Improving how we update Visual Studio

Improving how we update Visual Studio

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A common piece of feedback we’ve gotten is to make it easier to find and acquire bug fixes and updates – basically, how we can bring more improvements to more customers, more promptly, and more easily. As you can imagine, there are many factors to balance here, ranging from the kinds of updates we should offer, how frequently we should offer them, and how exactly VS should tell you something is available. To help frame our thinking, we looked at a lot of updating mechanisms for the kinds of things that work and what doesn't work – ranging from technologies like Windows Update through to the update mechanism we have for extensions for Visual Studio today. Looking at all of that, we chose to focus first and foremost on improving the discoverability of updates that we make to VS, focusing on enabling you to stay at the tip of quality.

The outcome of this work is a service in Visual Studio 11 Beta that we call Visual Studio Update or VSUpdate, which alerts you when updates are available. Earlier this week, we posted our first update via this channel and we have been rolling it out throughout the week to our MSDN subscribers. Today we’re making it available to the world, so you will see a notification in Visual Studio 11 Beta that looks like this:


If you click the notification, the Extension Manager will open, and the update will be visible in the Updates->Product Updates section. All you have to do is to click on the update button to download the update and start the installation. And if you want to opt out of receiving these notifications, you control that: select Tools->Extension Manager->Updates and select “Disable automatic detection of available updates.”

The update we pushed out this week includes a set of fixes to the Visual Studio 11 Beta including fixes for some of the most frequently reported crashing issues, performance improvements for large C# projects, and fixes for both IntelliTrace and Unit Test. For the full list, see the KB article.

We still have a lot of decisions to make about how to use this service – things like the frequency and even the kinds of things we provide through this channel, so please give us feedback, either in the comments to this blog post or through UserVoice (for specific feature requests, our Forums (for questions), or Connect (for bugs) – more on that later in the post.

From Many Steps to Two-Steps

This simple two-step notify-then-install process will help replace the often multi-step process you may have to go through today to bring VS up to date, which may involve installing VS, then installing some hotfixes and a service pack. To ensure that the process stays two steps, updates that come through VSUpdate will be cumulative: that is, every VSUpdate package will contain all the VSUpdate packages that came before it.

The implication of the decision to keep the process to two steps is that we’re going to have to be very thoughtful about how often we release updates and what goes into them.

We want to strike the right balance so that most of you choose to update Visual Studio when we have updates available. To that end, we need to make sure that you can trust the updates – that you know that installing an update won’t adversely affect Visual Studio or your work. To help increase our ability to deliver on this “first do no harm” approach, right now we’re choosing to focus on things like bug fixes and security updates. Each update will include a full list of what is included in its release notes, available from a link in the Extension Manager so you can find out what you are getting before you click the update button.

What we’re describing here is a first step – a good first step, we think – but there’s a lot more we’d like to do. We want your feedback on VSUpdate. What was your experience like with this first update? What would make it better? What would be in a compelling update? Is the in-product notification a good way to alert you when updates are available? Please tell us.

As always, we are reading your comments on this post, watching for issues in the Forums at, listening to your suggestions on User Voice at , and reviewing any bugs you log on Connect at

clip_image002Dave Lubash – Senior Program Manager, Visual Studio Ultimate

Short Bio:  Dave Lubash joined the Visual Studio Team in 1998 and has worked on every version of Visual Studio from 7.0.  Prior to becoming the Ultimate Release Manager in 2009, he worked on Debugger, Profiler, and other Diagnostic Tools.




David Guyer – Senior Program Manager, Visual Studio Professional

Short Bio: David Guyer is currently the Lead Program Manager for Visual Studio Setup and has been working on deployment technologies in Visual Studio since Visual Studio 2002.

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  • Why have an update channel separate from windows updates?

    It seems like you would want to have important and optional updates here as well?

  • Just me personally, I like having security updates via Windows Update, and program updates (IDE, etc.) done inside the program itself.  When I see things listed in Windows Update, my mind is focused on patching things that could harm my computer. With updates inside a program, my mind is on enhancing that program.

  • Why a cumulative update should be better than a list of patches and what's wrong with windows update?

