Getting started with the Windows SDK

You’ve just downloaded your first Windows SDK and can’t wait to get started exploring the tools, samples, documents and other useful components that you’ve heard about.  But wait, how do you get to all those goodies?  To access the different components in the SDK, click the Start button, then choose All Programs, Microsoft Windows SDK… then pick what you want to do first.  Here’s a rundown of what each start menu shortcut leads to.  (You may not see every shortcut on your computer if  you de-selected some components during SDK setup.)


·         CMD Shell – launches a command window with a build environment with all the environment variables pre-set for building to take advantage of the headers, libraries and compilers in the SDK.  Here’s where you’ll be building samples and applications.  it is a Windows cmd.exe command prompt specially configured to work with the SDK.


·         Release Notes – Reading this document before starting to use the SDK can save you a lot of time and stress. This document contains links and information on applications that work hand in hand with the SDK and information about certain components that are included in the SDK. Unfortunately, you may run into issues with some of the SDK content so it’s better to know about these issues before starting to work with the SDK.


·         Windows SDK Documentation –opens up the Document Explorer Browser that may look familiar; lots of Microsoft products use it. The browser lets  you read SDK documents stored on your hard drive or MSDN online.  You can bookmark favorites, search, filter, and more.  You’ll also find the .NET Framework code samples embedded in the documents, with links to download them to your desktop. 


·         Tools – under this folder you’ll find shortcuts to just a few of the useful tools in the SDK. There are over a hundred more. Read a quick description of each tool under the Tool Reference Start menu entry or a more detailed description in the SDK Documentation.  Tools are installed by default to %user%\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\[version number]\Bin (or …\Bin\X64 on an X64 machine.)


·         Visual Studio Registration – If you want to use the Windows SDK headers, libraries, and tools within Visual Studio 2005, run the tool under this shortcut.  It only takes a few seconds but you’ll need to do it with Administrative permissions if you’re running Vista (right click the shortcut and select Run as Administrator). Once you run it, VS will know about all the things in the SDK, and the SDK CMD Shell will know about things in VS.


·         Where are the samples?  The .NET Framework (managed code) samples are integrated in the documents (see Windows SDK Documents, above).  The unmanaged code (Win32) samples get installed to your hard drive and you’ll have to navigate there on your own.  If you chose a standard install location during setup you’ll find them here: %user%\Program Files\Microsoft SDKs\Windows\[version number]\Samples. 


Windows SDK Shortcuts - Twango

Windows SDK Team

Comments (5)

  1. Koby Kahane says:

    Why is the Dependency Walker utility no longer a part of the Windows SDK? Getting it separately from is inconvenient, especially when you’re deploying the latest versions of tools across your developer organization.

  2. Brian Cost says:

    Depends.Exe did not meet all of the Windows SDK quality requirements necessary to ship in the SDK.   You can still acquire several versions of the Depends tool and a FAQ that describes how to use the tool from

    Sumit Kumar

    Windows SDK Tools Program Manager

  3. PatriotB says:

    It’s unfortunate that removing Dependency Walker was the chosen route, rather than make the necessary fixes so that it meets the "quality requirements."  We go and download it from that web site, and thus we still have the "low-quality" code on our machine.  If low-quality means "potentially vulnerable to security exploits", we’re just as vulnerable getting it from that web site as we are getting it in the SDK…

  4. Brian Cost says:

    I’m interested in hearing from people who use Dependency Walker and how it’s used in development, what version of Windows you’re using it with (Windows CE, Windows Mobile, Vista, etc.), whether you use it in console or GUI mode, what improvements are needed, etc.  Although Dependency Walker’s developer, Steve Miller, still provides Depends.exe on his freeware application site (, I’m hearing that some developers want it back in the Windows SDK.  I’d like to hear what you have to say.  

    Karin Meier, Windows SDK Community PM, Samples PM

  5. Jeff says:

    It's 2011 and I, for one, am still extremely annoyed that Dependency Walker is no longer in the SDK.  I'm tired of going to use tools I'm comfortable with, only to find that Microsoft has removed them.  For example, UI Spy disappeared in the Windows SDK version 7.1.  Why?

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