Do I need these Microsoft Visual C++ redistributables?

Assorted redistributables and shared libraries are often installed on your PC by programs that need them. Removing them, while tempting, is fairly risky.


I have an Acer Aspire One D255 laptop and it runs Windows XP. I’m wondering if I need all of these Microsoft programs on here, like Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 redistributable or Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 redistributable. It’s taking up space on my hard drive and I’m wondering if those programs are really necessary. Then, I was also wondering if I need all of these Windows Live programs on here, like Windows Live Essentials or Windows Live Sync.

Time for my most common, and yet most annoying answer….

It depends.

I’ll describe what the Visual C++ redistributables are all about and why the safest thing to do is probably to leave them alone. As for Windows Live … well, that one’s up to you.

Visual C++ Redistributables

When companies write software using Microsoft Visual C++, they make use of a number of what are called “standard libraries”. Those are collections of pre-written software provided by Visual C++ for programmers to use. That way, they don’t have to write what are often very common sequences of code. Instead, they can use these libraries of software that are pre-written and very thoroughly tested by either years of use or Microsoft’s own testing efforts.

The libraries are packaged in such a way that several programs which use the same library can share one copy of the library.

The libraries are packaged in such a way that several programs which use the same library can share one copy of the library. So, if you have five programs that use the Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 redistributable, there only needs to be one copy of it on your computer.

Libraries like this are not guaranteed to be on the machine to begin with so companies are allowed to “redistribute” the libraries (hence, the name). If the library is not already on your machine when you install the software that needs it, that software’s setup program can install them as well.

Naturally, there is more than one version and apparently the newer one does not automatically replace the older one. Much like the .NET Framework, you can end up with more than one version on your machine.

Do you need them?

I have no idea if you need them. I have no idea if you need just one or both.

In this case, it depends on the software on your machine. If the software that you’ve installed on your machine needs them … well, then you need them. If it doesn’t, then you might not.

But given that they only appear on your machine if software that uses them is present1, I would expect that you probably do need them. Both.

And leaving them in place is by far the safest thing to do.

Windows Live

This time, it depends on you.

Windows Live Essentials is a kind of shared library – not unlike the Visual C++ redistributable – that is used by the various Windows Live programs that you might install on your machine. So, if you use Windows Live Mail or Windows Live Messenger, then Windows Live Essentials is required.

On the other hand, if you never use any Windows Live software, you might be able to do without. Using Windows Live Hotmail via the web only, for example, doesn’t install or require any Windows Live software on your machine.

And if something stops working, Windows Live Essentials are a quick and easy download.

Is it worth it?

My question to you is this: is it worth the time and risk to consider removing these things?

My experience is that they won’t give you back nearly as much disk space as you might be expecting.

If you’re in a true disk-space crunch, I’d approach the problem by seeing what’s using the most space and attacking it from that angle. You’ll get a lot more space more quickly if you approach it by looking for the biggest space hogs first.

If you’re not running low on disk space, I wouldn’t spend any more time on it. If these items aren’t being used, they’re not using any system resources other than disk space.

Not to mention that there’s always a risk of breaking something when removing components like these that are designed to be shared. There’s simply no way to ensure that there are no programs that might need ’em still on your machine.

Footnotes and references

1: In an ideal world, uninstalling the last software package that requires a particular redistributable would also uninstall that redistributable. For various reasons, that’s likely not to be the case. If you uninstall software that requires a redistributable, you may be left with an unnecessary redistributable on your machine. It’s probably a rare case.


  1. Ken Robson

    A simple (though not foolproof) way of checking if a file is needed or used is to rename it. I put “XX” infront of the file in question, e.g. rename ‘msfile01′ to ‘XXmsfile01′. If after a few days or weeks of using your computer there have been no problems it might indicate that the file is not being used and could be deleted. If there are problems simply remove the ‘XX’ and your files are back as they were.

  2. Rick S

    A few years ago when I was clueless about computers I decided to clean things up. Took my friendly geek hours to fix things up. Nowadays it’s smarter just to get a bigger hard drive and you are set up for a long, long time.

