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Getting Started with Visual Studio

How to install Visual Studio Express

Written By on in C#

755 words, estimated reading time 4 minutes.

In this tutorial, we look at how to download and install Microsoft Visual C# Express and Visual Web Developer, how to obtain a free registration key and a quick tour of the development environment.

Using Visual Studio Series
  1. Getting Started with Visual Studio
  2. Using the Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment
  3. Using the Visual Studio Debugger
  4. XML Documentation in Visual Studio
  5. Using Microsoft .Net Command Line Tools
  6. What is an Assembly in Microsoft .Net?
  7. Creating and Using a .NET Assembly in C#
  8. Creating and Implementing Satellite Assemblies
  9. Creating Strong Named Assemblies in Microsoft .Net
  10. Visual Studio Task List
  11. Resources and Localisation in C# Projects
  12. Localising Microsoft .Net Applications with C#
  13. Using Resource Files in C# Applications
  14. Using XSD Tool to Generate Classes from XML
  15. 10 Visual Studio Tools You May Not Know About

This article relates to an old version of the .Net Framework. While the contents are still relevant, future versions of the framework may change, or improve upon, the contents of this article.

If you already have Visual C# or Visual Studio installed on your machine, you can skip this tutorial and go straight to creating your first console application.

The first thing you will need is a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio. We will be using Visual Studio 2005 Professional for most of the tutorials on this site. If you do not have access to Visual Studio, you can download Visual C# Express for Free from Microsoft. There is no difference in the programming language between Visual Studio and Express Editions, however, the Express versions will not allow you to write all of the project types, and there are a lot of features removed from the Express version in order to streamline the environment for beginners.

Visual C# Express
Visual C# Express

If you do not have a copy of Visual Studio 2005 Professional, you can download the Express version for Free from the Microsoft site: Visual Studio Express.

Once you have loaded up the Microsoft website, you will need to click on the Download link which will then give you a step by step download guide. You will need to download the Visual Web Developer for developing ASP.Net web pages and Visual C# Express for developing Windows Forms Applications.


Once you have downloaded the setup file (around 3MB) for the required product, you can launch the installer, which will download and install the full Express Studio (35MB). During the set-up process you will be asked if you would like to download optional components, either Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express Edition or MSDN 2005 Express, which contains a lot of documentation (which is also available on the Microsoft website if you wish to save on disk space). Both of these options can be installed at a later date if you just want the basic Visual Studio installed right now.

When the file is downloaded you should run it and the installer will download the rest of the files and install them into the directory of your choice. It does take a little while to download and install depending on the speed of your Internet connection and the speed of your computer.

Visual C# Express

Once installed, you can launch Visual C# Express from the Start Menu, and when it is done loading you will be presented with the Start Page, where you can see the latest C# news from Microsoft, as well as your recent projects and some shortcuts to common tasks.

Visual C# Express will allow you to create the following project types:

  • Windows Application - A Windows forms application for on desktop machines.
  • Class Library - A compiled DLL which can be used with all project types.
  • Console Application - A text based (DOS-like) interface.
  • Screen Saver - Starter project for creating a Windows Screen Saver
  • Movie Collection Sample App - Starter project for creating a database driven application.
  • Empty Project

For the introduction tutorials, we will be using only the Console Application project type.

Visual Web Developer

If you would like to be able to develop websites using ASP.Net, you will also need to download and install Microsoft Visual Web Developer, which can be obtained from the same address as Visual C#. Download and install instructions are exactly the same for both products.

Visual Web Developer will allow you to create the following project types:

  • ASP.Net Website - A publishable website.
  • ASP.Net Web Service - An XML based data exchange service
  • Personal Website - Starter pack for a personal website
  • Empty Website

If you have purchased Visual Studio, all these project types will be rolled into one application.


You must register any of the Visual Studio Express products within 30 days of installation to continue using them. Registration is free, and then Microsoft will send you an activation code you can use to activate your Express package.

Register Visual C#
Register Visual C#

When you click on the bubble you will be presented with a dialogue asking for a registration key. If you do not have a registration key you can click on "Register Now" where you will be directed to the Microsoft site. You will need a Microsoft Passport Live ID to sign in, and there is a short questionnaire to fill in, and then Microsoft will send you a 14 digit registration key which you can copy and paste into the registration dialogue of Visual C#.

Last updated on: Saturday 24th June 2017



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