Koen about .Net

March 22, 2011

GAC using the windows explorer gotcha

Filed under: Deployment — Tags: — koenwillemse @ 21:29

A few days ago a colleague of mine was deploying a patch for an application on servers. All assemblies are located in the GAC, so those assemblies had to be updated. The application runs on several frontend servers, so the patch had to be deployed to every server. The following picture show’s how this was done.


The assemblies were copied to each of the windows explorers using drop & drop. However, the issue was still available on most of the servers. An application pool recycle did not help, even an IIS reset did not fix the problems.

Now what was the problem. The files were copied to the others servers using the windows explorer, which were opened like this: \\SERVER\c$\windows\assembly. The problem however was that this is a shell extension which make the GAC looks nice in the windows explorer. It does not show the actual directory structure. If you check the GAC using a dos prompt it looks more like this:


This windows shell extension however was the cause of the unexpected behavior. You would expect \\SERVER\c$\windows\assembly to be pointing to the GAC of the remote server, however, this is not the case. It just displays the contents of the local assembly cache again. One of the other colleagues ran into this same issue once before, so he already knew about this gotcha and could point to the mistake.

Another lesson learned. When you you are using the GAC (is it really, really necessary?) make sure that you install the assemblies on the machine itself, or use a tool which you’ve made sure of that you can use it to install assemblies in the GAC on a remote server.


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