If you have just written a program in Microsoft Visual C++ or Visual Studio (2005 and above, I believe), try to run it on another machine, and get the error message “This application has failed to start because the application configuration is incorrect. Reinstalling the application may fix this problem.” then you want to read on. If you just want to see me rant at Microsoft, read on as well.
The problem is really simple. If you write a C++ program, it links dynamically to the C Runtime Library, or CRT for short. This library contains your
strtok, etcetera. The library is contained in the file called MSVCR80.DLL. This file is not by default installed on a Windows system, hence the application cannot run.
The solution? Either install the DLL on the target machine through VCREDIST.EXE (the Visual C++ Redistributable Package), or link to the CRT statically (plug the actual code for the used functions straight into your EXE).
Distributing and installing VCREDIST along with a simple application is a pain in the arse, so I went for the second option: static linking. It's really easy: go to your project's properties, unfold C/C++, click Code Generation, and set the Runtime Library to one of the non-DLL options. That's all there is to it.
Now comes the rant part: how much effort it took me to figure all this out. You have been warned.
- “This application has failed to start because the application configuration is incorrect. Reinstalling the application may fix this problem.” What kind of error message is that? It's like saying “sorry, your car does not work, because the engine won't start; please buy a new car.”
In the very least, you could tell me that I'm missing a DLL. Preferably also tell me which particular DLL.
- Reinstalling the application, like the error message suggested, did of course not fix my problem. But the message also does not give a hint where to go looking for the error. It took some web searching to figure that out: the Event Log. Itself hidden quite well inside Windows, it told me which particular DLL was missing on the system. The Dependency Walker, that also comes with Visual Studio, told me that MSVCR80.DLL was indeed the culprit.
The error message should at least point toward the more useful information: “See the Event Log for details.”
- I searched around on the web for MSVCR80.DLL and found its purpose. It turned out to be possibly the most basic library any C programmer could wish for. So why the heck is it not installed on any Windows system? It turns out that some older versions of the CRT are installed with Windows, but these are really ancient and buggy, and I honestly wouldn't know how to make Visual Studio link against them.
So why, in these days of automatically updating systems and always-on internet connections, is this small (612 kB) but very essential DLL not included in service packs, or in Windows Update?
- Now, to fix the problem, I had to install the DLL on the target system. Simply dropping it alongside my application didn't work, because nowadays DLLs actually need to be installed. This is because modern DLLs are what Microsoft calls Side-by-side (SxS) Assemblies, which have been introduced in a brave attempt to diminish DLL hell. I don't know the gory details; it's something to do with manifests, and probably lots of candles, pentagrams and holy water as well.
Anyway, you cannot download the VCREDIST installer straight from the Microsoft website, because there's only an old version there. Or is there? A newer page does give you what you want, and there's a 2008 version too.
- Thinking that it must be possible to link statically to the C Runtime Library, I looked into the project options in Visual Studio. I could not find the option there. Not very surprising, considering its name: “Runtime Library.” What runtime library? The Grand Unified DLL of Making Coffee? Or is this just a general option relating to runtime libraries in general? The default value (“Multi-threaded DLL”) seems to suggest this. I dared not touch this option for fear of breaking my application. It's a common problem with Microsoft: they often use a very generic-sounding name for something very specific.
Had the thing been called “C Runtime Library linkage” instead, I would immediately have grasped its meaning.