    I think that cumulative (you read heavy) can be a problem for people that does not have a fast connection.

    The good thing is helping us to find out VS updates in an easier and faster way, no matter the frequency of updates.

  • This is a great feature, I really like that it automatically tells us about new updates now especially. I personally think that the extension manager is a much better place for it than windows update.

    The one thing i would like is if the package auto installed after you click update in VS11, at the moment it appears to download a file which needs installing manually.

  • What is wrong with Microsoft/Windows Update. I run it and I am confident that all Microsoft software at least is up to date. Windows has a huge problem with 3rd party updators running in the background or while the app to be updated is running, taking up resources. At least until now we had one single service (Microsoft Update) for all Microsoft products. And now you want to break that? You know how much headake it is to have to use a different updator for each application we own. Keep it centralized and simple. Please.

  • In our company Windows Update is under control of technical support. They are not as fast on releasing updates as developers would like. So it is a great news that developers can install latest updates on them self.

  • If this feature wasn't making VS11 Beta + Wnd7 freezing since yesterday (when showing the notification window) then I'd consider it as a nice new stuff. (minimum 20sec to get Task Manager run and kill devenv.exe process)


    The update was quick enough to reach 100% but stayed there for a long time. When I cancelled it - I got a funny message. Screen shot given on the link :-)

  • Wait, you're going to actually update Visual Studio? What a crazy notion. You mean more than the "one service pack and 4-5 vague and unspecific "security fixes" throughout its lifetime?

    Maybe we'll even start seeing the fixes to bugs reported on Connect, without having to wait for, and then pay for, and then upgrade to, the next version?

    It's like DevDiv is no longer living in 1980.


    By the way, XCode offers a monthly update of its command-line tools, including compiler and libraries. Plus, of course, the IDE gets *functional* updates several times a year.

    So yeah, actually inventing a mechanism for keeping VS up to date is a nice first step. Now you just need to actually release some updates for us to install. As you may have gathered, I'm not exactly hopeful that you're going to do that.

  • How often does VS check for updates? I've not been notified yet. The patch notes mention the F5 bug, which I assume means the "Unable to cast object of type..." thing I'm currently seeing. Would like to try the new update mechanism instead of manually patching though.

  • When does this service run?

  • Pushing out updates is a good idea, but your first priority should be performance. Every time I need to install an update for Visual Studio or .NET via Windows Update, installing it seems to take forever.

  • I'm would agree with grumpy although I'm not grumpy myself.

    It is not as if MS could not have been doing updates for the past 10 years (Rainier). The update process could have been as simple as a MSI file. MS just does not do updates other than to fix security issues.

    The big question is not who, what, how or where, but WHEN?

    Even if MS comes up with the Magical Extend Software Product Update (or whatever 20 word title you give it) in VS2011 will MS use it and how often will it be used? The WHEN question is the more important question. You can explain to me all you want about who, what, how, or where, but all of that does not matter if there is no schedule on WHEN you will use it.

    I can say right now if MS does not plan on doing at least 4 updates a year than don't do it at all. I'm sure in a course of a year there will be enough bugs to fix and update to be made. If there is no regular update then it is a waste of time, money, and hope for the customer that things will change. If MS does not do regular update than focus on making it right the first time, because you will not update it or patch it until 2 to 3 years later.

  • OK this is FANTASTIC news, and as others have said, long overdue.

    I think doing it within VS is better than using Windows Updates, and I like the concept of a cumulative patch that I don't have to think about. The closer the experience is to Google's Chrome, which just updates itself in the background, the better.

    I would like to see new features included in the updates as well as bug fixes. I doubt that MS will kill the vNext cash cow though.

    My one concern is that at work my machine is offline, due to the secure network I am on. So there needs to be a single source for downloading offline versions of these updates. And a means of notifying that they are available. I know there are many developers such as myself working for the government etc that are always offline.

    I vote for the next update to be a reversion to the VS2010 icons/theme!

  • @Patrick Smacchia

    Please log a bug about the hang you are seeing. This is not been commonly reported, and will likely require some investigation. Please include the logs generated by with the bug. Thanks

    Matt Kaufman

    Senior Program Manager, Visual Studio Platform

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