Don’t copy my referenced assemblies

msbuild Comments

There are cases where you don’t want referenced assemblies to be copied to your output folder.

E.g. you write a plugin for an existing application, which provides a library declaring its contracts. Since the application will load that contract assembly itself, there’s no need for a second copy of the assembly in your plugin folder.

“But you can configure Visual Studio not to copy a reference to the output folder,” you may say. Well, that’s right. In the properties of a referenced assembly you can simply set Copy Local to False.


If you’re an avid user of NuGet like I am, every time you update a package, the old references are removed from your project and the new ones will be added, and Copy Local will be True again. Do you think you will always remember to change that property back to False whenever you update a package? I don’t know about you, but I won’t.

Therefore, here’s a little trick I use in such cases. I have a little MSBuild file which suppresses any referenced assembly to be copied to the output folder:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project ToolsVersion="4.0" xmlns="">

  <!-- make all references non-private, so they won't be copied to the output folder -->
  <Target Name="ClearReferenceCopyLocalPaths" AfterTargets="ResolveAssemblyReferences">
      <ReferenceCopyLocalPaths Remove="@(ReferenceCopyLocalPaths)" />


Save that snippet to a file i.e. PreBuild.targets, and include it in your project file like this:

  <Import Project="$(MSBuildToolsPath)\Microsoft.CSharp.targets" />
  <Import Project="$(SolutionDir)\.nuget\nuget.targets" />
  <Import Project="PreBuild.targets" />

That’s it. From now on the output folder will only contain your assembly (along with other build artifacts such as the pdb file, of course)