ASP.NET MVC 3: Set up custom error pages to handle errors in “non-AJAX” requests and jQuery AJAX requests

In this blog post I will show how to set up custom error pages in ASP.NET MVC 3 applications to create user-friendly error messages instead of the (yellow) IIS default error pages for both “normal” (non-AJAX) requests and jQuery AJAX requests.

In this showcase we will implement custom error pages to handle the HTTP error codes 404 (“Not Found”) and 500 (“Internal server error”) which I think are the most common errors that could occur in web applications. In a first step we will set up the custom error pages to handle errors occurring in “normal” non-AJAX requests and in a second step we add a little JavaScript jQuery code that handles jQuery AJAX errors.

We start with a new (empty) ASP.NET MVC 3 project and activate custom errors in the Web.config by adding the following lines under <system.web>:

<customErrors mode="On" defaultRedirect="/Error">
  <error redirect="/Error/NotFound" statusCode="404"/>
  <error redirect="/Error/InternalServerError" statusCode="500"/>

Note: You can set mode=”Off” to disable custom errors which could be helpful while developing or debugging. Setting mode=”RemoteOnly” activates custom errors only for remote clients, i.e. disables custom errors when accessing via http://localhost/[…]. In this example setting mode=”On” is fine since we want to test our custom errors. You can find more information about the <customErrors> element here.

In a next step we remove the following line in Global.asax.cs file:

filters.Add(new HandleErrorAttribute());

and add a new ErrorController (Controllers/ErrorController.cs):

public class ErrorController : Controller
  public ActionResult Index()
    return InternalServerError();
  public ActionResult NotFound()
    Response.TrySkipIisCustomErrors = true;
    Response.StatusCode = (int)HttpStatusCode.NotFound;
    return View("NotFound");
  public ActionResult InternalServerError()
    Response.TrySkipIisCustomErrors = true;
    Response.StatusCode = (int)HttpStatusCode.InternalServerError;
    return View("InternalServerError");

In a last step we add the ErrorController‘s views (Views/Error/NotFound.cshtml and Views/Error/InternalServerError.cshtml) that defines the (error) pages the end user will see in case of an error. The views include a partial view defined in Views/Shared/Error/NotFoundInfo.cshtml respectively Views/Shared/Error/InternalServerErrorInfo.cshtml that contains the concrete error messages. As we will see below using these partial views enables us to reuse the same error messages to handle AJAX errors.


  ViewBag.Title = "Not found";


The URL you have requested was not found.


  ViewBag.Title = "Internal server error";


An internal Server error occured.

To handle errors occurring in (jQuery) AJAX calls we will use jQuery UI to show a dialog containing the error messages. In order to include jQuery UI we need to add two lines to Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml:

<link href="@Url.Content("~/Content/themes/base/jquery.ui.all.css")" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" />
<script src="@Url.Content("~/Scripts/jquery-ui-1.8.11.min.js")" type="text/javascript"></script>

Moreover we add the following jQuery JavaScript code (defining the global AJAX error handling) and the Razor snippet (defining the dialog containers) to Views/Shared/_Layout.cshtml:

<script type="text/javascript">
  $(function () {
    // Initialize dialogs ...
    var dialogOptions = {
      autoOpen: false,
      draggable: false,
      modal: true,
      resizable: false,
      title: "Error",
      closeOnEscape: false,
      open: function () { $(".ui-dialog-titlebar-close").hide(); }, // Hide close button
      buttons: [{
        text: "Close",
        click: function () { $(this).dialog("close"); }
    // Set up AJAX error handling ...
    $(document).ajaxError(function (event, jqXHR, ajaxSettings, thrownError) {
      if (jqXHR.status == 404) {
      } else if (jqXHR.status == 500) {
      } else {
        alert("Something unexpected happend :( ...");
<div id="NotFoundInfoDialog">
  @{ Html.RenderPartial("Error/NotFoundInfo"); }
<div id="InternalServerErrorDialog">
  @{ Html.RenderPartial("Error/InternalServerErrorInfo"); }

As you can see in the Razor snippet above we reuse the error texts defined in the partial views saved in Views/Shared/Error/.

To test our custom errors we define the HomeController (Controllers/HomeController.cs) as follows:

  public class HomeController : Controller
  public ActionResult Index()
    return View();
  public ActionResult Error500()
    throw new Exception();

and the corresponding view Views/Home/Index.cshtml:

  ViewBag.Title = "ViewPage1";
<script type="text/javascript">
  $function () {
    $("a.ajax").click(function (event) {
      url: $(this).attr('href'),
  <li>@Html.ActionLink("Error 404 (Not Found)", "Error404")</li>
  <li>@Html.ActionLink("Error 404 (Not Found) [AJAX]", "Error404", new { }, new { Class = "ajax" })</li>
  <li>@Html.ActionLink("Error 500 (Internal Server Error)", "Error500")</li>
  <li>@Html.ActionLink("Error 500 (Internal Server Error) [AJAX]", "Error500", new { }, new { Class = "ajax" })</li>

To test the custom errors you can launch the project and click one of the four links defined in the view above. The “AJAX links” should open a dialog containing the error message and the “non-AJAX” links should redirect to a new page showing the same error message.

You can download the Visual Studio 2010 project containing all the source code here.

Summarized this blog post shows how to set up custom errors that handle errors occurring in both AJAX requests and “non-AJAX” requests. Depending on the project, one could customize the example code shown above to handle other HTTP errors as well or to show more customized error messages or dialogs.

When thinking about error handling in ASP.NET MVC 3 applications you should take a look at ELMAH (Error Logging Modules and Handlers for ASP.NET), a tool that logs/handles errors on server side and which works perfectly in combination with the approach shown above. I wrote a blog post about how to set up and configure ELMAH in a ASP.NET MVC application.


  1. Ran

    Great post! The key thing is that the http status code can be set properly for ajax calls and also a user friendly page for viewers! and it’s all handled in one place. Nice Work!

    Test this method a little bit and it’s interesting that HandleError always kicks in when the customErrors is turned on no matter the controller is decorated with HandleError or not.. Unless I comment out this line..

    filters.Add(new HandleErrorAttribute());

  2. Arnaud

    Is there a way to create a more generic error handler ? Something that would catch exceptions, parsing errors and so on?

  3. Jan Jonas

    Thanks for your comment. What do you mean with “parsing errors”? Maybe you are searching something like ELMAH (Error Logging Modules and Handlers for ASP.NET). I’ve written another blog post about how to add ELMAH into a ASP.NET MVC project.

  4. James

    Great post! This is the FIRST post I’ve seen which works as-is. Nice job.

  5. Craig

    Nice one, worked first time, thank you!

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