The daVinci Diagram Surface Could Not Be Found – A Lesson in Stress Management

It takes me ages to install a new machine. Getting the software on is the
easy bit; it's the background activity of setting up those little custom settings
like toolbars, environment variables, TweakUI entries
etc. to make my desktop feel like "home" that takes time. I've even created
a document
to help me remember some of those settings, but invariably I miss quite
a few.

It's so frustrating to spend that time and then have some small but significant glitch
render it as wasted effort. I was doing some work on an application today when I hit
the following nasty little error message:

...and at that point my productivity went out the window temporarily. I tried everything,
from uninstalling several potentially conflicting applications, to reinstalling Visual
Studio .NET, all with no avail. I checked through our internal knowledge base and
searched Google, also without success.

Finally, thanks to Phil Milton from PSS,
I tracked the problem down to an early build of Visual Studio .NET "Whidbey"
that I'd installed and uninstalled. Turns out it had left some cruft in an obscure
directory which caused a conflict - because it was marked with a newer version than
the current release of VS.NET the reinstallation refused to update it. If you
find yourself in a similar position, rename the folder \Program Files\Common Files\Microsoft
Shared\MSDesigners7 to something different, reinstall and it should work fine.

Three lessons I've learnt from this escapade. Firstly, don't give up when something's
broken in Windows - chances are that it's fixable if you can only identify what! Secondly,
most MSDN subscribers forget that they have a number of free PSS incidents (and problems
that are resolved as being due to a bug don't count against the total). Thirdly, use
something like Virtual PC whenever
installing something flaky - now we've acquired this technology, it will soon
be included in MSDN so there's no excuse!

Comments (12)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great… I have the same problem and I waste a lot of time re-installing the VS… without a result. I’ll give your solution a try! Great, that you blogged it here!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would also like to thank you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Good info. I reinstalled as directed before I found your post. I really didn’t want to sit through 2 more hours of a reinstall so I renamed the folder and copied the same from another user’s whose VS 2003 was working fine. That worked. No reinstall necessary.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Had the same problem. Wish I had done a search before repairing, uninstalling, and cursing….. Datasets have been working oddly for a while, I just never used them enough to care until now.


  5. Anonymous says:


    You saved my day with that solution!

  6. Anonymous says:

    It saved me some time when i was talking to pss, they suggested a reinstall. In my case, I renamed the folder, and registered the dlls in designers7 directory. Thanks to your blog, you save me some time.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You rock! Thanks so much for this post. I tried MSDN and the knowledge bases but to no avail. Fortunately a Google Special Search retrieved this blog and my problem is solved (after 3 previous reinstallation attempts!).

  8. Anonymous says:

    A regsvr32 of the dll’s does the trick w/o an install.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This is a great article. It saved my time. I would like to know one more thing, Is it OK to erase the old "MSDesigners7" folder now? Thanks again.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks tims for identifying the problem, and tomc for coming up with the solution. This indeed was a time saver.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much… Had the exact same problem, and it was screwing up a deadline I have this friday. 🙂

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thank you very much all. It really worked.

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