Installing and configuring Microsoft Visual SourceSafe for Internet (Remote) access

Visual SourceSafe Internet is a source control MSSCCI plugin for Visual Studio that allows remote access to VSS databases. Configuring VSS for Internet access may require in the best case only enabling 2 checkboxes in admin interface, but in the worst case may require granting permissions or instaling and accepting certificates. I believe that someone not familiar with SourceSafe will find it difficult to set all options correctly for Remote access, therefore I decided to write this page as a step-by-step tutorial. In the examples below I'll use the worst case scenario: 2 computers not in the same domain, new vss database without matching Windows users, untrusted SSL certificate, etc.

The name of the server computer in my home network is ALINC-HOME, and it is visible on the Internet using address.
I logged in on the home machine as ALINC-HOME\Alin to configure the VSS for remote access.
I want to create a SourceSafe database on the home machine, and access it from the work network, where I'm logged in on ALINC00 machine joined to REDMOND domain as REDMOND\alinc.
(The pictures below that have the XP Luna style are from the work machine, while the pictures with the classic Windows style are from the home machine)

Installing Microsoft Visual SourceSafe Internet

  1. You need to install Microsoft Visual SourceSafe on both client and server machine (server is the machine that will host the VSS database).
  2. On Server, select Custom Install and make sure you select the "Server Components" (or at least the HTTP Remote Access component); they are not installed in Default installation confuguration.
  3. On Client machine, you can select the Default (although I see no reason for doing this - you only save about 600kb disk space).
  4. After installing Visual SourceSafe, you must select the VSS Internet plugin as the active source control provider.
    If you use Visual Studio 2005, you can use Tools/Options menu, select the SourceControl/Plug-in Selection page in the options tree, and in the combobox select the "Microsoft Visual SourceSafe (Internet)" plugin, like in the picture below:

    Select SourceSafe Internet as active source control provider in Visual Studio 2005

    If you use Visual Studio 2003 or older you will need to use a 3rd party MSSCCI switcher. To obtain one, you can search google or download the SccSwitcher by Soenke Schau. You can also manual switch between the active providers by manually registering with regsvr32 the MSSCCI dll (ssscc.dll for VSS/LAN and RemoteVssScc.dll for VSS/Internet).

Setting up SourceSafe and VisualStudio for Internet access (HTTP)

Because the communication with the server is not secure when HTTP protocol is used, I would recommend this configuration only if you're trying to access a VSS database that is in the same LAN (that you can also access with LAN plugin) but when the direct LAN connection to the server is too slow. Using VSS Internet plugin should provide a perfomance improvement over using the LAN plugin over slow networks.
I'd also recommend trying this configuration as a step first when you're configuring your database for SSL access.

  1. For start, on the server machine, use SourceSafe Administrator program (ssadmin) to create the database. Open SSAdmin and select File/New Database menu, then follow the wizard. I selected for the database location D:\Programming\VssDB. Since this will be a new database, it will only have the default VSS accounts(Admin and Guest) plus an account for the current user on server (Alin).
  2. To enable the database for remote access, you'll need the database to be shared. I used WindowsExplorer and shared the D:\Programming\VssDB folder as \\alinc-home\VssDB.
  3. In SSAdmin, use the File/Open Database menu. Click Add button in the open dialog and re-add the database with the UNC location (\\alinc-home\VssDB).
  4. After opening the database in SSAdmin from the share location, the Server/Configure menu item can be used.
  5. In the Server Configuration dialog, select the SourceSafe Internet tab and check "Enable SourceSafe Internet for this computer" and "Enable SourceSafe Internet for this database" checkboxes.
  6. In the web server name box, type in the name of the server as it will be visible from Internet, in my case '', and click Ok button.

    Configure SourceSafe web service for Remote Access

  7. If everything went ok you should be able to access the service from Internet Explorer. You can verify this by opening the web service URL in Internet Explorer: You may get a login dialog, where you need to use a Windows account that is valid on the server (or on the server's domain). In my case, I selected to login as ALINC-HOME\Administrator. (Note: in real-life you should not use an account with administrative privileges like the Administrator account. You should instead create and use a regular user account with restricted privileges to access SourceSafe databases over Internet.)

    Authenticate with the server to access the VSS Service URL with Internet Explorer

    If the server was configured correctly, you will get a "Server Error in /SourceSafe application" page. This is expected; for security reasons, VSS Web Service is configured to disallow browsing the service functions. It is recommended to leave these settings unchanged. (If you really must alter the settings to convince yourself the service is working, you can edit the web.config file for the service and change the custom error mode to off (<customErrors mode="Off"/>) and delete the <remove name="Documentation"/> line).

    SourceSafe web service is now accessible with Internet Explorer

  8. The VSS web service uses impersonation. This means that Windows account used to authenticate with the server must also be granted read-write access to the dabase share. Using WindowsExplorer on the server, set the share permissions to allow write access to the database share. In my case, I will need to grant read-write access to the ALINC-HOME\Administrator account.

