Visual Studio setup projects (vdproj) will not ship with future versions of VS

[UPDATE 04/18/14] The Visual Studio team has released an extension to VS 2013 to address the feedback on this, which has been loud and clear for a long time now: Visual Studio Installer Projects Extension.

[UPDATE 11/6/12] Fixed broken links.

At the user group meeting last night, someone asked about the future of WiX.  There was some confusion over the future of WiX since at one point there was a plan to ship it but then that changedRob Mensching, who leads the WiX project, is a developer on Visual Studio, and Visual Studio continues to contribute to the WiX project.  We use WiX to create the installation packages for VS and a bunch of other stuff.

The Visual Studio setup projects will not ship again – VS 2010 was the last release with support for it.  So, you’ll want to make plans to migrate to something else.  Of course, I’d suggest looking into WiX, and there are other options as well.  The MSDN page Choosing a Windows Installer Deployment Tool contains a table showing a comparison of VS setup projects, WiX, and InstallShield Limited Edition.


Future versions of Visual Studio will not include the Visual Studio Installer project templates. To preserve existing customer investments in Visual Studio Installer projects, Microsoft will continue to support the Visual Studio Installer projects that shipped with Visual Studio 2010 per the product life-cycle strategy. For more information, see Expanded Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy for Business & Development Products.

Comments (53)

  1. Martin says:

    I have enjoyed working with WIX in the past. Personally I think the main reason that it is not more adopted is due to the lack of a decent/professional-quality designer.  As a coder I hate to admit this, but unfortunately not everyone is as keen to get stuck into XML as me.  Would be great to see Microsoft put more effort into rectifying this :)

  2. Jan says:

    Can you please carify this?

    From table on page "Choosing a Windows Installer Deployment Tool"

    MS will cut whole column "Visual Studio Setup and Deployment Projects" or first cell of column "Wix",

    or both?

    I love Wix, but command line is OK for me.

    Thank you.

  3. buckh says:

    Martin, I agree.  Hopefully that will happen in the future.

    Jan, the feature described by the column "Visual Studio Setup and Deployment Projects" is cut from future versions of Visual Studio.  There will be no more support in future versions for .vdproj files.

    WiX is supported and would be the path I'd recommend.

    Votive is the integration with Visual Studio:


  4. Rob M says:

    Interesting chart, it would be nice to update it to compare full InstallShield (and others) against Wix3.6 with Burn. I think that would give people a better idea of where they want to position themselves moving forward. Personally we've been really happy with Wix for the last 5 years and are moving to 3.6 soon.

  5. buckh says:

    Rob, thanks for the suggestion.  I'll pass that along.


  6. Andi Hasler says:

    Hi Buck,

    As you recommend we use InstallShield 2011 LE for our Visual Studio 2010 setups.

    It has now turned out, that InstallShield has problems with an automatic build (MSBuild.exe). When the account which builds the solutions has NO administrative priviledges, the build fails every time with the message: "C:Program FilesMSBuildInstallShield2011LimitedInstallShield.targets(96,3): error : -7159: The product license has expired or has not yet been initialized."

    InstallShield Support was not very helpful in this case. So the problem still exists and is very anoying. So if InstallShield doesn't fix this problem, we don't recommend InstallShield LE… Perhaps Microsoft can have an eye on that?



  7. buckh says:

    Andi, I'm sorry to hear that.  I'd agree that requiring admin privileges is not desirable for a build process.


  8. We will not be moving to VS 2012 says:

    We will not be moving to Visual Studio 2012, for this reason. Our big product installs a Windows service using the Set up project. Until we can find a system that is just as easy we will have to stick with 2010. We do not use Team Server, we use SVN. That knocks out thier current installer.

  9. Lession Learned says:

    There are many lessions in the past, we should be responsible for choosing the right technology vendor !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Why? Visual Studio Setup Projects were great.

  11. Le Maraudeur says:

    To stop VS Setup Projects is the worst decision ever made on VS… :(

  12. Tim says:

    You have to be kidding me?! This along with removing web deployment projects is just a very WRONG decision!

  13. Alan says:

    Link is dead in typical MSDN fashion.  And why was it removed from VS?  No explanation.

  14. matthew says:

    This is a terrible idea.  Installshield LE has no where near the capability of the vdproj's.  No customizable dialogs to pick environment specific options, no app pool support, illogical web site settings.  

