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What is SASL?

SASL is an authentication framework designed to support various authentication plugins.

Without SASL, SVN only supports very basic user/password authentication for its repositories.

Note on SmartSVN versions

SASL is only supported since SmartSVN 11.

Note on using two computers

For this guide, it's recommended to use two computers - this way, it will be closer to real life scenario.

If you use just one computer, it will still work, but it's not as good in verifying that everything is set up correctly.

Note on hardcoded names

This guide uses the following names/paths that could be changed to your liking.
But if you change them, please remember to change them accordingly in all steps.

    Name of computer where SVN repository will be hosted.
    Name of computer where you will use SmartSVN to access the repository.
  • C:\TestSASL\subversion
    Folder where you keep SVN binaries.
  • TestRepository
    Folder of your test repository.
  • C:\TestSASL\TestRepository
    Full path of your test repository.
  • C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config
    Folder to keep SASL configuration files.
  • TestRealm
    Authentication realm for your repository.
    SVN repositories assigned to the same realm will share users and passwords.
  • john.smith
    Name of the SVN user that will access repository. It doesn't have to match Windows username.

Configure and test non-SASL repository

On SERVER computer

  1. Download and extract SVN binaries
    1. Download them
    2. Extract to C:\TestSASL\subversion
  2. Create a new SVN repository
    • Run console command:
      "C:\TestSASL\subversion\svnadmin.exe" create "C:\TestSASL\TestRepository"

    • When successful, there will be no output from this command.

  3. Start an SVN server

    • It's supposed that you don't yet have an SVN server running.

    • Note that this console command will keep running, so you might want to open a dedicated console window for it.

    • Run console command:
      "C:\TestSASL\subversion\svnserve.exe" -d -r "C:\TestSASL\TestRepository"

    • Make sure that svnserve.exe is allowed through your firewall (for Windows Firewall, a prompt will appear after starting it).
    • When successful, there will be no output from this command.
    • Do not close console window, or your SVN server will be stopped as well.

On CLIENT computer

  1. Start SmartSVN.
  2. Select Project | Check Out...
  3. Use this repository URL

  4. Complete the other wizard steps as usual.

  5. If you receive error 'Unable to connect to a repository at URL

    • You're having some basic connection problem, and this is beyond the scope of this guide.

    • You might want to check that
      • svnserve.exe is still running on SERVER
      • svnserve.exe is allowed through firewall
      • CLIENT can ping SERVER

Prepare SASL

Steps in these section are performed on computer SERVER.

Verify that SASL is not configured yet

  • It's possible that you have leftover SASL installed along with other SVN client
    This could cause unexpected failures when you try to run svnserve.exe with SASL later.
  • Run console command:
  • It should only have "EXTERNAL" in all lists
    This means SASL doesn't see its plugins yet, even though they're located in the same folder.

Configure SASL registry keys

  1. Create the registry key if it doesn't exist
    • For 32-bit:
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Carnegie Mellon\Project Cyrus\SASL Library
    • For 64-bit:
      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Carnegie Mellon\Project Cyrus\SASL Library
  2. Create String values:
    • SearchPath = C:\TestSASL\subversion
      This is the folder where SASL will look for its plugins.
      For SmartSVN's SVN package, SASL plugins are located in the same folder as SVN itself.
    • ConfFile = C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config
      This is the folder where SASL will look for its configuration file.
      Note that this is a folder path and not the path to 'svn.conf' file that you will create in next step.

Create SASL configuration file

  1. Create text file C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config\svn.conf with the following contents:

    pwcheck_method: auxprop
    auxprop_plugin: sasldb
    mech_list: DIGEST-MD5
    sasldb_path: C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config\sasldb

    DIGEST-MD5 is the authentication plugin to be used. There are other plugins available, but they are beyond the scope of this guide.
    C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config\sasldb is the location of user/password database (database itself is created in the next step).

Create user/password database

  1. Run console command:
    "C:\TestSASL\subversion\saslpasswd2.exe" -c -f "C:\TestSASL\SASL_Config\sasldb" -u TestRealm john.smith
    This will create user john.smith
    This will also create the database if it doesn't exist.
    TestRealm is the name of the authentication realm.

Configure your SVN repository to use SASL

Steps in these section are performed on computer SERVER.

You will need to edit repository configuration file:

For a newly created repository this file will already contain some settings, but these settings will be commented with #.
Remember to uncomment values as you edit them.


  1. Enable SASL:

    use-sasl = true

    This will enable SASL authentication and also disabled SVN's builtin authentication.

  2. Configure realm

    realm = TestRealm

    SASL needs a realm assigned to repository to be able to match it with user/password database.

  3. Disable anonymous read access

    anon-access = none

    This disables anonymous read access.
    This step is not necessary, but convenient for testing.
    If you skip this, remember that you need to perform a writing operation (such as Commit) to verify that SASL works

  4. Restart svnserve.exe
    Close svnserve.exe console you have running from the previous steps.
    Start it again with the same command.
    Without restart, svnserve.exe will not find SASL plugins, because it only searches for them once.


Steps in these section are performed on computer CLIENT.

  1. Start SmartSVN if you don't have it running.
  2. Press 'Update' on SmartSVN's toolbar.
  3. You will be prompted to enter username/password.
  4. Enter credentials you used with saslpasswd2.exe in one of the previous steps.
  5. You shall see successful completion of 'Update' in SmartSVN.


Unfortunately, SASL registry settings are global and affect all programs on the same computer.
If you're not planning to continue using SASL on SERVER, it's best to delete registry settings you applied.
Otherwise, other SASL-based programs may break in unexpected ways due to incompatible versions of libraries.

That's it!

If you performed all steps correctly, you should be able to access your new SASL-based repository.

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