Installing Visual Basic 6 (VB6) on Windows 7
No, that title isn’t a mistake or drunken threat, I actually went through the process to install Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 (VB6) on Windows 7 and it worked fine. Now, before things get out of hand with eye rolling and head shaking let me explain. If we go back, BASIC was built as a way to teach people programming. It’s English like syntax allows people to get the fundamentals of loops, decision trees, opening files and displaying data. Although you didn’t have to go through the low level process of memory management you still had the ability to declare variables, set constants and perform all those code functions without being overwhelmed. These are the building blocks that almost all languages share.
Then once you got some code control you could unleash the power of object oriented programming and the use of Forms. I think VB6 did a very good job of exposing and handling this. It was now possible to go from simple code snippets to full blow applications with buttons, tabs and dropdowns all within the same language. I thought it was a great way to learn code and actually make something useful.
Microsoft then changed the way VB worked and I think they sort of ruined it. It became too much like C and too low level which goes against what BASIC as a language was meant to be. Seems to me that Microsoft had all the right ingredients for VB6; it could be incredibly powerful for the experienced user, yet was still easily approachable by the novice.
To that end, I wanted to recreate that learning environment and while digging through some seriously old CD discs I found my Visual Studio 6 Enterprise Edition with the MSDN help files. Not only was it a bit of nostalgia, but a wee bit of gold in my hands. These rascals are hard to come by these days.
Now clearly this isn’t going to install after all these years without some sort of issue, but after a quick search it’s actually incredibly simple to get VB installed. In fact, you really only have to do 4 things to make it all work and that’s just copying a couple files around. To be honest, I was stunned and thrilled it worked. It took less than 30 minutes to get the environment set up, install VB6 and install the MSDN library and then the VB6 IDE was up and running.
To get started follow this article –
The gist of it, is this –
You need to do this stuff first:
- Turn off UAC.
- Create a zero-byte file in C:\Windows called MSJAVA.DLL. The setup process will look for this file, and if it doesn’t find it, will force an installation of old, old Java, and require a reboot. By creating the zero-byte file, the installation of moldy Java is bypassed, and no reboot will be required.
- Install DirectX 7. The process and files are available here.
- Install VB6 Common Controls, available here.
I used a Virtual Machine for my install just for the sake of argument. I’ve become a fan of doing experiments in VMs these days that way if something goes wrong or I find out I’m not actually using the programs I installed, I can just delete the thing and move on. Yes, it takes a bit of extra space, but I have plenty of drive space and plenty of ram.
I still think VB has it’s uses and it appears a lot of others feel the same way. I think it’s a great learning tool and we should do more to teach young coders the fundamentals of BASIC rather than trying to reinvent the wheel all the time. And there are still plenty of books out there on VB6 which are free to download.
But anyway, if anyone else out there is trying to set up VB6 for themselves or to help teach someone else how to code, fear not, it’s easily doable and it won’t trash the heck out of your system. Of course, you already need to have the VB6 disc images since you’re not going to find a copy too easily these days. It was actually one of the arguments or suggestions for MS to re-release VB6 as a free download. I agree.
I do have the Visual Studio 2013 Community Edition which I also plan to install just to have a more complete Dev environment. Should be interesting.
Look at that, the VB6 splash screen after all these years.
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