Do I Really Need All of These Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables?

Well, my friend, the answer to that question is one that I get all the time, and it’s quite bothersome. The truth is, it depends. Let me explain to you what these Visual C++ redistributables are all about and why, in most cases, it’s safest to just leave them be.

Visual C++ Redistributables

Visual C++ Redistributables in Settings, Apps & features
*Visual C++ Redistributables in Settings, Apps & features. (Click for larger image.)*

C++ is just one of the many programming languages that software developers use to create their masterpieces. Microsoft’s own implementation of C++ is called Visual C++. It provides programmers with the necessary tools to convert their C++ code into “.exe”, “.dll”, and other Windows-compatible files.

When developers work with Microsoft Visual C++, they have access to something called “standard libraries.” These libraries contain pre-written code that they can use instead of reinventing the wheel. It saves time and effort by providing them with tested and reliable software components that are commonly used.

For instance, let’s say a program requires a function to convert a string of characters to uppercase. Instead of every programmer having to write that function from scratch, they can simply rely on the standard library, which includes a ready-to-use function for that purpose.

Now, the reason these libraries are referred to as “redistributables” is because Microsoft allows others to distribute or “re-distribute” them. When you install a program, the setup process might offer to install the necessary Visual C++ Redistributable if it’s not already on your system. However, if you have multiple programs that rely on the same version of Visual C++ Redistributable, you only need one copy installed.

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Multiple Versions to Consider

Here’s where things can get a bit tricky. There are multiple versions of Visual C++ Redistributables available, and unfortunately, newer versions don’t always replace the older ones. For example, installing the Visual C++ 2015 Redistributable doesn’t automatically remove the need for the Visual C++ 2010 Redistributable. In some cases, you might need both.

Similar to the .NET Framework, it’s possible to have multiple versions of Visual C++ Redistributables on your computer. You can check which versions are currently installed by going to “Apps & features” in your Settings app and scrolling down the list. As you can see in the image above, my machine has ten instances of Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributables, ranging from 2010 to 2015-2019 versions, with both x86 (32-bit) and x64 (64-bit) editions.

Now, don’t fret. This is quite common.

Do You Really Need Them?

And here’s the thing, my friend: I have no clue whether you actually need these redistributables. I don’t know if you need just one or two versions, or if all of them are necessary for the software installed on your computer.

As I mentioned before, the answer to whether you need them depends on the software you have installed. If a certain program requires a specific version of Visual C++ Redistributable, then you do need it. But if none of your software requires it, then you might not need to worry about it.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way for you to determine which programs on your computer rely on which versions of the redistributables, if any at all. In an ideal world, uninstalling the last program that requires a particular version would automatically remove the associated redistributable. However, that’s usually not the case. If you uninstall software that uses a redistributable, you may be left with an unnecessary redistributable on your system, and there’s no simple way to tell if it’s still needed or not.

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So, the safest course of action is to just leave them all in place.

Are They Worth the Trouble?

Now, you might be wondering if it’s worth the time and risk to remove these redistributables from your computer. Well, let me tell you, my friend, in my experience, it’s not worth it. They won’t free up as much disk space as you might expect, and if they’re not being used, they won’t have any impact on your system’s performance.

If you’re running low on disk space, it’s better to focus on identifying and removing the real space hogs first. While it may seem like having multiple Visual C++ Redistributables takes up a lot of space, in reality, they don’t really compare to other items on your computer in terms of size.

However, if you have plenty of disk space to spare, then I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

Remember, my friend, whenever you remove shared components like these redistributables, there’s always a risk of breaking something. And the truth is, there’s no easy way to guarantee that no program on your computer needs them.

The Foolproof Approach

Now, there is one surefire way to have only the Visual C++ Redistributables that you truly need.

  1. Make sure you have a backup of your data.
  2. Perform a clean reinstall of Windows.
  3. Reinstall the applications you use from scratch.
  4. Restore your data from backups or any other convenient sources.

By following these steps, you’ll have a fresh installation with only the redistributables that are truly required by your applications.

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But my friend, after going through all that trouble, you might just find yourself in the same situation again.

So, in my opinion, it’s simply not worth it. Stick to the safer route and leave things as they are.

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