  15. Farid says:

    What a shock. Installed VS 2012 and found out that my setup projects are not supported. Tried Install Shield LE for vs 2012 but no go. Install Shield LE is very limited (does not even support x64 deployment). Why remove something that is so helpful and user friendly and leave developers in a lurch. I already have vdproj setup projects set up and tested from previous versions of vs and now no longer supported for no obvious reason.

  16. Frustrated says:

    This is the worst decision ever taken on VS

  17. Ben says:

    Ahhhh!!!!  I use Wix regularly when managing our main installer, it's fine but it's very complicated!  The awesome thing about setup projects was that they were brilliant for deploying small tools or prototypes without having to worry about all the complexities of Wix.  2012 seems good but this is a terrible and pointless omission.  How hard could it have been to maintain!

  18. Bill says:

    I will be uninstalling VS 2012. Not worth the trouble.

  19. Peter says:

    You always know Microsoft is laughing at you when they remove their own tools just to redirect you to sourceforge… what a brilliant move for such a huge company. If I did that to clients – they would kill me.

    At the moment I'm trying to hack VSD into VS2012 – I don't think I'll get there, and if not, I will be downgrading to 2010.

    Thank you Microsoft for leaving me behind!

  20. XMan says:

    @Buck: Any news on the issue of the build process requiring admin privileges when using InstallShield LE?

    This is unacceptable for us from a security point of view.

  21. buckh says:

    Not that I know of, but I admit that I haven't kept up with it. It's really up to the InstallShield folks to address this.

  22. XMan says:

    @Buck: I feared you would say that :(

    Anyway when I run VS with the same account that is running the build service the local building of the InstallShield LE project within VS is working fine (without admin privileges!).

    So the error is somehow connected to the TFS build process. So maybe the InstallShield folks will direct us to you again?

  23. buckh says:

    Hmm, which account do you use to run the build service?

  24. XMan says:

    A domain account.

  25. buckh says:

    Okay, I will have someone look at it, though it may take a while. I suspect it could be something about interactive vs. non-interactive if you are using the same account on the same machine (to eliminate permissions issues on the local box) is running both the build and VS and getting different results.

  26. guidway says:

    My issue with WIX is that COM registration in WIX seems to be very difficult. I was excited about going to it until after reading numerous forums the best way to use it was to keep track of each individual COM registration that goes into the registry in your WIX script. Our application is based a lot on ESRI ArcGIS libraries that are all written in COM and require COM registration for almost everything we do. To keep up with these COM entries in WIX (one by one) just isn't going to bode well with our developers. It was frustrating when I tried to use it for this. If our project didn't have COM, it looks like it would be a great installer package to use.

  27. JFMDeveloper says:

    This decision to remove support for setup projects is very, very wrong.  We installed Visual Studio 2012 and were just SHOCKED and very irritated!  We have Windows Services that are part of our offering that need to be installed.  As noted InstallShield LE is very weak and does not support this.  Forcing us towards an expensive and paid option on InstallShield is really appropriate.

    That we cannot put together a simple deployment to get a project that we build in VS 2012 is just downright stupidity on behalf of the Visual Studio team.

    Microsoft needs to present a solution to resolve this promptly.  I suspect many developer will be staying behind and continuing with VS 2010 until such time as this has a solution.

    Very disappointing!

  28. buckh says:

    guidway, I'm told by Rob that there is a tool in the WiX Toolset called “heat.exe” that can capture the selfreg and generate a .wxs file. That is the way most people address this requirement.

  29. Keith Patrick says:

    While I really don't have much of a problem with vdproj going away (it was a very incomplete solution) and really like the simplicity of WiX, it is a royal pain (at least in 2010) to get it working with the TFS build system. MS has had this nasty habit of having project types in VS that require VS (and its add-ons) be installed on the build machine, which is anathema to me (especially given MS' tendency to have VS install non-standard DLL versions, leading to some variant of DLL hell when installing the application on a client machine).

  30. Ivan Rakonic says:

    Really Microsoft? You made it worse for developers, ON PURPOSE? I'm falling back to VS 2010 and staying there.

  31. Alina says:

    I'd really like to know why they don't support it anymore.

