Tales from the Evil Empire

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Bertrand Le Roy

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How to install and configure Visual Studio Team Explorer

One of the challenging aspects of working with TFS as your source control system is very unfortunately the installation of the client software.

Over the past few years, I’ve been managing a number of small and large projects on CodePlex, and while the Subversion bridge has provided a much needed simple choice of client software, TFS remains its native protocol, which makes it still very much relevant to people who do a lot of work there.

But as I said, installing the client software may be challenging.

The first and main problem here is that Team Explorer, while free, comes in a very unfriendly format: an ISO image of the DVD. I asked the team why they made that weird and less than optimal choice, and apparently there are some technical reasons why a simple msi wouldn’t work. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the explanation (it’s still a bad customer experience) but at least there is hope as the plan is to make it a lot smoother with Visual Studio 2010.

So let’s download that thing. It can be found here:


Just click on the “Download” button and store the file in a local temporary folder. At 387.4 MB it’s a pretty big download (especially when compared with this) but it does contain the Visual Studio shell, which explains it, kind of. So you probably have time for a cup of coffee or two, trip to Seattle’s Best included.

Oh, by the way, to be clear, you do *not* need a version of Visual Studio on the box to install Team Explorer, it is a standalone application, but if you do have one, it will integrate with it.

Now that you have the IMG file, we can extract it. There are several options to extract or burn an ISO, but I’ll use a free one here. We won’t burn the image to a DVD (the only reason I could see why you’d want to do that is if you want to make multiple installs, but you might as well extract the ISO to a network share).

The free option I’ve selected is ExtractNow, which you can download from here:


Click on the “Download ExtractNow!” link on the bottom of the page and run the installer. When it asks you if you want to run it, say yes. The UI is a little weird: what you need to do now is right click on the white surface on the ExtractNow window and select “Add archive”:ExtractNow Add ArchiveThen, navigate to wherever you downloaded the VS2008TeamExplorer.iso file, select it and click the “Open” button. Now click the “Extract” button and wait for the extraction to complete. You should now have a VS2008TeamExplorer folder next to the iso file. You can close ExtractNow and maybe even uninstall it until the next time you need it…

Open that folder and double-click “Setup”. Follow the instructions (the default settings should be fine) and wait for the install to complete. Fortunately, it doesn’t take nearly as long as installing the full VS.

Once this is done, you should be up and running. Let’s launch the shell and connect to a CodePlex project. From the Team Explorer window, click the “Add existing team project button:Team Explorer Add Existing Project

Click on the “Servers” button and then on the “Add” button to add the relevant CodePlex server. The data that you need to enter there can be found on the “Source Code” tab of your project’s site on CodePlex by clicking on Source Control Setup / Visual Studio Team Explorer (right side of the page).CodePlex Project Setup

You can copy the server, port and protocol information into the Team Explorer add server window:Team Explorer Add Server

You can now close that window by clicking OK. You will then get prompted for your username and password. CodePlex also gave you that (notice the “snd\” domain prefix and “_cp” postfix) but let’s make sure that we only have to do this once. To that effect, let’s cancel and go to the Windows user account control panel and click on “Manage your credentials”:User Account Control Panel

Then click on “Add a Windows Credential”. Copy there the server name, your username and your password:Windows New Credentials

Click OK, then switch back to Visual Studio and click OK again. This time, you shouldn’t be prompted for credentials unless you made a typo in the above dialog. You may now click close and then select any number of projects you want to work with:TFS Select Projects

The team explorer window now shows the available projects:Team Explorer Window

If you then double-click “Source Control” under any of the projects, you can explore the contents of the project and map them to a local folder. To do that, first create the target directory from Windows Explorer, then right click a project in the Visual Studio Source Control Explorer and select “Get Latest Version”:Getting Latest Version

You will then be prompted for a local directory to which you want to map the source-controlled remote directory. Select the directory that you just created and click OK.

And… that’s it, you’re all set. You can now open any file or project from the locally mapped folder, check out code, modify it and then check it back in using the Pending Changes window.

