Impersonate Method
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WindowsIdentity.Impersonate Method

Updated: December 2010

Impersonates the user represented by the WindowsIdentity object.

Namespace:  System.Security.Principal
Assembly:  mscorlib (in mscorlib.dll)

public virtual WindowsImpersonationContext Impersonate()

Return Value

Type: System.Security.Principal.WindowsImpersonationContext
A WindowsImpersonationContext object that represents the Windows user prior to impersonation; this can be used to revert to the original user's context.


An anonymous identity attempted to perform an impersonation.


A Win32 error occurred.

On Windows NT platforms, the current user must have sufficient rights to allow impersonation.

Notes to Implementers:

Because Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) platforms do not have user tokens, impersonation cannot take place on those platforms.

Notes to Callers:

After using Impersonate, it is important to call the Undo method to end the impersonation.

The following example demonstrates how to obtain a Windows account token by calling the unmanaged Win32 LogonUser function, and how to use that token to impersonate another user and then revert to the original identity.

// This sample demonstrates the use of the WindowsIdentity class to impersonate a user. 
// This sample can be run only on Windows XP.  The default Windows 2000 security policy 
// prevents this sample from executing properly, and changing the policy to allow 
// proper execution presents a security risk. 
// This sample requests the user to enter a password on the console screen. 
// Because the console window does not support methods allowing the password to be masked, 
// it will be visible to anyone viewing the screen. 
// The sample is intended to be executed in a .NET Framework 1.1 environment.  To execute 
// this code in a 1.0 environment you will need to use a duplicate token in the call to the 
// WindowsIdentity constructor. See KB article Q319615 for more information. 

using System;
using System.Runtime.InteropServices;
using System.Security.Principal;
using System.Security.Permissions;
using System.Windows.Forms;

[assembly:SecurityPermissionAttribute(SecurityAction.RequestMinimum, UnmanagedCode=true)]
[assembly:PermissionSetAttribute(SecurityAction.RequestMinimum, Name = "FullTrust")]
public class ImpersonationDemo
    [DllImport("advapi32.dll", SetLastError=true, CharSet = CharSet.Unicode)]
    public static extern bool LogonUser(String lpszUsername, String lpszDomain, String lpszPassword,
        int dwLogonType, int dwLogonProvider, ref IntPtr phToken);

    [DllImport("kernel32.dll", CharSet=System.Runtime.InteropServices.CharSet.Auto)]
    private unsafe static extern int FormatMessage(int dwFlags, ref IntPtr lpSource,
        int dwMessageId, int dwLanguageId, ref String lpBuffer, int nSize, IntPtr *Arguments);

    [DllImport("kernel32.dll", CharSet=CharSet.Auto)]
    public extern static bool CloseHandle(IntPtr handle);

    [DllImport("advapi32.dll", CharSet=CharSet.Auto, SetLastError=true)]
    public extern static bool DuplicateToken(IntPtr ExistingTokenHandle,
        int SECURITY_IMPERSONATION_LEVEL, ref IntPtr DuplicateTokenHandle);

    // Test harness. 
    // If you incorporate this code into a DLL, be sure to demand FullTrust.
    [PermissionSetAttribute(SecurityAction.Demand, Name = "FullTrust")]
    public static void Main(string[] args)
        IntPtr tokenHandle = new IntPtr(0);
        IntPtr dupeTokenHandle = new IntPtr(0);
            string userName, domainName;
            // Get the user token for the specified user, domain, and password using the 
            // unmanaged LogonUser method. 
            // The local machine name can be used for the domain name to impersonate a user on this machine.
            Console.Write("Enter the name of the domain on which to log on: ");
            domainName = Console.ReadLine();

            Console.Write("Enter the login of a user on {0} that you wish to impersonate: ", domainName);
            userName = Console.ReadLine();

            Console.Write("Enter the password for {0}: ", userName);

            const int LOGON32_PROVIDER_DEFAULT = 0;
            //This parameter causes LogonUser to create a primary token. 
            const int LOGON32_LOGON_INTERACTIVE = 2;

            tokenHandle = IntPtr.Zero;

            // Call LogonUser to obtain a handle to an access token. 
            bool returnValue = LogonUser(userName, domainName, Console.ReadLine(),
                ref tokenHandle);

            Console.WriteLine("LogonUser called.");

            if (false == returnValue)
                int ret = Marshal.GetLastWin32Error();
                Console.WriteLine("LogonUser failed with error code : {0}", ret);
                throw new System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception(ret);

            Console.WriteLine("Did LogonUser Succeed? " + (returnValue? "Yes" : "No"));
            Console.WriteLine("Value of Windows NT token: " + tokenHandle);

            // Check the identity.
            Console.WriteLine("Before impersonation: "
                + WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent().Name);
            // Use the token handle returned by LogonUser.
            WindowsIdentity newId = new WindowsIdentity(tokenHandle);
            WindowsImpersonationContext impersonatedUser = newId.Impersonate();

            // Check the identity.
            Console.WriteLine("After impersonation: "
                + WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent().Name);

            // Stop impersonating the user.

            // Check the identity.
            Console.WriteLine("After Undo: " + WindowsIdentity.GetCurrent().Name);

            // Free the tokens. 
            if (tokenHandle != IntPtr.Zero)

        catch(Exception ex)
            Console.WriteLine("Exception occurred. " + ex.Message);


Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2, Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, Windows XP Starter Edition, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2000 SP4, Windows Millennium Edition, Windows 98

The .NET Framework and .NET Compact Framework do not support all versions of every platform. For a list of the supported versions, see .NET Framework System Requirements.

.NET Framework

Supported in: 3.5, 3.0, 2.0, 1.1, 1.0




December 2010

Replaced the example.

Customer feedback.

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