Using the FindStr Utility to Locate Errors in Visual Studio

There are cases where the error message that you obtain from Visual Studio is less than helpful. Let’s begin the scenario by saying a coworker wants you to test some code. According to the code worker, the application works fine, but when you try it on your system, you get an odd sort of error message like the one shown here:

Error: Could not find a part of the path ‘C:\MyProj\Projects\TestMe\TestMe\Properties\MyManifest.xml’.

Here’s the frustrating part. You look in Solution Explorer and MyManifest.xml is in plain sight. So, now you start to wonder what’s going on because the IDE should be able to find the file. Here’s the key for this particular example. Instead of putting the project in C:\MyProj, you placed it in C:\MyFriendsProj. In this case, you don’t have a C:\MyProj folder on your machine.  So, when the IDE looked for MyManifest.xml in that particular folder, it couldn’t find it and displayed an error.  What to do?  You could search for this problem all day long and never find it. Often, the problem is one where the path has been hard coded into one or more of the Visual Studio support files.

The answer is to use the FindStr utility at the command line to find files that have the MyProj folder hard coded in them.  You open a command prompt and type FindStr /m /s /C:”MyProj” *.* and press Enter (where the /m command line switch tells FindStr to supply only filenames, the /s command line switch searches subdirectories, and the /C: command line switch performs a literal search).  Here’s some typical output.


All of these files have the MyProj folder hard coded in them.  By deleting these files and rebuilding the project, you can get rid of the error.  You can’t use the Visual Studio search features to find this problem because Visual Studio doesn’t look inside all of the files that it should—it only looks in source code files for the most part and only the source code files that are actually part of your project.  FindStr looks inside every file, no matter what its purpose might be.

What unique uses have you found for FindStr in managing your application development? Let me know at