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Download MSVC compiler/linker & Windows SDK without installing full Visual Studio

This downloads standalone 64-bit MSVC compiler, linker & other tools, also headers/libraries from Windows SDK into portable folder, without installing Visual Studio. Has bare minimum components - no UWP/Store/WindowsRT stuff, just files & tools for 64-bit native desktop app development.

Run python.exe and it will download output into msvc folder. By default it will download latest available MSVC & Windows SDK - currently v14.32.17.2 and v10.0.22621.0.

You can list available versions with python.exe --show-versions and then pass versions you want with --msvc-version and --sdk-version arguments.

To use cl.exe/link.exe from output folder, first run setup.bat - after that PATH/INCLUDE/LIB env variables will be setup to use all the tools as usual. You can also use clang-cl.exe with these includes & libraries.

To use clang-cl.exe without running setup.bat, pass extra /winsysroot msvc argument (msvc is folder name where output is stored).

#!/usr/bin/env python3
import io
import os
import sys
import json
import shutil
import hashlib
import zipfile
import tempfile
import argparse
import subprocess
import urllib.request
from pathlib import Path
OUTPUT = Path("msvc") # output folder
# other architectures may work or may not - not really tested
HOST = "x64" # or x86
TARGET = "x64" # or x86, arm, arm64
def download(url):
with urllib.request.urlopen(url) as res:
def download_progress(url, check, name, f):
data = io.BytesIO()
with urllib.request.urlopen(url) as res:
total = int(res.headers["Content-Length"])
size = 0
while True:
block =<<20)
if not block:
size += len(block)
perc = size * 100 // total
print(f"\r{name} ... {perc}%", end="")
data = data.getvalue()
digest = hashlib.sha256(data).hexdigest()
if check.lower() != digest:
exit(f"Hash mismatch for f{pkg}")
return data
# super crappy msi format parser just to find required .cab files
def get_msi_cabs(msi):
index = 0
while True:
index = msi.find(b".cab", index+4)
if index < 0:
yield msi[index-32:index+4].decode("ascii")
def first(items, cond):
return next(item for item in items if cond(item))
### parse command-line arguments
ap = argparse.ArgumentParser()
ap.add_argument("--show-versions", const=True, action="store_const", help="Show available MSVC and Windows SDK versions")
ap.add_argument("--accept-license", const=True, action="store_const", help="Automatically accept license")
ap.add_argument("--msvc-version", help="Get specific MSVC version")
ap.add_argument("--sdk-version", help="Get specific Windows SDK version")
args = ap.parse_args()
### get main manifest
manifest = json.loads(download(MANIFEST_URL))
### download VS manifest
vs = first(manifest["channelItems"], lambda x: x["id"] == "Microsoft.VisualStudio.Manifests.VisualStudio")
payload = vs["payloads"][0]["url"]
vsmanifest = json.loads(download(payload))
### find MSVC & WinSDK versions
packages = {}
for p in vsmanifest["packages"]:
packages.setdefault(p["id"].lower(), []).append(p)
msvc = {}
sdk = {}
for pid,p in packages.items():
if pid.startswith("Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.VC.".lower()) and pid.endswith(".x86.x64".lower()):
pver = ".".join(pid.split(".")[4:6])
if pver[0].isnumeric():
msvc[pver] = pid