    If it’s not broken don’t fix it.

  3. Michael Horowitz

    I have been burned by removing the Visual C++ Redistributables along with other “crapware” on a new Windows computer. It turns out it was needed by two different CD/DVD burning programs. There was NO warning when the software was removed that it was needed by another application. Each application failed to startup with an initialization error that was totally useless in terms of pinpointing the problem.

    I like the previous idea of renaming the folder where the software you are considering resides. After a while, if this doesn’t break anything, then rename the folder back and uninstall the software normally. BUT, in my case, this would not have helped as I very rarely use the software that broke.

  4. Mike

    So let me get this straight:
    USUALLY, if it’s on my machine, it’s because there is software that needs it. As opposed to crap that MS places on my machine simply because I MIGHT have need of it someday in the future?
    I can live with that. I’ve got plenty of hard drive space. My only issue is putting up with stuff that someone else thinks I might need, when I don’t. (I use Revo Uninstaller to remove unnecessary remnants from a de-installation.)

  5. Bruce Adams

    I have been having problems with HotMail. Slow, cursor misbehaves, and lots of connection problems. Last night I removed all the Windows Live aps and installed Chrome. Now HotMail is much more responsive and the connection issues have vanished. It was not a disk space issue. It was a performance issue. Maybe other readers have had the same experience with the Windows Live programs.

  6. Snert

    I don’t actively use it, but I had issues with a Visual C++ Redistributable update wanting to install over and over and over. I e-mailed MS and got free (!!!) advice about what to do.
    And, I was advised NOT to uninstall any versions I found lurking about as my system could go kerflunk depending on various bullstuff.

  7. tom casse

    For me, this is a strong argument for reinstalling windows every six to twelve months. It resets all your installed software so you can start again and be sure only the parts you (or windows) need are installed.

    Might sound like a lot of work, but with either two drives (or a partitioned drive) you can keep data on one drive and windows and applications on another. Makes reformatting nothing more than an evening’s work.

  8. danwat1234

    Thank you for the article describing what the C++ Redistributables do. I have some knowledge of C++ programming but not a lot and I was confused why anything needed updating since C++ programs are compiled to CPU instructions, but now I understand.

  9. jmjmnz

    Anyone worried about running out of disk space should get more disk space, rather than risk deleting something ‘mysterious’ (to them) but vital. External hard drives are large, cheap, readily available and easy to install and use. Just go to your nearest computer store, spend some money, and plug it in

    To be fair, I do hear from many readers who don’t have the money, even for what some would consider an inexpensive hard disk upgrade.

  10. Mark J

    What you are saying is true, except for hard drives being cheap. The price went up to double or more due to the flooding in Thailand, and many people may need a temporary solution until the prices come down in a few to several months from now.

  11. victhechic

    I understand more about Microsoft Visual C++ redistributables & the fact I need to keep them but why the need for both 86x & 64x versions of each update. I’m running a 64 bit operating system (if that matters)

  12. Mark J

    A 64 bit computer is capable of running both 64 bit and 32 bit (x86) applications. Therefore you need the distributables for both.

  13. asd123

    Hello Leo, just wanted to leave a message about the ad in this page. I use Adblock Plus and that ad, the look and feel of it, is amazing.
    I am not being facetious, I have that adblocker to block big blinking eye catching banners, popups and I only hope the ads of tomorrow will take cues from yours.

  14. Ray

    “Do you need them? I have no idea if you need them. I have no idea if you need just one or both.”

    If you don’t know why are u wasting my time reading this?

  15. judith

    I am basic. I do not have an iphone nor do I intend to get one. I do not want programs on my little laptop that enable such items as they serve no purpose for me and I need the space for college. Does anyone know the programs I can delete to maximize space and eliminate “sharing” my laptop with any other devices.

  16. Ron Mahon

    Your explanation of visual C was was clear and to the point , thank you . I’m an old man without much tech savey but I understood what you were saying .
    I found a bunch of these things in my programes list and was shocked . After reading what you had to say , I’M just gonna leave em alone .
    Thanks again Leo .

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