Download a standalone installer for Management Studio Express

Update 2013-11-13 

Folks, stop reading the rest of this post and stop trying to download old versions of Management Studio Express! Why are you looking for the 2008 version? Not only is the 2012 version much better, it is now a free download with full functionality and no licensing restrictions as in previous versions. Ever try managing SQL Server Agent, for example, in 2005, 2008 or 2008 R2 Management Studio Express? Now you can!

Click Download and grab SQLManagementStudio_x64_ENU.exe (or SQLManagementStudio_x86_ENU.exe if you really are living in the dark ages). Yes, it's big, but don't be petty – it's worth it.

Update 2014-04-14

Yes, once again, the installer is BIG – over 900 MB. But I can assure you it does not intend to install a full Express instance, only the client tools. It's big because it has to bootstrap all the things you might not have, like .NET Framework, Visual Studio shell, etc. It also includes engine components that are simply not made accessible during setup (I suppose this simplified things for the release team).

I clicked Download at the URL above, then checked the box for SQLManagementStudio_x64_ENU.exe (921.6 MB), then clicked Next. The .exe was downloaded to my machine. On running that, I eventually get to the SQL Server Installation Center, where I know to pick this option:

I agree that the wording is a bit misleading, but I've mentioned it multiple times on this page, and Bill echoed in the very first comment – this is still the option you want, even though you should ignore the wording, because it doesn't explicitly say, "don't worry, this option will allow you to install just Management Studio." It will, I promise. 

As you can see, in spite of the misleading wording on the very first screen, if you actually go through the process, you will find that this installer *does* only install client tools and Management Studio (and LocalDB, if you want that). Nowhere does it offer installing an entire instance of SQL Server. 

Note that you can now get the 2014 version here, but it's really kind of a pain (you have to register for the download, and be sure to pay attention to all selections on every screen in the process to correctly choose SSMS Express): 


In October, I complained (surprise, surprise) on behalf of Express users that you had to download an entire Express package (with Tools or with Advanced Services) in order to install the basic Management Studio Express, even if you already had the engine installed and had no need for another instance. (For SQL Server 2005, a standalone installer was made available very early on.)  While articles like this one by fellow MVP Andrea Montanari proved to help a lot of people figure this out, there still seemed to be a loud cry for a standalone installer that didn't require jumping through all of these hoops.

Well, better late than never.  Bill Ramos announced yesterday that they have released a standalone installer for SQL Server 2008 Management Studio Express, in both x86 and x64 flavors.  You can download it here:

Now, when I download the 64-bit installer, it is 175 MB, and it seems to be a full-on setup program for either Express with Tools or Express with Advanced Services (I stopped the install when it asked me if I wanted to create a new instance of SQL Server 2008 or to modify an existing instance). I will download again later this weekend and try it out, but so far, it is not the "no-frills" installer that Bill advertises. If you have a different experience, please let me know.

Aaron Bertrand

I am a passionate technologist with industry experience dating back to Classic ASP and SQL Server 6.5. I am a long-time Microsoft MVP, write at Simple Talk, SQLPerformance, and MSSQLTips, and have had the honor of speaking at more conferences than I can remember. In non-tech life, I am a father of two, a huge hockey and football fan, and my pronouns are he/him. If I've helped you out, consider thanking me with a coffee. :-)

39 Responses

  1. AaronBertrand says:

    Roy, from 2012 SP1 and up, the Management Studio Express application is identical to "proper" Management Studio. No limitations, no licensing required.

  2. Roy says:

    The older editions of SSMS-E are known to have certain limitations as described here:
    Does the same apply to these newer releases? If yes, then that's a problem, as we need to be able to use it to manage our SSIS and SSAS instances!

  3. Aaron Bertrand says:

    No Rob, it doesn't. Please read this answer over on

  4. Rob says:

    Great article – Unfortunately, it appears that (unless I'm missing a step), SSMS 2012 SP1 installs the database.

