Installing Visual Studio on Dell Venue 8 Pro tablet’s MicroSD card

Posted: December 24, 2013 in Dell, Development, tablet, tip, Venue Pro, Visual Studio, Windows 8
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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?

Mount Points

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

    image

  3. Long-tap This PC in the side panel, and select Manage.

    image

  4. When the Computer Management window appears, tap Disk Management under Storage.
  5. Long-tap your MicroSD card in the list of Volumes on the top, and select Change Drive Letter and Paths.
  6. Tap Add, then tap the option for Mount in the following empty NTFS folder, and select your folder by tapping Browse.

    image

  7. 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.

Comments
  1. Phil says:

    So the question is – how does it run? 🙂 I’m a tremendous fan of coding on the go (and on the cheap, my mid-2000s OQO fixation notwithstanding) and I’m considering the Venue 8 Pro as my next platform. I’d love to read your thoughts about how it works as a platform for getting programming done. Thanks!

    • Auri says:

      Phil – I’m waiting for the keyboard attachment to arrive. Once I have that, I’ll post my feedback. VS appears a bit slow, but it’s probably fine for small tasks. I won’t know until I’ve hooked up that keyboard, though!

  2. Robert says:

    Hello Auri,
    Thanks for the lesson. Although I am not very computer literate, it was probably the information I was looking for.
    I want to turn the microsd slot into a “D: drive”. If I’m not mistaken, that is what your article is about. More or less?

    • Auri says:

      Robert, it’s a bit more complicated than that. By simply inserting the MicroSD card, you’ll get a D: or E: drive… Those letters are assigned by Windows. You can manage those drive letters in the more advanced Disk Management interface in Windows, which I discussed in my post.

      However, if all you want to do is install a program on your MicroSD card, you shouldn’t have trouble with most programs. You’ll simply point them to your MicroSD card as you would on your regular computer. Visual Studio is a different beast, and it won’t install on external or removable devices without a bit of trickery, hence the purpose of my write-up.

      I hope that helps.

      Thanks and Best,

      -Auri

      • Robert says:

        Thanks again Auri.
        Yes, I do want to install programs, music, or photos into the MicroSD card slot. Would I need Disk Management to do that?

      • Setting up the mount point works for moving DropBox to the D: drive also. The hard part is finding a microsd card that will format as NTFS which is required for the mount point. I stuck in a generic class 4 16gb sdcard and it worked without a hitch. Seeing that the technique worked, I went online to find a 64gb card. The San Disk ultra and extreme cards warn of instability with NTFS so I kept looking and ordered a Samsung. The Samsung failed repeatedly to format to NTFS, however, a 32gb San Disk Ultra works. (It may only be the 64gb ultra that is problematic.)

        I plan to continue researching because I’d like to find a working 64gb card.

  3. Phil says:

    Hi, have you tried using widi/miracast to an external display? If so what resolution does it get too?

    Also, can you connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse at the same time?

    • Auri says:

      Oddly, I don’t believe I have any Miracast-compliant displays at home, so I can’t say.

      Regarding Bluetooth, that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ll know more when I get my Dell keyboard … hopefully within the next few weeks.

  4. Auri says:

    Generally you won’t have to. Just make sure you don’t install software and remove the MicroSD card!

  5. Auri says:

    UPDATE: My Dell keyboard has shipped! Looking forward to writing the review…

  6. I have a Dell Venue 8 pro and am eagerly awaiting your results. I’m ready with my bluetooth kb and mouse … wide eyed ..

    • Tristann Vaillancourt says:

      I installed it, and it works fine. The sd card is critical. Screen didn’t get any bigger. LOL. Shame they didn’t put an hdmi port on it. It could have been perfect.

      • Ravi says:

        You can connect upto 7 or even more external monitors on this little device. One USB port can run 7 or more external monitors or TVS or projectors. All you need is powered hub, I use a 7 port powered hub with individual switches. Then buy USB 2.0 TO VGA ADAPTER to connect to external monitors. I use DisplayLink. Also I have made a small circuit using 3 USB female sockets a general purpose PCB, AN 1.5Kohms register and made a circuit so I can use all these external devices and also charge my Dell Venue 8 PRO. Also you can connect external USB devices. You can connect upto 127 usb devices. Just keep chaining the 7 or 10 port hubs. Don’t forget to use proper power supplies so you can drive the hubs. Each port needs 250mA current therefore for a 10 port hub you need a 5V 2.5A or 3A power adapter. And so on…

        Hope this helps. I use two monitor setup. Charging circuit u can mail me I will send you the pics, diagrams etc. Also I have posted my videos on YouTube. You may check.

