is the same permission level that would be in effect for user commands that are run on the database when it is in typical use. The pre-test action, post-test, TestInitialize, and TestCleanup scripts run at the privileged context permission level.

Because of the higher-permission connection used for the post-test action script, you can perform validation in it. In this script, you can also run script commands that test permissions. For more information about permissions, see the database unit testing section of Required Permissions for Database Features of Visual Studio.