Did you know… How to import and export settings in Visual Studio

This tip is for Visual Studio 2005.

A feature near and dear to my heart is the VSSettings feature, codename profiles.  This was my first feature I owned at M0 – meaning I was the QA while it was being designed.  I owned it for well over a year during its early development stages, until I moved to Window Management. 

To import and export settings
Go to Tools – Import Export Settings
Select whether you want to Import, Export, or Reset.  Note: A Reset is the same as doing an Import of every category.
Follow the wizard.

For example, say I need to export my favorite window layouts because I’m handing it off to a coworker or I need to, for whatever reason, reset my defaults.  Now there’s a really easy way to export this data to a .vssettings file, instead of having to shut down the shell and make a copy of the window layout .prf file in %AppData%

Exporting creates .vssettings files which you can sync multiple machines too, but this is a tip of the day for another day.

Comments (6)

  1. oshah says:

    I remember trying to use this in the Visual C++ Express October CTP. However, when I tried to reimport the settings, it completely screwed my installation.

    Whenever I hovered over a toolbar, or a menu, the IDE would crash ("Would you like to send an error report to Microsoft?"). Whenever I tried to show a toolbar with a right click, the IDE would crash. And without the toolbar or menus, the IDE pretty much became useless.

    Even trying to delete all .VSsettings files from my hard drive didn’t work. Neither did a uninstall/reinstall of Visual Studio. I finally traced the problem to my HKCU registry key (I manually deleted all VS2005 settings from it).

    Since the problem stemmed from my HKCU registry, this explains why a complete reinstall of Visual Studio didn’t work. Heck, even a reinstall of Windows wouldn’t work! Had I not known better, the fix would have required me to Format my hard drive clean, then install Windows/VS from scratch (I was lucky because I am in a workgroup).

    I’m sure that whatever the bug was, it is now fixed in beta 2. But, this bad experience is reason enough for me to never, ever, ever, ever, touch the import/export settings again. (yes a bad bug can do that).

  2. Travis Owens says:

    Is this a VS2005 only thing? I don’t see it in VS2003.

    IF so, please mention that a trick is version specific.

  3. saraford says:


    Sorry about that. I’ve updated the post. I’ve been kinda spacey b/c of the drugs i’m taking for a broken ribs. I’ve been debating whether to have two RSS feeds, one for Everett and another for Whidbey. But, i think i’ll just keep one feed and label it at the top which product(s) it applies to.



  4. saraford says:


    I think I remember the bug you are describing. The problem was anything the user hovered the mouse over a toolbar that contained a drop down button, the shell would crash. it was extremely unfortunate that this bug made it into the CTP. The import / export settings probably just added more toolbars that contained these types of buttons, allowing you to repro it more easily.

    Remember choosing your configurations at first launch? That’s actually the same mechanism as doing Tools – Import Export Settings – Reset. So, you’ve already used the feature once now =) Give the feature a second chance =)



  5. Ed Post says:

    This is all very fine, but how does one transfer settings in pervious versions of VC++ which are missing the Import/Export Settings Wizard? Are these stored in the registry?

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