  7. This worked brilliantly. Thanks for posting!

  8. Khawar Naseer says:

    Is it possible to run sql server express 2005 on venue without much loss of performance

    • Auri says:

      It depends on your interpretation of such. I wouldn’t run it as a standalone server. There’s just not enough memory. Why SQL 2005, anyway?

  9. stgood says:

    Love all the tips on v8p. Just replaced my workstation with one & a Targus dual video dock (cost more than the tablet…but works great). With two external monitors, wireless keyboard/mouse, 100/1000 network… this thing’s a beast.
    Used several of your suggestions to maximize disk space & FYI there’s someone on eBay selling “class 10” (really 4) micro SD 64gig cards for 13$….I needed storage over speed anyway:)
    Was really surprised how powerful this little tablet is.
    Thanks again & keep up the good work.
    Steve

  10. Ravi says:

    Hi guys I have a Dell Venue 8 PRO. I have connected a 7 port hub. Connected two external Monitors 22 inches to it. 2 pen drives, one hard drive, printer, Rapoo wireless keyboard and mouse dongle and DVD writer. The 7 port hub has individual switches. Therefore I switch on ports that I need. While switching off don’t forget to unmount device first. I use USB 2.0 TO VGA ADAPTER from DisplayLink. I have a 64 GB SD card in it. But still was unsuccessful to install my graphics softwares on external. I am really an idiot to buy a 32 GB version I thought. But let me Check if above posts can help me mount my SD card and get all my softwares run on SD cards. I will post again if successful.

  11. Jon says:

    I have the Dell Venue Pro 8, and to solve the AC power or USB drive but not both issue, I rewired a cheap USB hub to do both. Basically Windows will only recognize the device as “AC plugged in” (not trickle charge) if the two data pins are tied together when the cable is initially attached. Once that happens, as long as you don’t disconnect the power pins, you can unpair the data pins and connect to the USB hub. It’s hard to explain without wiring diagram, but what you end up with is a hub with an on/off switch, with one port rewired to be dedicated to connecting to the tablet with continuous power and the hub’s wire connects to power supply. You connect the tablet with the hub “off” and the tablet sees power + paired data pins so it registers as “plugged in”. Then you hit the switch, and the tablet sees the USB hub. Now you’re free to plug in any USB device. I use mine all the time.

  12. Tuan Gugu says:

    Hello there! Can you please help me out with something? I don’t quite understand 2 of these notes of yours..

    – 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.

    I am a computing student & plan to use an 8″ Windows tablet for doing work on the go such as Java & HTML5/PHP coding as well as dealing with databases… The programs that I need to install include XAMPP, and if I’m not mistaken, involves SQL server or something. Is it ok for me to install & run these programs? :S Please reply ASAP!

    • Auri says:

      XAMPP is a Windows version of the LAMP stack, which is basically Apache, MySQL and PHP, on the OS of your choice. The Venue 8 Pro will probably be a bit slow for what you want to do, although it’ll work. You’ll probably want to get the Microsoft Wedge Keyboard rather than the Dell Venue 8 Pro keyboard, which is horrible. Good luck!

      • Tuan Gugu says:

        Slow it may be, but will it affect the limited RAM as you mentioned on the article? I’m just worried about that.. If installing such apps will take up much of the memory… :/ But speed-wise I dont mind.. Cz I know this is a small tablet with a low-voltage CPU.

  13. Auri says:

    Well, of course it will 🙂 There’s only 2GB of RAM. I wouldn’t expect too much productivity, but it will work.

  14. Thinking about buying one of these instead of going all out on a Surface. How is the running temperature of the tablet? Any heat issues?

    • Auri says:

      I had no complaints. After Dell replaced it, the clock won’t update. Not sure why, but I haven’t used it lately. I wanted to install Windows 10 on it, but couldn’t; probably due to 32-bit version of Windows installed, even though it’s sporting a 64-bit processor.

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