Download a standalone installer for Management Studio Express
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.
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.