ASP.NET Page Life Cycle

When an ASP.NET page runs, the page goes through a life cycle in which it performs a series of processing steps. These include initialization, instantiating controls, restoring and maintaining state, running event handler code, and rendering. It is important for you to understand the page life cycle so that you can write code at the appropriate life-cycle stage for the effect you intend.

If you develop custom controls, you must be familiar with the page life cycle in order to correctly initialize controls, populate control properties with view-state data, and run control behavior code. The life cycle of a control is based on the page life cycle, and the page raises many of the events that you need to handle in a custom control.

Stage Description
Page request The page request occurs before the page life cycle begins. When the page is requested by a user, ASP.NET determines whether the page needs to be parsed and compiled (therefore beginning the life of a page), or whether a cached version of the page can be sent in response without running the page.
Start In the start stage, page properties such as Request and Response are set. At this stage, the page also determines whether the request is a postback or a new request and sets the IsPostBack property. The page also sets the UICulture property.
Initialization During page initialization, controls on the page are available and each control’s UniqueID property is set. A master page and themes are also applied to the page if applicable. If the current request is a postback, the postback data has not yet been loaded and control property values have not been restored to the values from view state.
Load During load, if the current request is a postback, control properties are loaded with information recovered from view state and control state.
Postback event handling If the request is a postback, control event handlers are called. After that, the Validate method of all validator controls is called, which sets the IsValid property of individual validator controls and of the page. (There is an exception to this sequence: the handler for the event that caused validation is called after validation.)
Rendering Before rendering, view state is saved for the page and all controls. During the rendering stage, the page calls the Render method for each control, providing a text writer that writes its output to the OutputStream object of the page’s Response property.
Unload The Unload event is raised after the page has been fully rendered, sent to the client, and is ready to be discarded. At this point, page properties such as Response and Request are unloaded and cleanup is performed.

Within each stage of the life cycle of a page, the page raises events that you can handle to run your own code. For control events, you bind the event handler to the event, either declaratively using attributes such as onclick, or in code.

Pages also support automatic event wire-up, meaning that ASP.NET looks for methods with particular names and automatically runs those methods when certain events are raised. If the AutoEventWireup attribute of the @ Page directive is set to true, page events are automatically bound to methods that use the naming convention of Page_event, such as Page_Load and Page_Init. For more information on automatic event wire-up, see ASP.NET Web Server Control Event Model.

The following table lists the page life-cycle events that you will use most frequently. There are more events than those listed; however, they are not used for most page-processing scenarios. Instead, they are primarily used by server controls on the ASP.NET Web page to initialize and render themselves. If you want to write custom ASP.NET server controls, you need to understand more about these events. For information about creating custom controls, see Developing Custom ASP.NET Server Controls.

Page Event Typical Use
PreInit Raised after the start stage is complete and before the initialization stage begins.

Use this event for the following:

  • Check the IsPostBack property to determine whether this is the first time the page is being processed. The IsCallback and IsCrossPagePostBack properties have also been set at this time.
  • Create or re-create dynamic controls.
  • Set a master page dynamically.
  • Set the Theme property dynamically.
  • Read or set profile property values.
    NoteNote
    If the request is a postback, the values of the controls have not yet been restored from view state. If you set a control property at this stage, its value might be overwritten in the next event.
Init Raised after all controls have been initialized and any skin settings have been applied. The Init event of individual controls occurs before the Init event of the page.

Use this event to read or initialize control properties.

InitComplete Raised at the end of the page’s initialization stage. Only one operation takes place between the Init and InitComplete events: tracking of view state changes is turned on. View state tracking enables controls to persist any values that are programmatically added to the ViewState collection. Until view state tracking is turned on, any values added to view state are lost across postbacks. Controls typically turn on view state tracking immediately after they raise their Init event.

Use this event to make changes to view state that you want to make sure are persisted after the next postback.

PreLoad Raised after the page loads view state for itself and all controls, and after it processes postback data that is included with the Request instance.
Load The Page object calls the OnLoad method on the Page object, and then recursively does the same for each child control until the page and all controls are loaded. The Load event of individual controls occurs after the Load event of the page.

Use the OnLoad event method to set properties in controls and to establish database connections.

Control events Use these events to handle specific control events, such as a Button control’s Click event or a TextBox control’s TextChanged event.

NoteNote
In a postback request, if the page contains validator controls, check the IsValid property of the Page and of individual validation controls before performing any processing.
LoadComplete Raised at the end of the event-handling stage.

Use this event for tasks that require that all other controls on the page be loaded.

PreRender Raised after the Page object has created all controls that are required in order to render the page, including child controls of composite controls. (To do this, the Page object calls EnsureChildControls for each control and for the page.)

The Page object raises the PreRender event on the Page object, and then recursively does the same for each child control. The PreRender event of individual controls occurs after the PreRender event of the page.

Use the event to make final changes to the contents of the page or its controls before the rendering stage begins.

PreRenderComplete Raised after each data bound control whose DataSourceID property is set calls its DataBind method. For more information, see Data Binding Events for Data-Bound Controls later in this topic.
SaveStateComplete Raised after view state and control state have been saved for the page and for all controls. Any changes to the page or controls at this point affect rendering, but the changes will not be retrieved on the next postback.
Render This is not an event; instead, at this stage of processing, the Page object calls this method on each control. All ASP.NET Web server controls have a Render method that writes out the control’s markup to send to the browser.

If you create a custom control, you typically override this method to output the control’s markup. However, if your custom control incorporates only standard ASP.NET Web server controls and no custom markup, you do not need to override the Render method. For more information, see Developing Custom ASP.NET Server Controls.

A user control (an .ascx file) automatically incorporates rendering, so you do not need to explicitly render the control in code.

Unload Raised for each control and then for the page.

In controls, use this event to do final cleanup for specific controls, such as closing control-specific database connections.

For the page itself, use this event to do final cleanup work, such as closing open files and database connections, or finishing up logging or other request-specific tasks.

NoteNote
During the unload stage, the page and its controls have been rendered, so you cannot make further changes to the response stream. If you attempt to call a method such as the Response.Write method, the page will throw an exception.

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