Resources obtained within a unit of work - database connections, transactions, authenticated sessions, file handles etc. - should be disposed of when that work is complete. .NET provides the IDisposable interface to aid in this more deterministic notion of disposal.

Some IoC containers need to be told explicitly to dispose of a particular instance, through a method like ReleaseInstance(). This makes it very difficult to guarantee that the correct disposal semantics are used.

  • Switching implementations from a non-disposable to a disposable component can mean modifying client code.
  • Client code that may have ignored disposal when using shared instances will almost certainly fail to clean up when switched to non-shared instances.

Autofac solves these problems using lifetime scopes as a way of disposing of all of the components created during a unit of work.

using (var scope = container.BeginLifetimeScope())

  // Components for scope disposed here, at the
  // end of the 'using' statement when the scope
  // itself is disposed.

A lifetime scope is created when a unit of work begins, and when that unit of work is complete the nested container can dispose all of the instances within it that are out of scope.

Registering Components

Autofac can automatically dispose of some components, but you have the ability to manually specify a disposal mechanism, too.

Components must be registered as InstancePerDependency() (the default) or some variation of InstancePerLifetimeScope() (e.g., InstancePerMatchingLifetimeScope() or InstancePerRequest()).

If you have singleton components (registered as SingleInstance()) they will live for the life of the container. Since container lifetimes are usually the application lifetime, it means the component won’t be disposed until the end of the application.

Automatic Disposal

To take advantage of automatic deterministic disposal, your component must implement IDisposable. You can then register your component as needed and at the end of each lifetime scope in which the component is resolved, the Dispose() method on the component will be called.

var builder = new ContainerBuilder();
var container = builder.Build();
// Create nested lifetime scopes, resolve
// the component, and dispose of the scopes.
// Your component will be disposed with the scope.

Specified Disposal

If your component doesn’t implement IDisposable but still requires some cleanup at the end of a lifetime scope, you can use the OnRelease lifetime event.

var builder = new ContainerBuilder();
       .OnRelease(instance => instance.CleanUp());
var container = builder.Build();
// Create nested lifetime scopes, resolve
// the component, and dispose of the scopes.
// Your component's "CleanUp()" method will be
// called when the scope is disposed.

Note that OnRelease() overrides the default handling of IDisposable.Dispose(). If your component both implements IDisposable and requires some other cleanup method, you will either need to manually call Dispose() in OnRelease() or you will need to update your class so the cleanup method gets called from inside Dispose().

Disabling Disposal

Components are owned by the container by default and will be disposed by it when appropriate. To disable this, register a component as having external ownership:


The container will never call Dispose() on an object registered with external ownership. It is up to you to dispose of components registered in this fashion.

Another alternative for disabling disposal is to use the implicit relationship Owned<T> and owned instances. In this case, rather than putting a dependency T in your consuming code, you put a dependency on Owned<T>. Your consuming code will then be responsible for disposal.

public class Consumer
  private Owned<DisposableComponent> _service;

  public Consumer(Owned<DisposableComponent> service)
    _service = service;

  public void DoWork()
    // _service is used for some task

    // Here _service is no longer needed, so
    // it is released

You can read more about Owned<T> in the owned instances topic.

Resolve Components from Lifetime Scopes

Lifetime scopes are created by calling BeginLifetimeScope(). The simplest way is in a using block. Use the lifetime scopes to resolve your components and then dispose of the scope when the unit of work is complete.

using (var lifetime = container.BeginLifetimeScope())
  var component = lifetime.Resolve<SomeComponent>();
  // component, and any of its disposable dependencies, will
  // be disposed of when the using block completes

Note that with Autofac integration libraries standard unit-of-work lifetime scopes will be created and disposed for you automatically. For example, in Autofac’s ASP.NET MVC integration, a lifetime scope will be created for you at the beginning of a web request and all components will generally be resolved from there. At the end of the web request, the scope will automatically be disposed - no additional scope creation is required on your part. If you are using one of the integration libraries, you should be aware of what automatically-created scopes are available for you.

You can read more about creating lifetime scopes here.

Child Scopes are NOT Automatically Disposed

While lifetime scopes themselves implement IDisposable, the lifetime scopes that you create are not automatically disposed for you. If you create a lifetime scope, you are responsible for calling Dispose() on it to clean it up and trigger the automatic disposal of components. This is done easily with a using statement, but if you create a scope without a using, don’t forget to dispose of it when you’re done with it.

It’s important to distinguish between scopes you create and scopes the integration libraries create for you. You don’t have to worry about managing integration scopes (like the ASP.NET request scope) - those will be done for you. However, if you manually create your own scope, you will be responsible for cleaning it up.

Advanced Hierarchies

The simplest and most advisable resource management scenario, demonstrated above, is two-tiered: there is a single ‘root’ container and a lifetime scope is created from this for each unit of work. It is possible to create more complex hierarchies of containers and components, however, using tagged lifetime scopes.