The Microsoft .NET architecture contains the global assembly cache (GAC), a machine-wide cache for code that's shared among multiple .NET applications. For instance, assemblies used in ASP.NET (such as System.XML or System.Data) are stored in the GAC. Microsoft provides its own tools for browsing the GAC, but they're not very sophisticated and don't provide much extra information.
GACView, a freeware utility available from the NirSoft Web site of Nir Softer, is an alternative to the standard .NET assembly viewer on Windows Explorer. It lets you explore the GAC in a great deal more detail. When run, it polls the assembly cache and creates a list of everything in it: the assembly name, revision, culture, public key token, processor architecture (used with .NET 2.x and above only), the assembly signature and other mechanical details about the assembly, such as filename, version, description and so on. Double-click on any of the entries listed to bring up a manifest with each of the assembly's attributes in a list of easily copied fields. Right clicking on an entry gives you a context menu of actions, including the ability to copy out the selected file to another directory.
GACView also makes it easy to add, uninstall or delete existing assemblies. To add a new assembly, you can simply drag and drop it into the program's main menu. If an assembly refuses to uninstall the conventional way, you can delete it through the program. Also, like other NirSoft utilities, the information gathered can be exported to a variety of data formats: flat-text or delimited-text files, HTML or XML.
Important note: If you remove one of the standard assemblies packaged with .NET (such as the System assemblies), many .NET applications will no longer work correctly. If you are using this tool to remove assemblies, be extremely careful.
Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators -- and please share your thoughts as well!
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