elif pid.startswith("Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.Windows10SDK.".lower()) or \
pver = pid.split(".")[-1]
if pver.isnumeric():
sdk[pver] = pid
if args.show_versions:
print("MSVC versions:", " ".join(sorted(msvc.keys())))
print("Windows SDK versions:", " ".join(sorted(sdk.keys())))
msvc_ver = args.msvc_version or max(sorted(msvc.keys()))
sdk_ver = args.sdk_version or max(sorted(sdk.keys()))
if msvc_ver in msvc:
msvc_pid = msvc[msvc_ver]
msvc_ver = ".".join(msvc_pid.split(".")[4:-2])
exit(f"Unknown MSVC version: f{args.msvc_version}")
if sdk_ver in sdk:
sdk_pid = sdk[sdk_ver]
exit(f"Unknown Windows SDK version: f{args.sdk_version}")
print(f"Downloading MSVC v{msvc_ver} and Windows SDK v{sdk_ver}")
### agree to license
tools = first(manifest["channelItems"], lambda x: x["id"] == "Microsoft.VisualStudio.Product.BuildTools")
resource = first(tools["localizedResources"], lambda x: x["language"] == "en-us")
license = resource["license"]
if not args.accept_license:
accept = input(f"Do you accept Visual Studio license at {license} [Y/N] ? ")
if not accept or accept[0].lower() != "y":
total_download = 0
### download MSVC
msvc_packages = [
# MSVC binaries
# MSVC headers
# MSVC libs
# MSVC runtime source
# MSVC redist
for pkg in msvc_packages:
p = first(packages[pkg], lambda p: p.get("language") in (None, "en-US"))
for payload in p["payloads"]:
with tempfile.TemporaryFile() as f:
data = download_progress(payload["url"], payload["sha256"], pkg, f)
total_download += len(data)
with zipfile.ZipFile(f) as z:
for name in z.namelist():
if name.startswith("Contents/"):
out = OUTPUT / Path(name).relative_to("Contents")
out.parent.mkdir(parents=True, exist_ok=True)
### download Windows SDK
sdk_packages = [
# Windows SDK tools (like rc.exe & mt.exe)
f"Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Tools-x86_en-us.msi",
# Windows SDK headers
f"Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Headers-x86_en-us.msi",
f"Windows SDK Desktop Headers x86-x86_en-us.msi",
# Windows SDK libs
f"Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Libs-x86_en-us.msi",
f"Windows SDK Desktop Libs {TARGET}-x86_en-us.msi",
# CRT headers & libs
f"Universal CRT Headers Libraries and Sources-x86_en-us.msi",
# CRT redist
#"Universal CRT Redistributable-x86_en-us.msi",
with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as d:
dst = Path(d)
sdk_pkg = packages[sdk_pid][0]
sdk_pkg = packages[first(sdk_pkg["dependencies"], lambda x: True).lower()][0]
msi = []
cabs = []
# download msi files
for pkg in sdk_packages:
payload = first(sdk_pkg["payloads"], lambda p: p["fileName"] == f"Installers\\{pkg}")
msi.append(dst / pkg)
with open(dst / pkg, "wb") as f:
data = download_progress(payload["url"], payload["sha256"], pkg, f)
total_download += len(data)
cabs += list(get_msi_cabs(data))
# download .cab files
for pkg in cabs:
payload = first(sdk_pkg["payloads"], lambda p: p["fileName"] == f"Installers\\{pkg}")
with open(dst / pkg, "wb") as f:
download_progress(payload["url"], payload["sha256"], pkg, f)
print("Unpacking msi files...")
# run msi installers
for m in msi:
subprocess.check_call(["msiexec.exe", "/a", m, "/quiet", "/qn", f"TARGETDIR={OUTPUT.resolve()}"])
### versions
msvcv = list((OUTPUT / "VC/Tools/MSVC").glob("*"))[0].name
sdkv = list((OUTPUT / "Windows Kits/10/bin").glob("*"))[0].name
