Step-by-Step: Installing SQL Server Management Studio 2008 Express after Visual Studio 2010

Step-by-Step: Installing SQL Server Management Studio 2008 Express after Visual Studio 2010

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UPDATE 7/31/2012 - Since this post new versions of SQL Server & Visual Studio have been released. To install the latest version of SQL Server see SQL Server Install. For more information on working with SQL Server Local DB in Visual Studio 2012 see Working with SQL Server LocalDB in Visual Studio 2012 and the MSDN Library SQL Server 2012 Express LocalDB.

One of the first things I always do after installing Visual Studio is to install SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS). Visual Studio 2010 installs SQL Server 2008 Express on your machine but doesn’t include SSMS. Although you can use Visual Studio to create/connect/design databases, I like having SSMS around for advanced management. I recall SSMS for SQL Server 2005 was a simple install, unfortunately they threw the kitchen sink into the SSMS 2008 installer and I’m always confused at which buttons I need to push to get it to do what I want. So I’m writing up this blog post for two reasons 1) So I remember the steps and 2) So you can be less frustrated :-) (BTW, a birdie tells me that the SQL team is looking at making this installer much simpler in the future. Hooray!)

Okay the first thing you need is to make sure you get the right version of SSMS. If you installed Visual Studio 2010 then you will need the 2008 version (not R2).

STEP 1: Download Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008 Management Studio Express and select either SQLManagementStudio_x64_ENU.exe or SQLManagementStudio_x86_ENU.exe depending on your machine’s OS bit-ness. I’m running Windows 7-64bit so I’ll be detailing the steps as it pertains to that OS.

STEP 2: Make sure you’re logged in as an administrator of the machine then right-click on the exe you downloaded and select “Run as Administrator”. If you’re on Windows 7 then you’ll get a compatibility warning. Click past it for now to continue with the install. Later you’ll need to apply SQL 2008 Service Pack 2.

STEP 3: You should now see the “SQL Server Installation Center” window. Yes it looks scary. Select the “Installation” tab.


STEP 4: Select “New SQL Server stand-alone installation or add features to an existing installation”. It will then run a rule check. Make sure there are no failures and then click OK.


STEP 5: The next step is misleading. The Setup Support Files window looks like it’s doing something and stuck on “Gathering user settings.” It’s actually waiting for you to click the Install button! Doh!


STEP 6: Another rule check. You’ll probably end up with a Windows Firewall warning this time. If you want to enable remote access to SQL Server you’ll need to configure the firewall later. Since I’m using SQL Server Express for development purposes on this machine only, I won’t need to worry about that. Click Next.


STEP 7: Okay here is the step I always mess up because it’s just not intuitive at all. On the Installation Type window you have a choice between “Perform a new installation of SQL Server 2008” OR “Add features to an existing instance of SQL Server 2008”. You need to select new installation, NOT add features. I know I know, totally weird. You would think that since you just want to add SSMS that it would be Add features to existing instance – I mean I don’t want a new instance, just the dang tools. Sigh. Click Next.


STEP 8: Next you get the Product Key window. You obviously don’t need a product key for SQL Server Express since it’s free so just click Next.


STEP 9: Accept the License Terms and click Next.


STEP 10: Okay now for the window we’ve all been waiting for - Feature Selection. Check off “Management Tools – Basic” and then click Next.


STEP 11: Verify your disk space requirements and click Next.


STEP 12: Help Microsoft improve SQL Server features and services by selecting to send usage and error reports to them (or not). Click Next.


STEP 13: Another quick rule check runs. Click Next.


STEP 14: Now it looks like we’re ready to install. Click the Install button.


The install will kick off and will take about 5 minutes to complete.

STEP 15: Once the installation completes, click the Next button again.


STEP 16: Complete! Click the Close button and you should be all set.


STEP 17: Fire up SQL Server Management Studio! You should now see it in your Programs under Microsoft SQL Server 2008. Make sure you run it as an administrator for access to all the features.


And don’t forget at some point to install the latest SQL Server 2008 Service Pack. I hope this helps people who have just installed Visual Studio 2010 but also want to install SQL Server Management Studio. I know I’ll be referring to my own post on this when I need to do it again :-)


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  • Very helpful, Beth.  The pictures remind me of some of my project documentation.  

    This is a great example of one of the several instances I have encountered recently where setup installer processes stray from the installer operation patterns what we all get familiar and comfortable with.

    My solution to that problem is to use VMs, and incrementally snapshot each "correct" step as the system is being built.  Then, getting it "right" only has to happen once. :)

    It seems to me that when I encountered this myself, I installed R2 express, had it upgrade the existing express instance, along with adding SSMS, but it was long enough ago that I don't remember for sure, but I know I was pleased enough with the results of my installation...

  • Hi Brian,

    Yes the installer is the same for installing new/upgrades to SQL Server 2008 & R2. What drives me crazy is that if you *just* want SSMS you need to go through all these steps too.

    I too am a firm believer in VMs. I live off of bootable VHDs. Being on the VS team I have a lot of internal builds to install of VS so I am also semi-frequently installing SSMS on the VMs :)


  • Great article -

    I have SQL 2008 Standard installed with Mgt Studio. I need to also have Expess for all the demo's and learning tutorials that have Express files included in the download.

    What is the best way to install side by side - having problems Express.

  • Hi JimDev E

    If you have SQL Server standard edition you really don't need Express, you can attach the same MDF database files to your SQL Server instance and then just change the connection string to point to your .\SQLSERVER instance. Check this out:



  • Hi Beth -

    I tried that many times and sometimes it works and sometimes I get an error similar to "The path so and so does not exist" Like the path where the MDF should exist is hardcoded in the file itself or something.

    Thanks for the pingback though.

  • Hi Beth,

    After running SQL Server SP2 on Windows 7 x64 did it upgrade your SSMS to 10.2.4000.0 or did it leave it at 10.50.1600.1? Both my Win3k3 x32 bit and Vista x32 systems have been upgraded to 10.2.4000.0.

    All of your publications are great!!!

  • good tutorial on how to install this, i'm having hug problem installing sql server 2008... thanks...... in my case i just update sql server 2008 to sp2, before i install sql server 2008. visual studio 2010 have install sql server R2..... anyway thanks again beth.... i got error when luch ssms "The file %CommonDir%\vslangproj80.olb could not be loaded. An attempt to repair this condition failed because the file could not be found."

  • Your instructions are very useful and clear so I've referenced this page on my class website.  Hope you don't mind.

  • Thanks for this explicit step-by-step guide. This installation procedure is completely FUBAR, even for Microsoft.

  • Very helpful, Thank you!

  • Thank you very much Beth.  Your instructions are very helpful.

  • good effort dear.....

  • Thank you. I was already giving the installation when I found your tutorial. you saved me

  • Thank you so much. It saved me a lot of time. Good work!!

  • Thank Somuch...This article really helped me. All weard steps.

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