Windows – Visual studio forgets window settings and makes a mess

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I have this problem where I open Visual Studio and the internal windows are scattered all over the place. None of them are docked; some that should be visible have become invisible and vice versa. I then have to spend ages getting the windows back where I like them.

It only seems to happen with some solutions and only appeared recently.

For the life of me I can't fix the problem. Has anyone else been through this?

Best Answer

Sounds like there is definitely a problem with Visual Studio retaining your settings between round-trips and possibly your Visual Studio settings profile in general.

The solution I'd recommend is firstly to reset all settings, secondly customize things to your personal preference and finally take a backup of those customized settings. The idea is that this settings backup file can be used later to automate a quick settings restore to a point you are happy with. The following steps show how to do this and hopefully should sort out even the most confused Visual Studio setting issues:

  1. Close down all instances of Visual Studio.

  2. Go to Start > Programs > Visual Studio 200X > Visual Studio Tools > and choose 'Visual Studio 200X Command Prompt'

  3. Run the sligthly less well known 'devenv.exe /ResetUserData' command. With this command you will lose all of your Visual Studio environment settings and customizations. Because of this, the /ResetUserData switch is not officially supported and Microsoft does not advertise it (the switch is not described in the help for devenv.exe you get when you type devenv.exe /? in a command prompt). Importantly, wait for the resulting devenv.exe process to disappear from Task Manager or even better Process Explorer.

  4. When the process disappears from Task Manager or Process Explorer, run 'devenv.exe /ResetSettings' which will restore the IDE's default settings and eventually start a single instance of Visual Studio.

  5. Now in Visual Studio choose 'Import and Export Settings...' near the bottom of the 'Tools' menu to start the Import and Export Settings Wizard.

  6. Choose 'Reset all settings' radio button and Next > Choose 'No, just reset settings, overwriting my current settings' and Next > Choose your personal 'Settings Collection' preference, I would choose Visual C# Development Settings here (Note: What you choose here has an effect on keyboard shortcuts etc. but you can always repeat this process until happy) and click Finish.

  7. When you get the message that 'Your settings were successfully reset to XXXXXX Development Settings.' click Close then spend a good bit of time adding any personal customizations to Visual Studio such as opening windows you always want open, customizing toolbars and adding any toolbar buttons etc.

  8. When you are finished with your personal customization and completely happy with your setup go again to Tools > 'Import and Export Settings...'

  9. Choose 'Export selected environment settings' radio button and Next > Tick 'All Settings' and Next > Choose a file name and directory and click Finish to store a backup of your current settings in a .vssettings file.

  10. In future if things go haywire again head back to Tools > 'Import and Export Settings...' and this time choose 'Import selected environment settings' radio button and Next > Choose 'No, just import new settings, overwriting my current settings' and Next > Either choose the name of your .vssettings file from the list (usually under the My Settings folder) or Browse.. to where you saved the file and Next > Tick 'All Settings' and click Finish.

  11. Importantly, close the single instance of Visual Studio. Any future instance you open should retain your latest customizations.