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Connecting to SQL Server with Visual Studio Express Editions [closed]

Posted by: admin December 5, 2017 Leave a comment


I find it odd that in Visual C# 2008 Express edition, when you use the database explorer, your options are:

  1. Microsoft Access
  2. SQL Server Compact 3.5, and
  3. SQL Server Database File.

BUT if you use Visual Web Developer 2008 Express, you can connect to a regular SQL Server, Oracle, ODBC, etc.

For people developing command-line or other C# apps that need to talk to a SQL Server database, do you really need to build your LINQ/Data Access code with one IDE (Visual Web Developer) and your program in another (Visual C#)?

It’s not a hard workaround, but it seems weird. If Microsoft wanted to force you to upgrade to Visual Studio to connect to SQL Server, why would they include that feature in one of their free IDEs but not the other? I feel like I might be missing something (like how to do it all in Visual C#).


You should be able to choose the SQL Server Database file option to get the right kind of database (the system.data.SqlClient provider), and then manually correct the connection string to point to your db.

I think the reasoning behind those db choices probably goes something like this:

  • If you’re using the Express Edition, and you’re not using Visual Web Developer, you’re probably building a desktop program.
  • If you’re building a desktop program, and you’re using the express edition, you’re probably a hobbyist or uISV-er working at home rather than doing development for a corporation.
  • If you’re not developing for a corporation, your app is probably destined for the end-user and your data store is probably going on their local machine.
  • You really shouldn’t be deploying server-class databases to end-user desktops. An in-process db like Sql Server Compact or MS Access is much more appropriate.

However, this logic doesn’t quite hold. Even if each of those 4 points is true 90% of the time, by the time you apply all four of them it only applies to ~65% of your audience, which means up to 35% of the express market might legitimately want to talk to a server-class db, and that’s a significant group. And so, the simplified (greedy) version:

  • A real db server (and the hardware to run it) costs real money. If you have access to that, you ought to be able to afford at least the standard edition of visual studio.


  1. Open your solution in Visual Web Developer Express. It will not load some of the projects in the solution but it is ok.
  2. Make a new connection in Database Explorer to the required database from SQL Server.
  3. Add a new class library project.
  4. Add a LINQ to SQL Classes item and link it to your database.
  5. Close the solution.
  6. Open the solution in Visual C# Express.

Now you have a LINQ to SQL classes library that is linked to your SQL Server database in Visual C# Express.


The solution is for Visual Studio Express 2010.


My guess is that with VWD your solutions are more likely to be deployed to third party servers, many of which do not allow for a dynamically attached SQL Server database file. Thus the allowing of the other connection type.

This difference in IDE behavior is one of the key reasons for upgrading to a full version.


If you are using this to get a LINQ to SQL which I do and wanted for my Visual Developer, 1) get the free Visual WEB Developer, use that to connect to SQL Server instance, create your LINQ interface, then copy the generated files into your Vis-Dev project (I don’t use VD because it sounds funny). Include only the *.dbml files. The Vis-Dev environment will take a second or two to recognize the supporting files. It is a little extra step but for sure better than doing it by hand or giving up on it altogether or EVEN WORSE, paying for it. Mooo ha ha haha.


The only way I was able to get C# Express 2008 to work was to move the database file. So, I opened up SQL Server Management Studio and after dropping the database, I copied the file to my project folder. Then I reattached the database to management studio. Now, when I try to attach to the local copy it works. Apparently, you can not use the same database file more than once.


I just happened to have started my home business application in windows forms for the convenience. I’m currently using Visual C# Express 2010 / SQL Server 2008 R2 Express to develop it. I got the same problem as OP where I need to connect to an instance of SQL server. I’m skipping details here but that database will be a merged database synched between 2-3 computers that will also use the application I’m developing right now.

I found a quick workaround, at least, I think I did because I’m now able to use my stored procedures in tableadapters without any issues so far.

I copy pasted an SQL connection that I used in a different project at work (VS2010 Premium) in the app.config and changed everything I needed there. When I went back to my Settings.settings, I just had to confirm that I wanted what was inside the app.config file. The only downsides I can see is that you can’t “test” the connection since when you go inside the configuration of the connection string you can’t go anywhere since “SQL Server” is not an option. The other downside is that you need to input everything manually since you can’t use any wizards to make it work.

I don’t know if I should have done it that way but at least I can connect to my SQL server now :).


It only works with SQL Server 2008 R2 Express instances. If you try with SQL Server 2008 R2 Workgroup and up, you’ll get a nasty warning from Visual C# 2010 Express telling you that “you can’t use that connection with the current version of Visual Studio”. I got that when I was trying to modify some of my tableadapters. I switched back to an SQL Express instance to develop and it’s working fine again.

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