I received a copy of Microsoft Visual Studio.NET 2003 Pro Academic for free through theSpoke.net just by attending one of Microsoft Canada’s information sessions that was held at my university several months back. What I had to do was fill out a feedback form on Microsoft’s website for that event, and they gave me a promotion code to use to register with theSpoke.net.
For those who don’t know, theSpoke.net is a kind of community website created by Microsoft for people to talk about technology and things like that. The site is not really that popular as you might think though. On that site they also promote Microsoft’s annual ImagineCup tournament. Anyway, it’s free to register with theSpoke.net but to get the premium service you’ll have to pay $35. By registering with the promotion code, I got the premium service and a copy of VS.NET academic for free. Free stuff is good right?
My copy came with 7 CDs: one prerequisite disc, two installation discs, three MSDN documentation discs, and an optional “Student Tools for VS.NET” disc. The student tools disc contains some tutorials but I didn’t really find useful. The prerequisite disc basically contains all the necessary packages required for VS.NET to run such as the .NET 1.1 framework and J#.
Installing VS.NET from 6 CDs gets a little annoying if you have to reinstall it every time you format your computer, which I do once every several months. Luckily I found a way to combine all 6 of these CDs into one folder which can be burned onto a DVD-R for quick installation.
What I had to do was merge the files on the two installation discs into the root of a folder, merge the files on the three MSDN discs into a subfolder, copy the contents of the prerequisite disc into a subfolder as well, and modify the setup.ini file to point to the location of the MSDN documentation and prerequisite files. I have tried this on an academic version but I suspect this will also work on other versions of VS.NET.
I will use SynchronizeIt! in this guide to merge the files on the discs into one folder. It’s a shareware program but it is fully functional for our purposes.
Step 1: Merging The Installation Discs
Insert the first VS.NET installation disc into your drive and load up SynchronizeIt!. Set the SOURCE as your drive with the disc and DESTINATION as any folder on your hard drive. This will be the root of the DVD-R if you choose to burn it onto a DVD-R. In this example, I’ve chosen my destination folder as c:vs.net.
Make sure you have the options “Include subdirectories” and “Update destination only” checked. Now click on “SCAN” and, in the next window, “SYNCHRONIZE”.
This will copy all the files from the disc onto your hard drive into that folder. Do the same for the next installation disc.
Step 2: Merging The MSDN Documentation Discs
Now insert the first MSDN disc and using SynchronizeIt!, set your destination folder to be c:vs.netMSDN (replace c:vs.net with whatever you’ve chosen in step 1), and start copying the files over. Do the same for the next two MSDN discs.
Step 3: Copy The Prerequisite Disc
Next just copy the contents of the Prerequisite disc into c:vs.netWCU using Explorer.
Step 4: Modify setup.ini
In c:vs.net, there should be a setup.ini file which came from the first installation disc. We need to modify this file so that it points to the correct location of the MSDN documentation and prerequisite files. Change the “baseline” section, which points to the prerequisite files, in setup.ini from:
And also change the “documentation” section, which points to the MSDN documentation files, from:
If for whatever reason you don’t like the folder names I’ve chosen for the Prerequisite or MSDN documentation files, you can choose anything you like. Just make sure you modify the DIR values point to those locations. Note that the values for VERSION here maybe different for your copy. Just leave it like it was originally for yours.
If you don’t plan on burning these files onto a DVD-R (i.e. you’re doing a hard drive or network installation), then you’re pretty much done here! You can skip the following steps. I have tried a hard drive and network installation and both methods work without having to do any more modifications.
Step 5: Modifying VS_SETUP.MSI and MSDN.MSI for DVD installation
This step is mandatory if you want to burn the installation files onto a DVD-R. First download ORCA, a Microsoft program which lets you modify MSI files.
Right-click on c:vs.netvs_setup.msi and choose “Edit with Orca” near the top of the pop-up menu. When Orca opens, there will be two window panes. On the left pane look for “Media” and on the right side scroll down until you see two rows with entries for the Volume Label column. We need to modify these values to be the same as what the DVD-R label will be. I’ve chosen “VSPRO2003” in this example:
Save the file once you’ve changed the volume label for both entries – this will prevent the installation program from prompting you for the CDs. Now do the same for the MSDN installer file, c:vs.netMSDNmsdn.msi. Make sure you use the same the label you’ve already chosen for vs_setup.msi.
Step 6: Burn and/or Install!
The final contents of c:vs.net should be:
Now burn these files onto a DVD-R with the SAME label as what you’ve chosen in the previous step. Finally, run setup.exe to install and test your installation of VS.NET. I recommend uninstalling VS.NET, the .NET framework, J# and any other prerequisite packages first, if they are installed, and then proceed with the installation from scratch.
If everything works, the installation wizard should never prompt you for the next CD. Now you can put away those CDs for safe keeping!
I want to thank Gnerma and Talley who’ve pointed me to a couple of sites with instructions on how to create a Half Life 2 DVD installation disc. I found out about ORCA and how to use it to modify the MSI installer files from visiting those sites.