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What to do when Visual Studio doesn’t allow you to change installation path

I was really irritated today when after uninstalling one edition of VS2015 and then installing another one, the setup program didn’t allow me to change the installation path. I manually uninstalled any leftover components from Add/remove programs and verified that the previous installation directory is empty. Still, the setup insisted that I install in the same location as the previous one. I searched the registry and sure enough, found some leftover keys with the old path. Most of them was here:

HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Components

At first I tried to clean them up manually but there were a lot of them, basically one entry for every previously installed file (of some components). As I said I uninstalled every VS2015 component so I didn’t care about deleting MSI entries. Finally I wrote a small C# program that did the trick:

using System;
using Microsoft.Win32;

namespace VsCleanup
{
    class Program
    {
        static int Main(string[] args)
        {
            Console.WriteLine("Enter the old VS path to purge from the registry:");
            string OldPath = Console.ReadLine().Trim().ToLowerInvariant();

            string RootKeyName = @"SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Installer\UserData\S-1-5-18\Components";
            RegistryKey RootKey = Registry.LocalMachine.OpenSubKey(RootKeyName, true);
            if (RootKey == null)
            {
                Console.WriteLine("Unable to open registry, make sure to run as admin");
                return 1;
            }
            var SubkeyNames = RootKey.GetSubKeyNames();
            foreach (var SubkeyName in SubkeyNames)
            {
                var Subkey = RootKey.OpenSubKey(SubkeyName, true);
                var ValueNames = Subkey.GetValueNames();
                bool Delete = false;
                foreach (var ValueName in ValueNames)
                {
                    if (Subkey.GetValueKind(ValueName) == RegistryValueKind.String)
                    {
                        var Value = Subkey.GetValue(ValueName) as string;
                        if (Value.ToLowerInvariant().StartsWith(OldPath))
                        {
                            Console.WriteLine("{0}: {1}", SubkeyName, Value);
                            Delete = true;
                            break;
                        }
                    }
                }
                Subkey.Close();
                if (Delete)
                    RootKey.DeleteSubKeyTree(SubkeyName, true);
            }
            RootKey.Close();
            return 0;
        }
    }
}

Obviously, change the path to whatever you have/had (check in regedit manually first if not sure). It also works for VS 2013.

[Update: 2016-07-26]
Improved the code a bit. Also an important note: make sure to build the program as x64 if you’re on a 64-bit OS, otherwise you may get hit by registry redirection and it won’t work.

~ by omeg on January 2, 2016.

C#, installers, rant, Visual Studio

9 Responses to “What to do when Visual Studio doesn’t allow you to change installation path”

  1. How do I make this program execute?

  2. How do I make this program execute?

  3. try save as a .bat on notepad.

  4. this work great! Thank you!!!

  5. Well, I have one, tiny question.
    The problem is I can’t install Visual Studio
    So, how am I supposed to compile this? 😀

    • Use the command-line C# compiler, csc.exe found in %Windows%\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v{version}

      • Hey! Compiled your program with Mono, it started, I pasted my old VS path (C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\), then hit Enter and it closed with some error. And registry stayed the same. Can you help?

  6. Thank you very much! Worked flawlessly 🙂

  7. You’ve saved my life, sir. Thanks a lot ;´).

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