  5. Michael says:

    Nice blog.
    I realize (IMHO go to version xxx) migrating can be useful, I have products that ONLY need a particular version and adding that version's tools is what is necessary. I spent the better part of the day to find applicable links and downloads to update SQL 2008 r2 RTM express to add the Advanced Services package and will need the SP1 stand alone package. Mostly got the first and hardly got anything on the second. A KB? or something discrete. I do not need a newer version. I am trying to add a second instance to an existing applications install and along with that some advanced tools. I know the sa from the 1st app install and the script to edit on the second (pre-install the instance name). How can I get discrete packages as the 2nd app needs the SP?
    (1.) Install advanced Services.
    (2.) add instance and pw manually.
    (3.) Upgrade to SP
    (4.) Add scripted install for pre-req to App installation.
    I have done this in the past but it gets harder each version to find the packages as I am off internet.
    Thanks for any detail…

  6. Dougie says:

    I have a dream that involves deploying basic Microsoft products via group policy with no interaction from myself or my team. All I want to do is deploy SQL Server Management Studio Express 2008 R2 to multiple identical PCs via group policy. Can anybody point me in the direction of how to do this?.
    I'm really fed up with having to physically visit machines every time they are rebuilt and script, or create system snapshot packages, just to get around rapper executables. I just need one msi file that installs the one product I require. Any ideas?.
    Active Directory management and Exchange management, etc, also required for the same reasons if anyone knows a way?.

  7. AaronBertrand says:

    @Werner works fine for me. Did you try a different browser? Different network (e.g. try it on your phone without going through your Wi-Fi, work network etc)?
    @Mr. Harris, not sure what you mean.

  8. Werner says:

    Hello … thanks for all the hints but when I try this one:, then  I get this funny error: "An error was encountered. Unspecified error"

  9. Mr. Harris says:

    will I be able to sql management studio offline.

  10. AaronBertrand says:

    Kevin, please see my update. Yes, once again, the installer is big. And yes, once again, the opening screen does not make it clear that the installer will, in fact, let you install just Management Studio, and not an entire Express instance. I've updated the post with screen shots that show what you'll see if you take a leap of faith and actually try the installer.

  11. Kevin says:

    The updated download for 2012 version is over 900MB. Is it really just the management studio? It sure looks like it wants to install an entire Express version, which is the problem this page seemed to try to address in the first place.

  12. AaronBertrand says:

    Fauzi, why are you still attempting to download SQL Server 2008? You should be using SQL Server 2012 IMHO. It's now a free download with full functionality and no licensing restrictions as in previous versions.

  13. Fauzi Rashid says:

    I don't understand why MS is insisting on going backward. It used a lot easier to download management studio for 2005. You would think that 2008 should be better, but this reminds me of Vista versus XP. Pathetic!!

  14. Aaron Bertrand says:

    Jeni, that compatibility warning is just a warning, and doesn't prevent anything from being installed. Unfortunately unless I know which installer you downloaded, which options you selected during setup, what might have gone wrong via setup logs, and where you are looking for management studio, I can't possibly tell you why you can't find it.

  15. Ali says:

    I installed SQL Server 2008 R2 x64 trial from Microsoft website on Windows 2008 R2 trial and now I am looking for SQL Management Studio or SQL Management Studio Express .
    All I have found so far are two setups of SQL Management Studio Express x64 and they both have different sizes. One is 163MB while other is around 175MB and both don't work.
    From where can I find SQL Management Studio or Express that actually works???

  16. jeni says:

    Sir Aron i have a problem.I've installed sql server 2008 installer and it kept saying that it has compatibility issues and needs a windows server sp1 must be installed after the installation. I've installed the windows server sp1 after the installation there has no sql management studio appeared.
    i have all the system requirements needed for the installation but still it does not appears.
    hope you could answer my problem..thanks..and god bless.

  17. unlucky says:

    holy shit this sucks……i downloaded 200Mb of crap 3 times….perhaps SQL is the worst of all so far..furthermore, i use can guess the pain i am through..

  18. Francois says:

    ….and it gets worse…..
    Following some of these links I tried to download SQL 2012 Management Studio.
    It's a whopping 600MB…..

  19. Steven Przybylowski says:

    I find it irritating that MS continues to confuse tools with services.  On an enterprise secured system, there are very few instances where I would install tools on the server itself.  We do not allow users to remote into the server to manage databases using server based tools as this is a material security weakness
    But to install these same tools on a client workstation, I must distribute the entire CD which is problematic on a very large network.  Additionally, the CD includes items subject to license which I do not want to have distributed freely around the enterprise.
    Why does not MS provide a separate package to install the complete toolset?  SSMSSE is limited and not very useful in a multi-domain secured network.

  20. Aaron Bertrand says:

    Taz, what does "won't browse" mean? Do you get an error message? Is it possible it's a permissions issue, or the procedures are encrypted? Is this occurring on all SQL 2000 instances or just one, and against all stored procedures or just some? I doubt you'll get much sympathy since SQL 2000 is long out of support, but your issue might not be the free tool's fault.

