Compiling the viewer (MSVS2003)

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These instructions will not work with newer versions of the viewer. See Microsoft Windows Builds for building the latest version of the viewer.

The following instructions are for compiling the Second Life viewer on Windows for Visual Studio .Net 2003. If you are using more recent versions of Visual Studio, see Compiling the viewer (MSVS2005). For other platforms including MacOS and Linux, see Compiling the viewer.

If you get lost, or these instructions are incomplete, see communication tools for a list of ways to get in touch with people that can help.

Development Environment

The following dev environment is what LL uses for Windows development. There is no reason that the Second Life viewer can not be built using other environments, but it will take some extra work.

(Instructions for building the viewer using Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET 2005 Express can be found on another page. At the time of writing, Express was freely available.)

Visual Studio .NET 2003 Professional

  • Optional: If you wish to save disk space, consider the below. Otherwise, the default VS2003 install options are fine:
  It is not necessary to install every possible VS2003 component to compile the client source.
  For the installation prerequisites, it is not necessary to install the Internet Information Server (IIS) or SQL Server 2000.
  Only the following components are absolutely needed in VS2003:
  Visual Studio .NET Professional (Required)
1.2 Visual C++ .NET
1.2.1 Visual C++ Class & Template Libraries
1.2.2 Visual C++ Run-Time Libraries Visual C++ Dynamic CRT Libraries Visual C++ CRT Source Code Visual C++ Static Single-Threaded CRT Libraries Visual C++ Static Multi-Threaded CRT Libraries
1.2.3 Visual C++ Tools Spy++ Visual C++ Error Lookup
1.6 Tools for Redistributing Applications
1.6.1 Graphics Library
1.6.2 Redistributable Merge Modules

Other Development Tools

You will also need some open source development tools.


  • CMake 2.4.8
  • Cygwin
    • When you run the cygwin setup utility make sure you have selected to install patchutils, flex, and bison (all located under "devel") which are not part of the default install. Older releases (< r79209) had several hardcoded references that expect Cygwin to be installed at C:\cygwin in the project files, however current releases rely on the build environment configuration instead.
  • ActivePython 2.3x or later - Latest Version is
    • You should install this if compiling 1.18 or later viewers, or else hack the prebuild .bat files as in VWR-1267.


  • ActivePerl was recommended for previous versions on this Wiki, but it currently appears that it is not strictly necessary unless you are planning to build your own version of all libraries (which most likely you don't want to do). So for a start it may be safe to skip it.

Source Code

The easiest way to get this working is to get source, artwork and libraries for the same version from the source downloads page and unpack them all into the same directory/folder, which ideally would be a folder in (or near) the root directory with a short name like sl_1_16_0_5. Note: Avoid folder names with spaces in them (this means avoid putting the project into your My Documents folder).

Open Source Libraries

Some libraries can be distributed with the SL source and there is a library package available with the source. As mentioned above (about the source), you can simply extract the library archive and copy the files to your code directory, maintaining the same directory structure.

If instead you are interested in compiling these libraries from their source (instead of using the above zip file of precompiled libraries provided by Linden Lab), see Compiling the viewer libraries (MSVS 2003)

Other Libraries

Linden Lab included all the libraries/includes they can ship with their source, but we can not distribute the source to the following, and you will need to follow the instructions to acquire them, below.

These steps are cumbersome and will have to be repeated for each new release (if you keep the source for each release in it's own folder). It is a good idea to build an empty directory tree for the files below, then copy these library files there. Once completed, copy the whole tree to the actual source folder (like XCOPY olibs sl_1_16_0_5 /S). You will then only need to repeat the last step for each new release, reusing the tree you have already created.

