Setup Improvements for Visual Studio
Setup is the first experience most of us have of Visual Studio, and in the Visual Studio 2012 we’ve made significant investments in improving your experience. Many of you have already told us you like our new setup user interface (thank you!). We have also been investing in ratcheting up the speed at which we lay bits down, improving the experience for non-English installations, and honing the experience you use to select which components to install.
Let’s start by looking at the last of these first. As many of you noted, the Visual Studio 2012 (11) beta didn’t have the capability to customize installation. Although most users select the default (which is to install the full product), a significant number of you customize the installation. During beta, we hid the customization option to help us gather more data on full installation performance and reliability. We’re happy to say that we brought back customization in Visual Studio 2012 RC. Based on the choices you make, the customization allows you to reduce your install size by about 2.5GB and about 25% of the install time.
During the beta timeframe we ran a survey of several hundred beta users and asked they would like from setup customization. The overwhelming answer was to improve VS performance by not having it load features that aren’t used, followed by reducing the complexity of the product and reducing on-disk size. We think we’ve gone a good way toward addressing these desires, but we know we can do more. We are very interested in how you’d like to see this look in future releases, what level of granularity you’d like, and what kinds of things you want to customize about your Visual Studio install. So please give us feedback on setup customization, either in the comments to this blog post, in the Forums, as suggestions on User Voice, or as bugs you log on Connect.
Customization isn’t the only investment: one of the most significant areas we’ve invested in is the speed at which setup lays bits down. Whether you’re installing Visual Studio Express products or a full installation of Visual Studio Ultimate, we wanted to shorten the amount of time it takes to get you coding. From setup perspective, we look at a couple of measures of performance. The first is how long it actually takes to complete a full installation of the product –about 35 minutes on average for a full installation of VS Ultimate from local media on test hardware representative of the average VS customer. We also look at the throughput we are able to achieve during installation – how long each VS package takes to install relative to its size. As an example, some packages that compress really well but are otherwise very simple like MFC maintain a throughput of up to 7MB/Sec; other packages that are small but need to place files in the global assembly cache or write a lot of registry keys may achieve throughput below 1MB/Sec. From beta to RTM our goal was to improve both of these measures: the amount of time it takes to install VS in absolute terms and overall the throughput.
To do this, we undertook several efforts. To start, at the beginning of the Visual Studio 2012 cycle we transitioned off of our old install engine onto a new engine that by itself is capable of maintaining faster throughput on simple packages than the setup engine we used in VS 2010. We also made a change early on to parallelize the download of the packages we’re installing as the installer is running so that much of the download time happens in the background while installing.
But that wasn’t enough. So we asked ourselves a pretty audacious question: between beta and RC could we cut 10 minutes (about 30%) from the installation?
For the last three months, that’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish. We found places in setup where we were calling the same function repeatedly where we didn’t need to. We unpacked the templates from VSIX packages and put them into MSIs to eliminate the double-decompression. We found several duplicate packages and, although the installation process wouldn’t install them, we removed them to save the seconds it would take to check to see if they were already present. And of course we reduced the number of custom actions.
So did we make our 10 minute goal? Almost: we eliminated a little over 8 minutes off of the installations in our performance lab before we had to begin locking the release down. For the rest of the release we’re going to focus on maintaining those improvements and setting ourselves up for a great RTM.
One more thing for users who install VS in a language other than English: Visual Studio 2012 supports language packs. Language packs make it much faster and easier to add an additional language to Visual Studio because you don’t need to download and install a full version to add a new language: you just add the pack for the language you want.
Please let us know how we are doing and how you’d like to see setup change in the future. We have a lot of good ideas already, and are always open to new ideas or to confirmation that we are prioritizing ideas correctly. As always, we are reading your comments on this post, watching for issues in the Forums, listening to your suggestions on User Voice, and reviewing any bugs you log on Connect.
David Guyer – Senior Lead Program Manager, Visual Studio Setup Team
Short Bio: David Guyer is currently the Lead Program Manager for Visual Studio Setup and has been working on deployment technologies in Visual Studio since Visual Studio 2002.