visual-studio 2017 - Compare two files in Visual Studio

8 Answers

You can invoke devenv.exe /diff list1.txt list2.txt from the command prompt or, if a Visual Studio instance is already running, you can type Tools.DiffFiles in the Command window, with a handy file name completion:

and folders

I saw new comparsion tool in VS 2012 for comparing two files or two versions of file. I like it. But when I tried to find it I can't because I don't use TFS. Is there a way how can I just compare two files with builtin feature in VS but without TFS?

Inspired by the accepted answer above, I found a very comfortable way how you can instantly compare two files with Visual Studio by using drag and drop or via the "Send To" context menu. It only requires a little preparation which you need to do once and then it is useful like a Swiss army knife.

File compare using drag & drop


1. Create a new batch file using your favorite text editor. Type the following:

@echo off
set vspath=C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Enterprise\Common7\IDE
start "Compare files" /B /MIN "%vspath%\devenv.exe" /diff %2 %1 First:'%2' Second:'%1'

You might notice that I have reversed the %1 and %2 parameters in the batch. This is because I noticed that the file explorer passes the 2nd file as first parameter, then the 1st file as second parameter.

  1. Save this code as VS_FileCompare.cmd to use it, modify vspath if required to match the location of devenv.exe (depending on the Visual Studio version you're currently using) *)

  2. Either create a shortcut named "File Compare" for VS_FileCompare.cmd and place it on the desktop (as used in the animation below), so it is always available to drag & drop files onto it or directly place the batch file on the desktop. That's all!


  1. Open the Windows explorer via Win + E
  2. Select two files to compare in the explorer
  3. Drag and drop them as shown in the animation below:

  4. After a few seconds (depending on the launch time of Visual Studio), the results will be shown in Visual Studio:

Note: It does not harm if Visual Studio is already open. In this case it will just open up a new window within the running instance of Visual Studio. So you can compare multiple file pairs, but please ensure you have selected only 2 files at a time.

Alternative way: SendTo context menu

Here's an alternative how you can use the batch file. It allows to use the context menu's Send To folder to compare the files.


  1. Place the shortcut into the SendTo folder. Open the Windows explorer via Win + E
  2. Open the SendTo folder by entering shell:sendto into the file explorer's address bar (as described here). Then, put the prepared shortcut into this folder.


  1. Open the Windows explorer via Win + E
  2. Select two files to compare in the explorer
  3. Assuming the shortcut is named "Compare2Files VS", you can select the two files, right-click and select Send To --> Compare2Files VS to invoke the compare as shown below:

  4. After a few seconds (depending on the launch time of Visual Studio), the results will be shown in Visual Studio:

MSDN References:
- Usage of diff window
- Visual Studio's Diff parameter

*) Because vsPath (the path to DEVENV.exe) differs depending on your version of Visual Studio, I am describing how you can find it out (Windows 10):

  1. In the Windows start menu , locate the Visual Studio icon
  2. Right-click to bring up the context menu. Select More > Open File Location.
    Windows Explorer opens with the Visual Studio shortcut highlighted.
  3. Right-Click on the Visual Studio and select Properties
  4. In the properties dialog, you can find the path in "Target:"

There is also a Visual Studio extension called CompareFiles, which does nothing else but adding the "Compare Files" entry to the solution explorer context menu. It invokes the built-in Visual Studio diff tool.

Just in case that someone (like me) doesn't want to install an all-in-one extension like VSCommands...

I had this problem as well. No TFS, but I found this article helpful.

Specifically, step 1b.

Open a Visual Studio command prompt and navigate to the Common7/IDE folder and type

tf diff /configure

In Visual Studio Code you can:

  • Go to the Explorer
  • Right click the first file you want to compare
  • Select Select for compare
  • Right click on the second file you want to compare

Visual Studio code is great for this - open a folder, right click both files and compare.

I believe this to be one of the better extension for Visual Studio 2012, it's called Code Compare and can be found here.


visual-studio file compare comparison diff