ComponentGuaranteesAttribute Class

Defines the compatibility guarantee of a component, type, or type member that may span multiple versions.


Namespace:  System.Runtime.Versioning
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

[AttributeUsageAttribute(AttributeTargets.Assembly|AttributeTargets.Module|AttributeTargets.Class|AttributeTargets.Struct|AttributeTargets.Enum|AttributeTargets.Constructor|AttributeTargets.Method|AttributeTargets.Property|AttributeTargets.Event|AttributeTargets.Interface|AttributeTargets.Delegate, AllowMultiple = false, 
	Inherited = false)]
public sealed class ComponentGuaranteesAttribute : Attribute

The ComponentGuaranteesAttribute type exposes the following members.

Public methodComponentGuaranteesAttributeInitializes a new instance of the ComponentGuaranteesAttribute class with a value that indicates a library, type, or member's guaranteed level of compatibility across multiple versions.

Public propertyGuaranteesGets a value that indicates the guaranteed level of compatibility of a library, type, or type member that spans multiple versions.

Public methodEqualsInfrastructure. Returns a value that indicates whether this instance is equal to a specified object. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Protected methodFinalizeAllows an object to try to free resources and perform other cleanup operations before the Object is reclaimed by garbage collection. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodGetHashCodeReturns the hash code for this instance. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Public methodGetTypeGets the Type of the current instance. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodMatchWhen overridden in a derived class, returns a value that indicates whether this instance equals a specified object. (Inherited from Attribute.)
Protected methodMemberwiseCloneCreates a shallow copy of the current Object. (Inherited from Object.)
Public methodToStringReturns a string that represents the current object. (Inherited from Object.)

The ComponentGuaranteesAttribute is used by developers of components and class libraries to indicate the level of compatibility that consumers of their libraries can expect across multiple versions. It indicates the level of guarantee that a future version of the library or component will not break an existing client. Clients can then use the ComponentGuaranteesAttribute as an aid in designing their own interfaces to ensure stability across versions.


The common language runtime (CLR) does not use this attribute in any way. Its value lies in formally documenting the intent of the component author. Compile-time tools can also use these declarations to detect compile-time errors that would otherwise break the declared guarantee.

Levels of Compatibility

The ComponentGuaranteesAttribute supports the following levels of compatibility, which are represented by members of the ComponentGuaranteesOptions enumeration:

  • No version-to-version compatibility (ComponentGuaranteesOptions.None). The client can expect that future versions will break the existing client. For more information, see the No Compatibility section later in this topic.

  • Stable version-to-version compatibility (ComponentGuaranteesOptions.Stable). Future versions should not break the client. However, if the client is inadvertently broken, it may be possible to use side-by-side execution to fix the problem. For more information, see the Stable Compatibility section.

  • Exchange version-to-version compatibility (ComponentGuaranteesOptions.Exchange). Extraordinary care is taken to ensure that future versions will not break the client. The client should use only these types in the signature of interfaces that are used for communication with other assemblies that are deployed independently of one another. Only one version of these types is expected to be in a given application domain, which means that if a client breaks, side-by-side execution cannot fix the compatibility problem. For more information, see the "Exchange Type" Compatibility section.

The following sections discuss each level of guarantee in greater detail.

No Compatibility

Marking a component as ComponentGuaranteesOptions.None indicates that the provider makes no guarantees about compatibility. Clients should avoid taking any dependencies on the exposed interfaces. This level of compatibility is useful for types that are experimental or for types that are publicly exposed but are intended only to be used with components that are always updated at the same time. ComponentGuaranteesOptions.None explicitly indicates that this component should not be used by external components.

Stable Compatibility

Marking a component as ComponentGuaranteesOptions.Stable indicates that the type should remain stable across versions. However, it also may be possible for side-by-side versions of a stable type to exist in the same application domain.

Stable types maintain a high binary compatibility bar. Because of this, providers should avoid making breaking changes to stable types. The following kinds of changes are acceptable:

  • Adding private instance fields to, or removing fields from, a type, as long as this does not break the serialization format.

  • Changing a non-serializable type to a serializable type. (However, a serializable type cannot be changed to a non-serializable type.)

  • Throwing new, more derived exceptions from a method.

  • Improving the performance of a method.

  • Changing the range of return values, as long as the change does not adversely affect the majority of clients.

