I know it may be an act of pure sadism, but I see value in having a full development environment available in a package that weighs less than a pound. My Dell Venue 8 Pro runs full Windows 8.1, so why not write code on it? Well, there’s a limitation. I’m chea… err, frugal. So, I bought the 32GB device, on sale for $99 during Microsoft’s “12 Days of Deals” event. After clearing out a lot of space, and after installing all my Windows Store apps, I had just under 6 gigs free. Visual Studio takes roughtly 5.38 gigs for a base install, and more than 7 for a full. I still want to download apps, so using all that precious main storage space isn’t an option.
So, why not use the MicroSD expansion, you say? Great idea! Oh, wait… Visual Studio won’t install on removable media unless it’s Windows To Go certified, which only a handful of USB drives, and no MicroSD cards, can claim privileged membership. What is a developer to do?
It turns out there’s a workaround, but it requires you to “trick” Windows. I want to use that MicroSD and all its 16 gigs of practically unused storage. (Yes, I could have used a 32, but I didn’t have one handy at the time. Anyway…)
Using a feature in NTFS that allows you to permanently point the contents of an empty folder to another drive, in this case the MicroSD, you can install anything you want in that folder, and it won’t affect the available drive space on C:, safely keeping everything in the “remote” storage location. These remote locations are called NTFS Mount Points.
Now, there’s a catch… Even if you have a 32 GB MicroSD, that doesn’t increase your primary drive’s capacity by 32 GB. If your C: drive, in this case, only has 6 gigs free, then that’s what any Windows Installer will see as available. Now, once the installation is underway, it won’t run out of space when installing. However, if you don’t have enough space on C: to install in the first place, it won’t continue. So, before you try this process, make sure you have enough room on the drive for installation as if you were installing without the remote storage location!
Ready? Let’s Go
The entire process is very simple. We’ll start at the Desktop, which you can access on the All Programs menu.
- First, make sure you have enough space free on your C: drive, since that’s where Visual Studio will want to install on your tablet.
- Open Explorer, go to your C: drive, and create an empty folder. I named mine MicroSD, so I know the contents are on the removable media. You might ask why I simply didn’t redirect my Program Files folder. Here’s the reason: That’s a risky move, and the MicroSD card is slower than the built-in SSD. Also, if the MicroSD fails, I can simply reinstall the non-essential programs in that folder, without affecting all my primary apps and overall tablet usability.
- Long-tap This PC in the side panel, and select Manage.
- When the Computer Management window appears, tap Disk Management under Storage.
- Long-tap your MicroSD card in the list of Volumes on the top, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
- Tap Add, then tap the option for Mount in the following empty NTFS folder, and select your folder by tapping Browse.
- That’s it, now you can install Visual Studio! Simply set the install location to the new folder you created instead of the standard Program Files folder.
A few notes when installing:
- Remember, this is a tablet with 2 gigs of RAM. Don’t install SQL Server and the like.
- Don’t run servers on your Venue Pro unless you want to kill the battery. Yeah, it’s Quad Core, but it’s also a low power processor built for on-the-go computing.
- Visual Studio still installs a lot on your C: drive in the Program Files and Windows folders. It’s a development system, after all. So, be prepared to sacrifice 2-3 gigs of available space there.
- As you develop, Visual Studio still has its little droppings of temp files. Clean up a bit more often if you’re doing a lot of dev.
What about a keyboard?
That’s what I was thinking… I just ordered the Dell Tablet Wireless Keyboard accessory from Dell’s site. It’s still pending shipping, so once I receive it, I’ll post a review.
I have a link to the accessory in this post.