Does Visual Studio Have a Web Server?


Scott Campbell

Visual Studio is a popular integrated development environment (IDE) used by developers for various programming tasks. One common question that arises when working on web projects is whether Visual Studio has a built-in web server. In this article, we will explore this topic in detail and understand the different options available in Visual Studio for hosting web applications.

Why do you need a web server?

Before diving into whether Visual Studio has a web server or not, let’s briefly discuss why you need a web server in the first place. A web server is software that allows you to host and serve your web application to users over the internet.

It listens for incoming requests, processes them, and returns the appropriate responses. Without a web server, it would be impossible to make your application accessible to users on the world wide web.

The Development Server: A Lightweight Solution

If you are developing a simple web application or just getting started with web development, Visual Studio provides a lightweight built-in development server called IIS Express. This miniaturized version of Internet Information Services (IIS) allows you to run and test your application locally without the need for setting up a full-fledged web server environment.

IIS Express provides many advantages for developers:

  • Easy setup: IIS Express comes bundled with Visual Studio, so no additional installation is required.
  • Fast startup: The lightweight nature of IIS Express ensures quick startup times, enabling rapid iterations during development.
  • Familiarity: Since IIS Express is based on IIS, it closely mimics the behavior and configuration options of its big brother. This makes it easy to transition from local development to production environments.

Running Your Web Application with IIS Express

To run your web application using IIS Express in Visual Studio, follow these steps:

  1. Open your project in Visual Studio.
  2. Ensure that the correct project is set as the startup project (right-click on the project name in Solution Explorer and select “Set as StartUp Project”).
  3. Click on the green “Start Debugging” button (or press F5) to start your application.
  4. IIS Express will launch and host your web application, making it accessible through a local address like http://localhost:portNumber/.

You can also configure various aspects of IIS Express, such as port number, SSL settings, and more by modifying the project properties. To do this:

  1. Right-click on your web project in Solution Explorer and select “Properties”.
  2. In the properties window, navigate to the “Web” tab.
  3. Here, you can configure different settings related to IIS Express, including port number and SSL options.

The Full IIS Experience

If you are working on a more complex web application or need advanced configuration options not available in IIS Express, Visual Studio also allows you to host your application using a full installation of Internet Information Services (IIS).

IIS provides additional features and capabilities compared to IIS Express:

  • Advanced configuration: With full IIS, you have access to all the powerful configuration options available in a production web server environment. This allows you to fine-tune various aspects of your application’s hosting.
  • Integration options: Full IIS seamlessly integrates with other server technologies, such as load balancers, reverse proxies, and more. This makes it suitable for enterprise-level applications with complex deployment scenarios.

To host your web application using full IIS in Visual Studio, the steps are slightly different:

  1. Publish your web application: Right-click on your project in Solution Explorer and select “Publish”.
  2. In the publish dialog, select the Target location where you want to publish your application files.
  3. Choose the “IIS” publish method and configure the necessary settings, such as the Target server and website name.
  4. Click “Publish” to generate the deployment package.
  5. Copy the generated files to your IIS server and configure it accordingly. You can either use remote desktop or any other preferred method to access the server.
  6. Your web application is now hosted using full IIS!


In conclusion, Visual Studio provides developers with multiple options for hosting web applications. The built-in development server, IIS Express, offers a lightweight and convenient solution for local development and testing. If you require advanced configuration options or need to mimic production environments closely, you can choose to host your application using a full installation of Internet Information Services (IIS).

Understanding these options is crucial for developers working on web projects using Visual Studio. Whether you are a beginner getting started with web development or an experienced professional building complex applications, having a solid understanding of how Visual Studio handles web hosting will greatly enhance your productivity and efficiency.

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