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Posted on: Tuesday, 06 February 2007 by Rajiv Popat

I've often said that the really good part about Windows is What can be done, or sometimes... what happens ("seemingly automatically"), can be undone (and explained). The same is also true for Visual Studio 2005. At rare occasions there are errors in the IDE which seem magical and mysterious. With the right debugging techniques, commands, some time the mysterious errors can be fixed and explained.

I've been busily coding away at Windows Workflow Foundation for a few months now. Currently I'm using the final released version of Windows workflow foundation with the released version of Workflow extensions for Visual Studio, and my experience with WF has been very good. So when this strange error popped up today without any particular reason, I was a little surprised.

The error wasn't very helpful in describing what was going wrong. All it stated was: Package Load Failure. It basically said - "Package 'Microsoft.Workflow.VSDesginer.DesignerPackage, Microsoft.Workflow.VSDesigner, version=3.0.0.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35' has failed to Load Properly (GUID = {some_guid}..." and then it went on to ask me If I wanted to disable my workflow foundation extensions for now.

Even though my workflow project opened and worked perfectly this was just an irritating error which popped up every time I started Visual Studio 2005. Determined to put an end to this harmless yet irritating error, I started my investigation and Google searches.

I started off with basic commands like - "devenv.exe /setup" - which did not fix the issue at hand. Then there were posts out there which suggested that I delete my native images and regenerate them using the ngen.exe tool. That solution did not seem to work either.

After a few hours of Google searches I came across this post which basically described what the issue was. Turns out, a few days ago I had tried my hand at writing Visual Studio Add-ins and had forgotten to delete an Add-In I had written. Remains of my HelloWorld Addin existed in "C:\Users\admin\Documents\Visual Studio 2005\Addins" on my Vista Partition.

All I had to do was to delete the ".Addin" file (which btw, had nothing to do with Windows Workflow Foundation, so it's a little difficult to suspect this would be the cause of the problem) and as soon as I had done that Visual Studio Started without any Windows Workflow Extension Add-in errors.

If this doesn't do the trick for you - here are few other commands / resources which are usually helpful in catching and fixing Visual Studio.NET 2005 IDE issues:

  1. devenv.exe /setup - very useful for a host of other IDE setting related problems or if you just want to restore VS settings to their original state. Did not help in my case because the failed add-in was something I had written myself and my problem had nothing to do with visual studio settings. In my case, the settings were just fine, even though I had initially suspected that they had gone corrupt. 
  2. ngen.exe - Aaron Stebner's Post describes this pretty elaborately. The basic idea here is to delete your Visual Studio Native Image files and regenerate them using this tool.
  3. devenv.exe /log - this generates XML log which can be quite helpful in trouble-shooting various startup issues with the IDE.

And if you're still struggling Aaron Stebner also provides a Definitive list of workarounds for Package Load Failure errors in Visual Studio 2005, here.

We spend so much of our time with the IDE everyday writing code. Mysterious errors like give us a chance to look under the hood and see what's going on. It's just like the joy of fixing that little problem in your car, yourself. After all knowing how to fix minor problems with your car, or knowing how to replace a flat tire, is also important besides knowing how to drive. Isn't it? :)