# place debug CRT runtime files into MSVC folder (not what real Visual Studio installer does... but is reasonable)
dst = OUTPUT / "VC/Tools/MSVC" / msvcv / f"bin/Host{HOST}/{TARGET}"
with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as d:
d = Path(d)
pkg = "microsoft.visualcpp.runtimedebug.14"
dbg = first(packages[pkg], lambda p: p["chip"] == HOST)
for payload in dbg["payloads"]:
name = payload["fileName"]
with open(d / name, "wb") as f:
data = download_progress(payload["url"], payload["sha256"], f"{pkg}/{name}", f)
total_download += len(data)
msi = d / first(dbg["payloads"], lambda p: p["fileName"].endswith(".msi"))["fileName"]
with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as d2:
subprocess.check_call(["msiexec.exe", "/a", str(msi), "/quiet", "/qn", f"TARGETDIR={d2}"])
for f in first(Path(d2).glob("System*"), lambda x: True).iterdir():
f.replace(dst /
# download DIA SDK and put msdia140.dll file into MSVC folder
with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as d:
d = Path(d)
pkg = "microsoft.visualc.140.dia.sdk.msi"
dia = packages[pkg][0]
for payload in dia["payloads"]:
name = payload["fileName"]
with open(d / name, "wb") as f:
data = download_progress(payload["url"], payload["sha256"], f"{pkg}/{name}", f)
total_download += len(data)
msi = d / first(dia["payloads"], lambda p: p["fileName"].endswith(".msi"))["fileName"]
with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as d2:
subprocess.check_call(["msiexec.exe", "/a", str(msi), "/quiet", "/qn", f"TARGETDIR={d2}"])
if HOST == "x86": msdia = "msdia140.dll"
elif HOST == "x64": msdia = "amd64/msdia140.dll"
else: exit("unknown")
src = Path(d2) / "Program Files" / "Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0" / "DIA SDK" / "bin" / msdia
src.replace(dst / "msdia140.dll")
### cleanup
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "Common7", ignore_errors=True)
for f in ["Auxiliary", f"lib/{TARGET}/store", f"lib/{TARGET}/uwp"]:
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "VC/Tools/MSVC" / msvcv / f)
for f in OUTPUT.glob("*.msi"):
for f in ["Catalogs", "DesignTime", f"bin/{sdkv}/chpe", f"Lib/{sdkv}/ucrt_enclave"]:
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "Windows Kits/10" / f, ignore_errors=True)
for arch in ["x86", "x64", "arm", "arm64"]:
if arch != TARGET:
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "VC/Tools/MSVC" / msvcv / f"bin/Host{arch}", ignore_errors=True)
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "Windows Kits/10/bin" / sdkv / arch)
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "Windows Kits/10/Lib" / sdkv / "ucrt" / arch)
shutil.rmtree(OUTPUT / "Windows Kits/10/Lib" / sdkv / "um" / arch)
### setup.bat
SETUP = f"""@echo off
set ROOT=%~dp0
set MSVC_VERSION={msvcv}
set SDK_VERSION={sdkv}
set SDK_INCLUDE=%ROOT%Windows Kits\\10\\Include\\%SDK_VERSION%
set SDK_LIBS=%ROOT%Windows Kits\\10\\Lib\\%SDK_VERSION%
set VCToolsInstallDir=%MSVC_ROOT%\\
set PATH=%MSVC_ROOT%\\bin\\%MSVC_HOST%\\%MSVC_ARCH%;%ROOT%Windows Kits\\10\\bin\\%SDK_VERSION%\\%SDK_ARCH%;%ROOT%Windows Kits\\10\\bin\\%SDK_VERSION%\\%SDK_ARCH%\\ucrt;%PATH%
set INCLUDE=%MSVC_ROOT%\\include;%SDK_INCLUDE%\\ucrt;%SDK_INCLUDE%\\shared;%SDK_INCLUDE%\\um;%SDK_INCLUDE%\\winrt;%SDK_INCLUDE%\\cppwinrt
(OUTPUT / "setup.bat").write_text(SETUP)
print(f"Total downloaded: {total_download>>20} MB")
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Un1q32 commented May 26, 2023

