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The horrors of Umbraco 4.0.0

Posted by Roy Triesscheijn on Thursday 5 March, 2009

Examining the title of this blog entry will reveal two things:

  • I tried to install the CMS Umbraco 4.0.0 (check it out here )
  • I wasn’t successful

Lately I’ve gained access to a ASP.Net 3.5 shared hosting solution provided by and sponsored by Microsoft via Surfspot (a kind of dreamspark for Dutch students, not only for Microsoft products).

Alright it all seemed great. Windows Server 2008, IIS7, ASP.Net 3.5. All very much up to date technologies.

I  was first thinking about building my own CMS in ASP.Net/C#. But as you might know that is quite allot of work. So I went searching for a free .Net based CMS to start with, that I could later extend.

Quickly I found Umbraco, and after trying the demo site I was sold. The used techniques seemed solid, adding new features seemed easy, the source code was freely available and everything was written in ASP.Net 2.0.

I was sure installing it would be a breeze. I created a new database at my management panel at Argeweb and started uploading Umbraco to my websites root folder.

Quickly I encountered quite a few problems with the Web.config file that Umbraco provided. Apparently the Web.config file wasn’t compatible with IIS7’s default application pool, and since my hosting is shared I can’t change IIS’s settings. After allot of testing/googling I finally found 3 tweaks to make this config file work, but quickly NullReference and PermissionDenied exceptions where thrown.

After spending allot of time on the Umbraco forums I found out about a better config file that was IIS7 /ASP.Net3.5 compatible and installed it. All I now got was a permission exception. This seemed to be common in Medium Trust environments and I could simply delete the accused file. I also spoke to Argeweb and the agreed to check out the permissions. A few hours later they mailed that the permissions should be good enough for Umbraco. And they told me that Umbraco 3 was running on their shared host solutions. Of course I wanted Umbraco 4!

After allot more fiddling I finally got the installation screen to show up. I quickly accepted the licence and input my database settings.  A new error occurred stating that Umbraco couldn’t change the Web.config file (if it could that would be one hell of a security problem!) and that I had to change the connection string manually.  I quickly did so and restarted the installation. In the database step all fields where already filled in with the settings I put in the Web.config file, but it still wouldn’t let me pass because it couldn’t save my settings again!

After some searching I found a modified version of the database step *.asx file uploaded it and I could finally choose install.

Umbraco would install fine into my database (so the settings where correct). Great I thought! Now I should be getting somewhere. However the next step I had to change my admin password, ok great, Umbraco has DB access so this couldn’t possibly be a problem. Of course after pressing OK I was proved wrong, and another error occurred. This time in one of the role providers. Unfortunately I still haven’t found a way to work around this. I even edited the Web.Config file to think that the installation was done (yes this too was in the Web.config file and thus totally un-settable for Umbraco). But all I got was a redirect stating that my nodes are empty and that I should add a page. A fancy “start Umbraco” button was provided, but unfortunately this button did absolutely nothing…

After spending two days I still haven’t been able to install Umbraco. In the forums not even the developers know what permissions Umbraco exactly needs and they just state “Full Trust will do the trick.” or “Better change hosts.” But I don’t want to change hosts! Argeweb was very helpful and did all they could to get this working, and I understand that they wont elevate my account to Full Trust, which is quite a security hole.

I wasn’t the only one with all these problems, the forums are swarmed with it, and frankly it seems impossible to install Umbraco at a server you don’t control directly. (I tried to install in the root folder, which gave me all these problems. Installing Umbraco in a nice virtual folder like would cause even more problems according to some users (and probably the end of the world as we know it).

To bad that Umbraco is the only real free solution that had the features that I wanted. At the moment it seems that I’m going to delve into ASP a bit more and see if I can come up with a very very very very very simple CMS.


I hope some one out there has more luck with Umbraco than me, it really seems to be awesome technology!