  32. cbos says:

    SHOCK & AWE on this Installer removal! We have a lot of projects that rely on the installer (windows forms and windows services), just don't have the time to convert all these (some with custom install actions).

    I switched back to vs2010. Also loathe the new monochrome UI and TFS changes. Instead of quickly finding my solution file by color, I now have to scan the file extensions to locate it. really? I have a color monitor!

  33. dmihailescu says:

    The dude who is responsible for the installer removal should be fired on the spot and the tool should be reinstated ASAP! MS lost a lot of good will with this moronic decision.

  34. Robert Vandenberg Huang says:

    This is a totally stupid decision. You guys should let developers choose the best solution for them. You are pathetic.

  35. Brandon says:

    Why not get rid of Windows Forms Applications and Windows Service Applications as well.  Since you cannot actually deploy them anymore.

  36. Saurabh Ahuja says:

    This is Strange decision, it will definitely impact lot of products which are running on VS 2010 VD –  setup projects.  Many might hesitate to migrate to VS 2012

  37. Gerhard says:

    I cannot believe this. Is Microscoft really razy??? That costs a fortune to us!

  38. Alex says:

    I was dumbfounded at being not able to create exe from my project. What the hell? Who is the idiot made this decision? I can make adobe air exe and i can't do silverlight exe?

  39. Neil Haughton says:

    Well, I've just cancelled our team's proposed upgrade to VS2012 on the strength of this. Why should we accept the cost of recreating all our installer projects for existing products? Setup Projects may not have been the greatest piece of work, but at least we had grown to understand them and work with them efficiently. The decision has now been taken to drop TFS and move to a more open source solution altogether. Pity – we quite liked our development environment (VS/MSBuild/MSTest/TFS etc), but it is proving too much of a hassle to be at Microsoft's mercy in this way. Own goal, Microsoft!

  40. John says:

    WIX is pathetic open-source replacement. Nobody likes to work on deployment project and with XML and steep learning curve it is not a replacement at all. It does not even have a default way to install .NET framework! How is that for VS deployment project replacement? We are going to use VS2010 until we move to another platform or deployment projects come back to VS.

    We already had to find replacement for abandoned ATL libraries, SOAP services and now deployment projects. Soon we may have to use opensource C++ compilers since MS may decide that they are not cool anymore. Are there any plans to drop C# support as well?

  41. Matt says:

    Congratulations Micro$oft for making my job 100 times harder.

  42. Karl Shifflett says:

    Didn't upgrade to VS 2012 and now feeling the pain of this very poor decision.  Yet, another feature real-world developers need and depend on is cut.  Just plain dumb.  Thanks for making our lives harder.  


  43. Shaun says:

    Grr.  Microsoft management are clearly morons, this is the most illogical stupid decision. I'm redeveloping this in Java. .NET is no longer viable.

  44. John Graham says:

    Shaun, you are the one with the correct solution.  Move off of VS to Java or something else.  Microsoft apparently doesn't want our money anymore.

  45. ex ms developer says:

    MS sucks – they keep removing products and adding new crappy ones

  46. Hamid says:

    I have two sub vdproj projects in solution that is developed in VS2010 .NET 3.5 . Now I want to migrate my complete project into VS 2012. But when I open the VS2010 project in VS2012, it gives me errors in vdproj. Please tell me what I do?

  47. Kelly says:

    Please bring back vdproj support in VS!!  WIX is too complicated for most things, and InstallShield LE flat out doesn't work.


  48. jubajube says:

    Link to "Choosing a Windows Installer Deployment Tool" is broken (again?)…. (sigh)

  49. Nikita says:

    InstallShield is just annoying.They haven't got enough support and forums and on top of that the misguiding errors.

    Really its a stupid idea to get vdprojects out without proper product to replace it.

  50. Jay says:

    What I cant stand InstallShield, what is that. Microsoft didn't really make the right move on removing VS Installer.

  51. Andy says:

    InstallShield is a POS!

    I hope they fired the moron who decided WE did not want the Setup and Deployment tool WE have all been happy with for years and land US all with significant hassle WE do not need!

    A very unhappy developer…

  52. Candy says:

    Why my Visual Studio show Setup and Development & Visual Studio Solutions not have Visual Studio Installer yet.Please help me! Thank You!

  53. Amgad Elmalaway says:

    Are you Sure that VS 2012 don’t support setup project

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