How to install the VS2017 version of msbuild on a build server without installing the IDE


Historically, this has been done with the Microsoft Build Tools. But it seems that the Build Tools may not be available for versions after 2015. The replacement appears to be the Visual Studio build tools, which doesn't seem to have a real homepage yet.

I downloaded the VS2017 Professional installer, and went to the Individual Components tab. Right away, the summary is telling me that the Visual Studio core editor is there, taking up 753MB. I don't want the editor. Just msbuild. There is no way to unselect the editor.

Is there a way I can install the latest version of msbuild without also installing the Visual Studio IDE?

Best Solution

The Visual Studio Build tools are a different download than the IDE. They appear to be a pretty small subset, and they're called Build Tools for Visual Studio 2019 (download).

You can use the GUI to do the installation, or you can script the installation of msbuild:

vs_buildtools.exe --add Microsoft.VisualStudio.Workload.MSBuildTools --quiet

Microsoft.VisualStudio.Workload.MSBuildTools is a "wrapper" ID for the three subcomponents you need:

  • Microsoft.Component.MSBuild
  • Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.CoreBuildTools
  • Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.Roslyn.Compiler

You can find documentation about the other available CLI switches here.

The build tools installation is much quicker than the full IDE. In my test, it took 5-10 seconds. With --quiet there is no progress indicator other than a brief cursor change. If the installation was successful, you should be able to see the build tools in %programfiles(x86)%\Microsoft Visual Studio\2019\BuildTools\MSBuild\Current\Bin.

If you don't see them there, try running without --quiet to see any error messages that may occur during installation.