Thursday, 13 December 2012

ClickOnce Automatic Update with Continuous Deployment


We need a task-scheduled desktop application to force update itself on start-up every time it runs, so that it always executes the latest version. There may or may not be updates available for the application. This should be part of an automated deployment process, such that the developer does not need to remember to 'bump' the version number on every release.


A console or windows forms application published as a ClickOnce application has the ability to solve this. We just need to configure the application accordingly. The other element of the solution is Continuous Deployment using Team City. This will provide the automatic versioning.

Click Once

Add the following to the .csproj file to be deployed in the first property group. The following settings worth noting:

<IsWebBootstrapper> & <BootstrapperEnabled>
Gives the application the ability to download other requirements of your application.

States that the application will run from the installed files (as opposed to downloading a new executable each time - this is not possible in this scenario as we need the task to be automated).

Tells the application where to look for installation source files. Could alternatively be CD-Rom based.

<UpdateEnabled>, <UpdateMode> & <UpdateRequired>
Needed to make sure the application will check for updates and to do so prominently on screen when updates are required.

Tells the application which version it is. This setting will be overridden in when configuring continuous deployment. 

We could run the publishing wizard at this point and install the application locally. However we need this to run on a client/target machine. This deployment aspect needs to be handled by Team City.

Team City

We will assume a Build Configuration is already in place and that the files are made available from your source control. We can then start by adding a build step to 'Publish' the project in the ClickOnce format.

Build Number configuration under General Settings
Here we are setting up the build number to comply with [major].[minor].[build].[revision] format required to apply to .net assemblies. This build number will also be used to tell the published ClickOnce application which version it is currently running.

Assembly Info Patcher Build Feature
Under Build Steps you will need to enable the Assembly Info Patcher as an Additional Build Feature. This will set the assembly version of our project (and all projects in our solution) to be the Build Number set by Team City.

Build Step 1 (Publish)
Here, the only important setting is to specify the target of the MSBuild task is to 'Publish' the project we want to deploy.

System Properties under Build Parameters
These properties tell the build to set the Application Version and the Minimum Required Version to be the same property. This is what keeps the application up-to-date. By specifying that the minimum required version is the same as the latest version, the application always stays up to date.

Also use: system.Configuration = Release

Publish Url
The remaining element of this approach is to publish the necessary installation files. In the example I have specified as an example. In reality, this url could simple be the address of a virtual directory, pointing to a folder where the all the output of the build is copied to.

Build Step 2 (Copy files to Publish Path)
Therefore, the last step of the Team City build process is to copy the output to the directory our Publish Url is serving. The output required is found in the app.publish folder of our bin directory. 


You should now be able install your application. This is done by accessing the setup.exe generated by the Publish build step. Hit and you should be greeted with a download dialog. After continuing with the install the application will run immediately and you should be left with a start menu entry under the publisher name you specified.


Trigger a new build of the build configuration in Team City. This will increment your build number and re-deploy the application to the publish path. Wait for the build to complete and open your application from the start menu again. It should now attempt to update itself.


This is easily achived with windows task scheduler. You will just need to point to the 
.application file in your start menu.


  1. Thanks! I'm using this approach to deploy my ClickOnce apps now.

  2. Nice post :) I show how to setup Continuous ClickOnce deployment in VSTS (Visual Studio Team Services) on my blog at