program not executable is the same error you get when link.exe isnt in PATH

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Un1q32 commented May 27, 2023

building and installing from source solved the issue, strangely uninstalling the source build and then installing from scoop makes the scoop version work

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Un1q32 commented Jul 9, 2023

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "C:\Users\Joey\Downloads\", line 83, in <module>
    vsmanifest = json.loads(download(payload))
  File "C:\Users\Joey\Downloads\", line 27, in download
  File "C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\PythonSoftwareFoundation.Python.3.11_3.11.1264.0_x64__qbz5n2kfra8p0\Lib\http\", line 482, in read
    s = self._safe_read(self.length)
  File "C:\Program Files\WindowsApps\PythonSoftwareFoundation.Python.3.11_3.11.1264.0_x64__qbz5n2kfra8p0\Lib\http\", line 633, in _safe_read
    raise IncompleteRead(data, amt-len(data))
http.client.IncompleteRead: IncompleteRead(12025853 bytes read, 564488 more expected)

no longer works

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mmozeiko commented Jul 9, 2023

That sounds like downloading of file was interrupted. Try running it again. Or get the url and try downloading in your browser to see what happens. Maybe you're running extra firewalls or whatever 3rd party security software, try disabling it.

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Really useful script for getting msvc setup on a fresh windows install (or docker container in my case). Two small inconveniences though:

  • At some point the script renames/moves files from a temp location into the msvc folder, however if the script is running on a mapped volume (and therefore essentially a different drive), you get errors OSError: [WinError 17] The system cannot move the file to a different disk drive. I think this could be solved by using an os move instead of rename function somewhere?
  • The generated setup.bat works well in cmd, but is a pain to use in powershell - would it be possible to create an additional powershell version of this, i.e. using $env:PATH ... instead of set PATH ...

Thanks for providing this script though, I'd been banging my head for a couple of days trying to get msvc working properly in my container before I found this.

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garymmi commented Jul 29, 2023

another issue, cmake cannot get CMAKE_VS_PLATFORM_NAME value

-- Use static onnxruntime libraries
CMake Error at cmake/onnxruntime-win-x64-static.cmake:11 (message):
This file is for Windows x64 only. Given:
Call Stack (most recent call first):
cmake/onnxruntime.cmake:59 (include)
cmake/onnxruntime.cmake:139 (download_onnxruntime)
CMakeLists.txt:142 (include)

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Two small inconveniences though

Fixed them in my fork:

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AndhikaWB commented Sep 12, 2023

This tool inspired me to make BuildToolsInspector because Flutter still doesn't work correctly with this one. It's not finished yet and I kinda give up, but it's pretty customizable in case any of you want to fork it. It tries to mimic the original build tools installer (by searching nested dependencies) rather than looking for specific packages.


I figured out how vswhere works, but it may need some config files that will be generated automatically if you install VS using the official installer. Technically, we can generate it ourself but it's quite complicated. Steps:

  1. Get the Microsoft.VisualStudio.Setup.Configuration package (download the payload, check from manifest)
  2. Extract the MSI file (e.g. by using Uni Extract 2 or msiexec /a). Move the files/folder to build tools install folder (e.g C:\BuildTools\VisualStudio\Setup)
  3. Register the dll by using this command (use the x86 version even on x64 OS):
    "%SystemRoot%\SysWoW64\regsvr32.exe" "C:\BuildTools\VisualStudio\Setup\x86\Microsoft.VisualStudio.Setup.Configuration.Native.dll"
  4. Create a new reg value CachePath under HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\VisualStudio\Setup
  5. Set the cache path as C:\BuildTools\VisualStudio\Packages (for reference, the default path is %ProgramData%\Microsoft\VisualStudio\Packages)
  6. Create a new _Instances folder in the Packages folder
  7. Download example instance files from this link (VS build tools 2022). I can't attach zip here, not sure why
  8. Modify some path(s) in state.json to the right path (e.g. from C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2022\BuildTools to C:\BuildTools)
  9. Check if the portable installation is detected using vswhere

