One of my computers is not connected to the internet. Right now it has Visual Studio 2008 Express installed which doesn't require an internet connection at all. Can I install and activate Visual Studio 2012/2013 Express without internet connection?

  • No; There is not an offline installer for (VS2012 or VS2013) Express
    – Ramhound
    Mar 18, 2014 at 15:31
  • 1
    You can download the DVD5 ISO image to install Visual Studio without being online, but you need to sign in within 30 days with your Microsoft account in order to activate it.
    – and31415
    Mar 18, 2014 at 15:49
  • does this apply to both vs2012 and vs2013? Mar 18, 2014 at 18:32

3 Answers 3


You can get offline installers for VS2013 Express easily from MS (example), but the Express versions require an Internet connection to re-activate every so often to extend the "trial" mode they run in.

The purchased versions (Std, Pro, etc.) don't.

I can't find any definitive MS sources to confirm this right now, but see this thread and this thread over on Social.MSDN where they say similar:

I've just been on the phone to MPN and MSDN (back and forth a few times) and eventually the MPN guy told me he'd found some internal emails which indicate the new MPN licensing model for Visual Studio 2013 requires you to sign-in every 30 days (or 90 days?) to keep the product active. Apparently signing out and in will extend the "trial period" by a further 90 days each time you do it, for as long as you have a current MPN/MSDN subscription.

  • From my current research/attempts this is still the case for VS2013 Express Editions. Mar 5, 2015 at 20:27
  • Another problem if you sit behind a proxy server, VS2013 does not pop up a box to ask for credentials to the proxy.
    – StBlade
    Oct 20, 2015 at 9:44

For at least Visual Studio 2015 & 2017 (Preview) Express which would be the current choices for most:

  1. Create a Visual Studio offline installation package with for example these flags: vs_community.exe --layout e:\vs2017offline --lang en-US
  2. Copy the installation folder to the offline computer
  3. Install the certificates from the Certificates subfolder! (with admin rights - to local machine - no password)
  4. Activate Visual Studio Express on a computer that has access to internet.
  5. Copy %LocalAppData%\Microsoft\VSCommon\OnlineLicensing from that computer to the offline computer (actually I tested by copying the whole VSCommon folder).

More detailed installation instructions

For the activation part I'm echoing this answer.

Tested this on both VS 2015 & 2017 Preview. Haven't tested it on 2012/2013 though.


As far as I know, there is no hack to permanently and offline enable Visual Studio 2012/2013 Express. However, I list below some workarounds to the problem.

You might prefer Visual Studio Community 2013 to Express, because it supports the plugins in the Visual Studio Gallery, making this edition more useful than Visual Studio Express which cannot use extensions. Both versions use identical methods of activation, and there are rumors that Community will replace Express in the future.

Method 1 : Using a virtual machine

If you have a spare Windows serial number, you can construct a Windows virtual machine on a host computer that has Internet connection. Install Visual Studio Express/Community and permanently enable it using your Microsoft Live account.

You now have a portable installation of Visual Studio Express/Community that you can take with you wherever you go.

Method 2 : Using Sandboxie

You could use Sandboxie just as you would a virtual machine, as a much more lightweight method. Sandboxie redirects all disk and registry updates of sandboxed programs to its own files, in a manner that is entirely transparent to these programs.

These disk and registry updates are placed by default in the folder C:\Sandbox\<user>\<sandbox>, so one can in effect copy them from one computer to another.

You would therefore run the installation of Visual Studio and enable it inside the sandbox, thus capturing all modifications done by it to the disk and the registry.

Since in your case Visual Studio Express is already installed, it might be safer to uninstall it first on the target computer using an uninstaller such as Revo Uninstaller Freeware (with careful attention before deleting). As a precaution, take a system restore point before starting or, even better, a backup disk image of the system drive.

The disadvantage of this method is that it forces running Visual Studio from the sandbox, thus by default capturing also all your work inside the sandbox. The Sandboxie solution is to exclude the source folders from the sandbox.

  • and permanently enable it using your Microsoft Live account. How exactly do you do this? My understanding is that VS has to "phone home" per se every so often. Am I mistaken on this? Mar 1, 2015 at 3:30
  • From How to Unlock Visual Studio : "Why should I sign in to Visual Studio? ... Permanently unlocks the Visual Studio Express edition – You can use any edition of Visual Studio Express for as long as you like, instead of being limited to the trial period of 30 days". If you can suffer connecting the offline server to the Internet for 10 seconds, you can do that directly without a VM or Sandboxie. The article also describes how to sign-in.
    – harrymc
    Mar 1, 2015 at 6:53
  • BTW, for enterprises the following applies for using the community edition: no use is permitted beyond the open source, academic research, and classroom learning environment scenarios described above.. Mar 2, 2015 at 14:40
  • Close... I think the use of VS2012 is the key as you can get a specific key for it offline. I've yet been able to try this out. (Lots of red tape). Mar 4, 2015 at 19:51
  • Question: You gave the bounty to the answer that said that the 30-days trial period is unavoidable. Didn't permanently unlocking VSE work for you?
    – harrymc
    Mar 6, 2015 at 10:12

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