  • Fixing serious bugs, if the business justification is high and the number of adversely affected clients is low.

Because new versions of stable components are not expected to break existing clients, generally only one version of a stable component is needed in an application domain. However, this is not a requirement, because stable types are not used as well-known exchange types that all components agree upon. Therefore, it a new version of a stable component does inadvertently break some component, and if other components need the new version, it may be possible to fix the problem by loading both the old and new component.

Stable provides a stronger version compatibility guarantee than None. It is a common default for multi-version components.

After a type or method is marked as Stable, it can be upgraded to Exchange. However, it cannot be downgraded to None.

Exchange Type Compatibility

Marking a component as ComponentGuaranteesOptions.Exchange provides a stronger version compatibility guarantee than Stable, and should be applied to the most stable of all types. These types are intended to be used for interchange between independently built components across all component boundaries in both time (any version of the CLR or any version of a component or application) and space (cross-process, cross-CLR in one process, cross-application domain in one CLR). If a breaking change is made to an exchange type, it is impossible to fix the issue by loading multiple versions of the type.

Typically, exchange types are the basic types (such as Int32 and String in the .NET Framework) and interfaces (such as IList<T>, IEnumerable<T>, and IComparable<T>) that are commonly used in public interfaces.

Exchange types should be changed only when a problem is very serious (such as a severe security issue) or the probability of breakage is very low (that is, if the behavior was already broken in a random way that code could not have conceivably taken a dependency on). You can make the following kinds of changes to an exchange type:

  • Add inheritance of new interface definitions.

  • Add new private methods that implement the methods of newly inherited interface definitions.

  • Add new static fields.

  • Add new static methods.

  • Add new non-virtual instance methods.

The following are considered breaking changes and are not allowed for exchange types:

  • Changing serialization formats. Version-tolerant serialization is required.

  • Adding or removing private instance fields. This risks changing the serialization format of the type and breaking client code that uses reflection.

  • Changing the serializability of a type. A non-serializable type may not be made serializable, and vice versa.

  • Throwing different exceptions from a method.

  • Changing the range of a method's return values, unless the member definition raises this possibility and clearly indicates how clients should handle unknown values.

  • Fixing most bugs. Consumers of the type will rely on the existing behavior.

After a component, type, or member is marked with the Exchange guarantee, it cannot be changed to either Stable or None.

Exchange types may publicly expose only other types that are also marked with Exchange compatibility. In addition, exchange types cannot depend on the behavior of Windows APIs that are prone to change.

Component Guarantees: A Summary

The following table indicates how a component's characteristics and usage affect its compatibility guarantee.

Component characteristics




Can be used in interfaces between components that version independently




Can be used (privately) by an assembly that versions independently




Can have multiple versions in a single application domain




Can make breaking changes




Tested to make certain multiple versions of the assembly can be loaded together




Can make breaking changes in place




Can make very safe non-breaking servicing changes in place




Applying the Attribute

You can apply the ComponentGuaranteesAttribute to an assembly, a type, or a type member. Its application is hierarchical. That is, by default, the guarantee defined by the Guarantees property of the attribute at the assembly level defines the guarantee of all types in the assembly and all members in those types. Similarly, if the guarantee is applied to the type, by default it also applies to each member of the type.

This inherited guarantee can be overridden by applying the ComponentGuaranteesAttribute to individual types and type members. However, guarantees that override the default can only weaken the guarantee; they cannot strengthen it. For example, if an assembly is marked with the ComponentGuaranteesOptions.None guarantee, its types and members have no compatibility guarantee, and any other guarantee that is applied to types or members in the assembly is ignored.

Testing the Guarantee

The Guarantees property returns a member of the ComponentGuaranteesOptions enumeration, which is marked with the FlagsAttribute attribute. This means that you should test for the flag that you are interested in by masking away potentially unknown flags. For example, the following example tests whether a type is marked as Stable.

The following example tests whether a type is marked as Stable or Exchange.

The following example tests wither a type is marked as None (that is, neither Stable nor Exchange).


Supported in: 5, 4

For a list of the operating systems and browsers that are supported by Silverlight, see Supported Operating Systems and Browsers.

Any public static (Shared in Visual Basic) members of this type are thread safe. Any instance members are not guaranteed to be thread safe.

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