I hope this helps.


Peeyush said:

Hey, thanks for that wonderful article.

Also, can you post something about configuring TFS?

# August 29, 2009 1:51 AM

vasireddybharath said:

Excelent article...!

# August 31, 2009 4:44 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Jesús: yes, there are plenty of options. 7zip is another one that you can actually keep installed after you've used it...

# September 4, 2009 12:10 PM

Jesús López said:

Yes, but extracting the files from an iso image is not the same as mounting an iso image as a drive letter. Mounting is inmediate, however extracting takes time and needs more space. Additionaly, some installers don't work when extracted into an arbitrary folder.

# September 6, 2009 4:12 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Jesús: well, extracting the iso took me less than a minute, and I didn't have to unmount the image afterwards. The extraction time is also present when you mount, it's just that you're spreading it across the installation time. That some installers don't work once extracted is not a concern here as I'm showing how to install Team Explorer, which definitely works. In any case, this is a very minor point that is probably not worth discussing.

# September 7, 2009 12:52 AM

Henry Lee said:

Very useful. Thanks.

# November 2, 2009 11:53 AM

setiri said:

Too bad there isnt a 5 meg tfs client available. the 400 meg install is pretty dang big if you only need a source control client...

# January 20, 2010 4:16 PM

Abhinav said:

Really Good Article

# February 3, 2010 12:29 AM

Anna said:

Thanks a lot - it helps!

# February 17, 2010 10:12 PM

vishwaraj1 said:

I have installed setup.exe. and after that do i will have to install vs_setup.msi also as somebody have told me. i tried it many times but nothing happens and the installation window closes after 1 min. what may be the reason. Please guide me.

# March 10, 2010 9:50 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@vishwaraj1: looks like you have a corrupt file somewhere. Try re-downloading the files. If that fails, contact support.

# March 10, 2010 12:41 PM

Mr. Pingo said:

I downloaded and installed, but no "Connect to Team Foundation Server" option appears under the Tools menu of VS2008.  Please help.

# March 16, 2010 3:33 PM

Derric said:

If I already using the free Team Explorer 2010, could I upgrade it to VS Professional?

Would there be an issue?

# August 30, 2011 1:50 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Derric: I don't think it should make a difference. As I understand it, Team Explorer is a free add-on that works on top of any VS.

# August 30, 2011 2:21 PM

Dylan6793 said:

Hey, codeplex only holds it for 30 days, (unless you publish it) is there another way i can do this? maybe using a FTP server?

# October 10, 2011 8:26 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Dylan: only holds what for 30 days?

# October 10, 2011 8:32 PM

Dylan6793 said:

codeplex only holds your project for 30 days, and then it will be removed. unless you publish it, but if i publish it, i dont want anybody to have access to my source code, i want it to be private, is that possible?

# October 10, 2011 9:15 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Dylan: don't you think that's a little off-topic? Codeplex does not do private repositories. Try Bitbucket, but please don't spam blogs that have nothing to do with your issue. Thanks.

# October 10, 2011 9:33 PM

Anunay said:

Thank you so much for the tutorial  !!!!

actually i created a new project and did all what you said and i added a read me.txt file in the local folder of the project then

refreshed the source control explorer then i clicked on add items to folder and selected the read me.txt file and clicked on finish. when i went back and saw my project source i did not find anything there

it still says

There are currently no change sets in source control.

is there any particular way to upload source files ?

Please Help me out !!

# November 27, 2011 10:19 AM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Anunay: please contact support.

# December 4, 2011 9:35 PM

Dario said:

Could you confirm if it's required to reboot the machine after the installation? Thanks.

# May 14, 2012 12:06 PM

Bertrand Le Roy said:

@Dario: I don't know. Try it?

# May 16, 2012 2:00 PM

Satish said:

"Once this is done, you should be up and running. Let’s launch the shell and connect to a CodePlex project. From the Team Explorer window, click the “Add existing team project button"

From where do I launch the shell?

# May 18, 2012 5:30 PM