If you do not want to do this, of course you can just copy the files directly into the linden source paths.

rem OLIBS.CMD to build a folder tree for 3rd party libraries and includes
md olibs
md olibs\linden\
md olibs\linden\libraries
md olibs\linden\libraries\include
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_release
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_debug
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32\include
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32\include\GL
md olibs\linden\libraries\i686-win32\include\quicktime
md olibs\linden\indra
md olibs\linden\indra\newview


  • Download & extract fmod 3.75 api for win32 (not 4.12).
  • Copy "fmodapi375win\api\inc\fmod.h" to "linden\libraries\include"
  • Copy "fmodapi375win\api\inc\fmod_errors.h" to "linden\libraries\include"
  • Copy "fmodapi375win\api\lib\fmodvc.lib" to "linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_release" (or ...\lib\release, as applicable)
  • Copy "fmodapi375win\api\lib\fmodvc.lib" to "linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_debug" (or ...\lib\debug, as applicable)
  • Copy "fmodapi375win\api\fmod.dll" to "linden\indra\newview"

gl (pre-1.20)

Note: From 1.20 forward, LL have found suitable redistributable equivalents and ship them in the source

Quicktime (Optional)

  • Note: Quicktime download can be skipped if you can live with a build that does not play in-world movies (some minor modifications to the project are necessary then, see "QuickTime removal" on the build instructions for Visual Studio 2005).
  • Download & install the Quicktime SDK for Windows
  • Copy "QuicktimeSDK\Libraries\QTMLClient.lib" to "linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_release".
  • Copy "QuicktimeSDK\Libraries\QTMLClient.lib" to "linden\libraries\i686-win32\lib_debug".
  • Copy the contents of "QuicktimeSDK\CIncludes" into "linden\libraries\i686-win32\include\quicktime".


  • For Viewer build versions 1.21 and newer, go into the indra folder, and run the script. (This step does not apply to build version 1.20 and older.)
  • Open the indra\build-vc71\SecondLife.sln solution in Visual Studio
  • Build either ReleaseNoOpt (for debugging) or Release (for running or debugging production code). See #Configurations/Debugging Info for details on these configurations.
    • Note that the Release build also contains debug information, and can be run in the debugger.
  • To run the executable outside VS, create a shortcut to SecondLife.exe, and change the start location to linden\indra\newview\ (all the .dll will be found there.)
    • Alternately, copy the exe (possibly rename it) to your "c:\program files\second life" folder.
  • There were additional steps required in version 1.15 which seem to be fixed now. If you are trying to build 1.15 see an older version of this page.

Errors while building?

See Common compilation problems if you run into errors while building.

Configurations/Debugging Info

  • You will usually compile/debug the RelWithDebInfo or Release configuration (Debug should also work but should not really be necessary).
  • RelWithDebInfo compiles faster and has more debugging information, but this comes at a runtime penalty of about 50% of your FPS in busy areas, compared to ReleaseForDownload build.
  • Release runs fine in the debugger, but times you may miss debugger access to some local variables or the debugger may even show wrong values for objects and members, because it is confused by the optimizations.
  • RelWithDebInfo comes with a seperate debugging console window opens and stays open for the duration of your session.
  • You can see the last few lines from the debugger console also by pressing Shift+Ctrl+4 in the viewer (all builds).
  • The debug log (usually in application data) can also be redirected to a more file if you add "-log secondlife.log" to the command line (Newview, Properties, Debugging, Command line arguments).
  • If you want to build a Debug configuration, see the specific section with compile instructions on Finding_leaks

Problems Running?

  • Viewer Error: Second Life is unable to access a file that it needs.: Did you neglect to download the Artworks archive from the source downloads page? It is in the Viewer column, below the OS-specific Viewer archives.
  • Can't connect: In the debug builds there is a selection box on the login screen to select the server to connect to. Agni is the production grid, aditi is the beta grid. (There seems to be a bug in this part of the code, you may have to make your selection, close the viewer and reopen it, before you can connect to the selected grid).
  • Inventory errors: If you're getting errors while trying to load your inventory, try clearing your cache and deleting other temporary files.
  • If you want to connect to the beta grid, add --aditi to the command line (Newview, Properties, Debugging, Command line argument).
  • Missing smime3 DLL: Those are parts of the integrated web browser. Copy 'smime3.dll', 'nss3.dll', 'softokn3.dll', and 'ssl3.dll' files from your official client's main folder to "linden\indra\newview".
  • assert with star_brightness and/or Black Screen under Windlight: Current distributions of the Windlight source are missing files from the app_settings/windlight folder. Download the Linden Windlight viewer, install it and copy the files (and subfolders) into your development environment (linden/indra/newview/app_settings/windlight)

Submit Patches

This is probably far down the road, but if you make changes to the source and want to submit them, see the page about submitting patches.