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Unfortunately I get an error. This is my output:
Downloading MSVC v14.38.17.8 and Windows SDK v22621
Do you accept Visual Studio license at [Y/N] ? Y ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100%
Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Tools-x86_en-us.msi ... 100%
Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Headers-x86_en-us.msi ... 100%
Windows SDK Desktop Headers x86-x86_en-us.msi ... 100%
Windows SDK for Windows Store Apps Libs-x86_en-us.msi ... 100%
Windows SDK Desktop Libs x64-x86_en-us.msi ... 100%
Universal CRT Headers Libraries and Sources-x86_en-us.msi ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100% ... 100%
Unpacking msi files...
microsoft.visualcpp.runtimedebug.14/vc_RuntimeDebug.msi ... 100%
microsoft.visualcpp.runtimedebug.14/ ... 100%
Traceback (most recent call last):
File "D:\Software\MSVC\", line 248, in
f.replace(dst /
File "D:\Software\Python\Lib\", line 1188, in replace
os.replace(self, target)
OSError: [WinError 17] Das System kann die Datei nicht auf ein anderes Laufwerk verschieben: 'C:\Users\imelf\AppData\Local\Temp\tmp6cetkl7r\System64\concrt140d.dll' -> 'msvc\VC\Tools\MSVC\14.38.33130\bin\Hostx64\x64\concrt140d.dll'

How can I fix this? Any help is appreciated.

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Delphier commented Dec 5, 2023

You cant set the output dir to D drive, only the C drive that is the same as the temp dir.
This is because the os.replace function, which only works on the same drive.
Fixed in my fork:

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florianingerl commented Dec 5, 2023 via email

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Delphier commented Dec 5, 2023

Copy to a folder on the C drive, and then run the script.
or download my fork, that support any folder.

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Big thanks!

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florianingerl commented Dec 5, 2023 via email

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AndhikaWB commented Dec 6, 2023

@florianingerl I think the target dir must be full path, not relative path. Try replacing TARGETDIR={d2} with TARGETDIR={Path(d2).resolve()}.

Or just use the original code, install it in C, you can move it to D drive later.

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Works great with cl / link! But clang-cl is unrecognized, even after running the batch script. Any ideas?

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mmozeiko commented Dec 9, 2023

If it says clang-cl.exe is unrecognized then you have not set PATH to where it is installed. Either put folder where clang-cl is in the PATH env variable, or run by specifying absolute path to clang-cl.exe.

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Where is clang-cl.exe supposed to be installed? After running the setup.bat, cl.exe and link.exe are recognized, so I'm not sure env variables is the issue.

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mmozeiko commented Dec 9, 2023

You can install it anywhere. When you run llvm/clang installer then by default it will install in C:\Program Files\LLVM. But during installation you can put any location there - it's up to you where you want it.

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Oh, my bad. I thougth that clang came preinstalled with the packages. So this is just the integration with msvc?

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mmozeiko commented Dec 9, 2023

Right, this downloads MSVC compiler & linker and Windows SDK headers & libs. Not clang. You can install clang from their github releases. It will be able to use Windows headers & libs from this script.

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Perfect, thank you!

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Leaving this here for future masochists to find on Google:

Want to use .NET NativeAOT with this script's Visual Studio environment? Pass in /p:IlcUseEnvironmentalTools=true into dotnet publish.

Hope this helps! I sure wish someone had documented this before... but oh well, atleast others won't suffer as much as I did

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I hit this error, what cert does it complain about?

    return self.do_open(http.client.HTTPSConnection, req,
  File "C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Programs\Python\Python312\Lib\urllib\", line 1347, in do_open
    raise URLError(err)
urllib.error.URLError: <urlopen error [SSL: CERTIFICATE_VERIFY_FAILED] certificate verify failed: certificate has expired (_ssl.c:1000)>

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Script is connecting to Microsoft server to download MSVC. Expired certificate may be result of incorrect date on your computer - check that you have correct date set. Another reason could be bad 3rd party proxy / firewall / network monitoring or security software which is intercepting all https requests.

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