Friday, September 22, 2017

VSWhere.exe–The Visual Studio Locator

As someone who has built a lot if CI and CD pipelines, one of the struggles I always got when new Visual Studio versions were released was how to make my build server use the correct version of MSBuild when multiple Visual Studio versions were installed.

It got a lot better over the years, but even recently I was sitting together with a customer to investigate how we could make the build server understand that the Visual Studio 2017 Build tools should be used.

One of the (badly documented) tricks you could use was scanning the registry for specific registry keys. Luckily Microsoft released recently a new tool that makes finding your Visual Studio instances a lot easier: vswhere.exe

From the documentation:

vswhere is designed to be a redistributable, single-file executable that can be used in build or deployment scripts to find where Visual Studio - or other products in the Visual Studio family - is located. For example, if you know the relative path to MSBuild, you can find the root of the Visual Studio install and combine the paths to find what you need.

You can emit different formats for information based on what your scripts can consume, including plain text, JSON, and XML. Pull requests may be accepted for other common formats as well.

vswhere is included with the installer as of Visual Studio 2017 version 15.2 and later, and can be found at the following location: %ProgramFiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\Installer\vswhere.exe. The binary may be copied from that location as needed, installed using Chocolatey, or the latest version may be downloaded from the releases page. More information about how to get vswhere is on the wiki.

This tool is also used internally in the VSBuild build task in TFS to discover recent Visual Studio versions(2017 and newer).

A quick sample:

  • Open a command prompt
  • Browse to %ProgramFiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\Installer\ or the location where you downloaded vswhere.exe.
  • Let’s try vswhere –latest



Oliver Hanappi said...

You should also have a look at, which is a PowerShell Module from Microsoft with similar functionality, however you do not need to parse the paths from the vswhere.exe output.

anupavi said...

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