  21. Taz says:

    I have to say, as a professional developer for 15+ years I find this situation frankly really poor. Just building a new new environment and gone through the same hassle, this must be my 5th download. The version I have won't browse stored procedures on a SQL2000 enterprise server (SP4).
    150MB installer for SQL management studio (complete with useless scripting tools) is not acceptable.

  22. Harvey Myers says:

    Wow, even after reading all of the above, this process is probably one of the most rediculous endeavors that I've had to wrestle with in over 30 years of software development. ESPECIALLY since Microsoft is supposed to be such a world leader. I actually ty to defend M$ against the Linux naysayers,but with this kind of installation routine after all these years, i'm just sayin' M$ should be embarrassed about this installer.

  23. Raymond says:

    Ok. I will try it. I have not tried it yet.

  24. AaronBertrand says:

    Did you try the installer? The instructions at the bottom just might be out of date (recycled from the 2008 download page).

  25. Raymond says:

    I clicked on the link you provided and it tells me I still need .net 3.5. I am wondering why this is the case seeing it was published 20th April 2010 after the release of .net 4.0

  26. AaronBertrand says:

    Raymond, why do you still want to use the 2008 version? I highly recommend the 2008 R2 version… it will be able to manage 2008 instances just fine.
    Also see my remarkably similar previous reply to TimH.

  27. Raymond says:

    Hi Aaron,
    Please do I still need .net 3.5 installed to run this installer. the installation failed when I tried it yesterday. I have .net 4 installed.

  28. AaronBertrand says:

    TimH, this blog post was written over two years ago. In your searching did you think to search for a newer version? To wit, after a very quick search I was able to determine that you can download the 2008 R2 version of Management Studio Express here:

  29. TimH says:

    170MB of non-working bloat that takes forever to run – only to tell you it wont work.  What kind of retards released this?!
    It requires another component (powershell) – that you can't find on their own Bing/Bung search engine of their down site?!?!.  As always have to rely on google to resolve.
    Pathetic.  What kind of retards released this?!

  30. Smith says:

    is it possible to install SSMS with my application setup?

  31. Ed Anderson says:

    I wanted to install JUST Management Studio Express, so I followed these instructions. What I got was an installation that included an instance of the database and the tools. Not what's advertised here.

  32. Kev says:

    (This was on Windows 2008 R2 trial with SQL 2008 Express.)

  33. Kev says:

    Wow, thanks Tom, I was going crazy here trying to figure out how to get SSMSEE 2008.  I didn't realize you could fake it out like that.  (I obviously feel your pain.)  Thanks so much for the tip!

  34. jigar says:

    thx a lot

  35. Tom says:

    Ugh.  I spent several hours trying to figure out this "simplified and fixed" version.  I'm still not sure if I got it right.
    *I only want to install SSMSEE 2008*.  The link actually downloads what appears to be a full install tool for SQL Server.  There are some rumors that despite all the appearances, it is actually not a full install.  This is all very confusing for me.  Professional software installation should not mislabel the actual product that's being installed.  I've been messing around this thing for hours, and the variation seems endless.
    It's not a standalone installer until the procedure goes like this:
    Run installer (which correctly identifies the product being installed), click next, click next, click next, click finish.
    If I have to fake out the installer by asking it to install a new instance of SQL Server when I don't actually want that, I'm not dealing with finished software.

  36. noeldr says:

    This is SAD. I would expect such "fixed" version from an amateur, but from M$ it is just plain SAD!

  37. Rory Becker says:

    Oh come on .. that download was 175Mb, provided 7 pages of 32 options.
    All I want is to install the 2008 client tools. finally found a way of selecting these, only to be told that I require 982Mb of Free space.
    I already have the 2005 Client tools. What the h*** is so different to require so much extra space?
    That is ***ing ridiculous.

  38. AaronBertrand says:

    Yes, this installer will lay down the tools only (though the first few screens in setup are very misleading), as long as you don't already have SSMS 2008 installed.  (e.g. you can not run SSMS 2008 and SSMSE 2008 side-by-side; if you have the SSMSE 2008 and install SSMS 2008, it upgrades; if you have SSMS 2008 already, setup for SSMSE 2008 blocks the install.  I did not try with SSMS 2005 or SSMSE 2005 installed.)

  39. Bill Ramos says:

    Hi Aaron,
        The Express setup was a modified version of the Express with Tools setup with the logic to install a database engine simply disabled. The prompt to create/upgrade instance can be ignored.