Exception Handling in Web API (Part 1): Exception Filter

The Web World, especially Web Services is fast moving towards the more abstract simpler Web API. This article is not focused on comparing Web Service and Web API, but rather it focuses on Exception Handling in Web API.

By default,  the most common exception that an API Controller raises are translated into an HTTP Status Code 500 (Internal Server Error) (HTTP Status Code ). But what if we want to customize the Error Code ? There are couple of ways to achieve it, the first part of this article focuses on Exception Filters.
An Exception Filter is probably the easiest way to handle the exception efficiently and it would handle any exception which the controller throws except for the HttpResponseException (Why HttpResponseException is not handled by Exception Filter will be discussed later).
The simplest way to create you own customized Exception Filter is to derive from ExceptionFilterAttribute Class under System.Web.Http.Filters namespace and override the OnException Method
An Example of Exception Filter is shown below.
public class DemoExceptionFilter : ExceptionFilterAttribute
public override void OnException( HttpActionExecutedContext ExecutedContext)
if (ExecutedContext.Exception is NotImplementedException)
ExecutedContext.Response = new HttpResponseMessage (HttpStatusCode.ServiceUnavailable);
ExecutedContext.Response.ReasonPhrase += " : Function Not Implemented";
The code is pretty self explanatory. I have modified all the NotImlementedException to change the Http Status Code to 503 (Service Unavailable). I have also appended “Function Not Implemented”  message to the Reason Phrase . The next obvious step is to ensure our Exception Filter is used by the WebAPI Pipeline. To ensure that the DemoExceptionFilter is used globally, all we need to do is to add it to the list of filters in WebApiConfig. We use the Filters.Add Method in HttpConfiguration to do the same. For Example,
	public static void Register(HttpConfiguration config)
            // Web API configuration and services

            // Web API routes

                name: "DefaultApi",
                routeTemplate: "api/{controller}/{id}",
                defaults: new { id = RouteParameter.Optional }

            config.Filters.Add(new ExceptionManagement.DemoExceptionFilter());
That’s it !!!. Now every Exception your APIController throws , with the exception of HttpResponseException , would have to go through your DemoExceptionFilter. To test the code, I have thrown an exception from my controller as seen in example below.
    public class ValuesController : ApiController
        // GET api/values
        public IEnumerable  Get()
            throw new NotImplementedException ();

        // GET api/values/5
        public string Get( int id)
            return "value" ;
Now run your application and check the response in Fiddler.
Wasn’t that easy ? Yes, but Exception Filters has its own short-comings, which would be explained in the next part. Happy Coding !!

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