(if you even dare to try to reinstall Umbraco you’ll get a nice NullReferenceException)


15 Responses to “The horrors of Umbraco 4.0.0”

  1. benny said

    I can’t say umbraco was a piece of cake when I started, but it proved to be worth installing. I’m using the shared service of brinkster with no problems.
    The only problem with this cms is the lack of help/docs. luckily, I’m a developer so I know what I’m doing.
    Still looking for a way to change the default admin folder name, by the way…

    • That troubles me most, everyone says it’s worth it, once you’ve installed it, but as I’ve said, I really can’t install it on my shared setup and I’m not prepared to switch hosts just now. Oh well, I’ll have to make due.

  2. Benny said

    Well, I still think its worth the trouble. I built several CMS system myself when working for a company (but cant use them for my own projects), and umbraco is still the best CMS I’ve seen to date. and its free..
    Anyway, good luck with your setup!

  3. jasonnevin said

    I’ve just got it installed at the third attempt. I had to make several mods, permission fixes and various other amendments to get it to work. All-in-all its taken me about two days to get it to work as it should. Its a shame because it looks like a great package but alot of developers will be put off by the very poor installation.

    On the flip side I installed WordPress two days ago and it was working within 10 minutes. And its a LAMP-based system!

  4. wasigh said

    You could always tree the sitecore personal edition: Better known as the grown-up brother of Umbraco.

  5. Owen said

    You mention that you found a way to bypass the database – detect stage 2/5 of the install

    Can you provide me with a link to this as i am having the same problem on a shared hosting environment.


  6. chris said

    i hear you I have spent two days trying to get this thing working. Strangely it installed fine on vista, xp pro was bit more tricky and server 2003 is proving a nightmare. Stuck at same Step 4 change user password step you were. Getting to end of tether….

  7. Mizan said

    i just want to tell that i tried to install but i failed.
    My problem is in generating the database.
    Can any body give me the SQL script which generates the initial database.

    Best of luck with embraco

  8. Hans said

    I had exactly the same problems.(database connection, webconfig errors) Spent couple of hours doing things I shouldn’t be doing at all.
    Installed sql 2008 correct, even came as far as the 5th screen!, but then: pure misery.One error after another.
    I can only get to one conclusion: maybe Umbraco is nice, but what’s a Rolls Royce without weels and petrol?
    And not a mechanic in sight!

    After that I tried Kentico. What a difference !!!
    Installation: perfect
    Possibilities: perfect


  9. mike said

    I thought the upgrade guide to 4 looked painful so i just went with clean install – definitely had problems like youre experiencing. One thing you might want to d-check is the Application Pool settings in IIS, it doesnt work under Default pool in IIS7 for me I found it worked better on classic app pool setting. still a fan of this cms tho after checking kentico, red-dot etc..

    Good luck!

    • Hey Mike,

      Unfortunately when using most hosting sollutions you don’t get full access to the computer, so changing Application Pool settings is not really something you can do. (And most hosting companies won’t change these settings, just for one customer). Also some security settings need to be lowered for Umbraco, and well I do fully understand that hosting companies don’t wan’t to change those settings. And why should they, 90% of the hosts run in medium trust. And all webapplications and cms-es I’ve worked with so far can work with that. Somewhere deep inside the Umbraco core some functions are ‘badly written’ because they require these extra priviliges while other software does not. It’s such a shame that not even the devs seem to know which specific settings are the trouble makers and just setting everything to full trust (or high trust that seems to work most of the time) is not acceptable.

  10. Yes it is true: Umbraco is a fickle beast at times and currently requires a few things that can be difficult to arrange in shared hosting.

    It IS still possible and what really needs to be done is this:
    – install and setup locally
    – deploy database and site files to remote host
    – setup permissions on the main folders that require it (data,media etc)

    One of the issues with Umbraco is that it is really designed as a framework/cms for people who already know .Net pretty well so some of their methodologies and instructions are lacking.

    I consider myself to be pretty .net savvy and had similar issues recently upgrading (it was a long few days)

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