    Set read-write permission on the database share

  9. If your database is on NTFS partition (which is recommended, for stronger security), you must also set the NTFS permissions for the folder.

    Set NTFS permission on the database folder

  10. When SSL is not used to connect to the web service, VSS client will not pass any user names or passwords to the service. Because the VSS web service uses impersonation, the username of the Windows account used for authentication with IIS (ALINC-HOME\Administrator) will also be used as a VSS account when attempting to open the database. Do not forget to add the user as a VSS user (in my case, I'll have to add an 'Administrator' account as a VSS user)

    Set NTFS permission on the database folder

  11. Your SourceSafe database must allow automatic logon with network names (this is the default and can be verified in SSAdmin, Tools/Options/General/"Use Network name for automatic user log in").
  12. It is now time to configure Visual Studio to be able to access the service. On the client machine, in VisualStudio access the plugin's Advanced options. If you're using VS2005 this is available under Tools/Options/SourceControl/Plug-in Settings/Advanced. If you're using VS2002 or VS2003 this is under Tools/Options/SourceControl/SCC Provider/Advanced. In the Advanced options dialog, turn off the "Always use SSL to connect and close the options pages and click OK in the Advanced options dialog.

    Turn off SSL requirement to access unsecured the SourceSafe web service from VisualStudio

    Note that although Visual Studio has a Login ID field in the Plug-in Setting page, the VSS account name specified here will NOT be passed to the web service when connecting using HTTP! Instead, the web service will use impersonation and use the 'Administrator' account I used when I authenticated with the server.
  13. You can now open the File/Open Project dialog, click the "Visual SourceSafe (Internet)" tray, use the AddSourceSafeDatabase command and follow the wizard, typing in the server name and the database share on the server. If everything was setup correctly in previous steps, clicking Next should connect to the server without any errors, and you should be able to complete the wizard and browse the database.

    Add SourceSafe database on client for Internet access

    Note: If by clicking the Next button in the wizard you get an error message that says "The Visual SourceSafe Web Service returned the following error: (blah)", it means the service is accessible, but it cannot login to the database; check the settings from steps 8-12. If you get a different error message you probably have a connection problem, so you should check steps 5-7.

Setting up SourceSafe and VisualStudio for Secure Internet access (HTTPS / SSL)

Before attempting to enable the SourceSafe web service for secure communication, I strongly advise you to enable it for HTTP access first (it will help reduce the possibility of a connection failure because you forgot some database, server or client configuration). In the steps below I'll assume the database was already enabled for http access, like described in the section above.

  1. First of all, you'll need to obtain and install a certificate on your server. If you're running Windows Server, you can install and use Certificate Services (Windows Server component) to request, approve and install the certificate. This article describes how to set up Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) that way. If your server machine is part of a domain, you may already have a certificate assigned automatically when you joined the domain; in this case you just need to configure IIS to use that certificate (so you may want to verify this is true by trying to assign an existing certificate).
    In any case, if you don't have a server handy or you don't want to go through the hassle of learning to use Certificate Services, the easiest way to obtain and install a certificate on the web server is by using the SelfSSL program provided free with IIS 6.0 Resource Kit. See this article describing the procedure for using SelfSSL to create and install the certificate in IIS. In my case, I used SelfSSL to create and install a certificate for domain. (selfssl.exe / /V:1024)
  2. THIS IS IMPORTANT! Visual SourceSafe Web service can be enabled from SourceSafe Admin only if the certificate is valid and trusted by the server machine. Attempting to require SSL for the web service when the certificate is not trusted or invalid will result in the web service being disabled on the machine!
    Similarly, the web service can only be accesed from client machines if the certificate is valid and trusted by the client machine. For security reasons, if you attempt to access a service whose certificate is not trusted, the connection will fail and you'll receive various error messages from VisualStudio. Here is what you should be careful of: Notice that when I created the certificate, the name I passed to selfssl.exe matched exactly the server name in the URL, and the name from SSAdmin/Server/Configure. The certificate is also valid. However, certificates issued with SelfSSL are not trusted (neither on server nor on client), so I'll have to fix this.
  3. On the server machine, open an InternetExplorer and browse to the site's URL ( or to the web service ( using HTTPS protocol, to see if the certificate is accepted without any security alert.
    If you're using Internet Explorer 6.0 and the certificate is not trusted, you'll get a security alert like in the following picture:

    Internet Explorer 6.0 displays a security alert if the certificate is not trusted

    While you can clich Yes button and have the certificate accepted for that InternetExplorer session, that will not be enough to have the certificate usable with VSS Internet. You'll have to click the "View Certificate" button to display and install the certificate first.
    If you're using Internet Explorer 7 and the certificate is not trusted, you'll see a page blocking access to the website like the one below:

    Internet Explorer 7.0 blocks access to the website if the certificate is not trusted.

    Click the "Continue to this website (not recommended)" link on the page, then click the "Certificate Error" red notification in the Internet Explorer address bar. This will display a popup window with additional information about the certificate error.

    Internet Explorer 7.0 displays additional information about the certificate.

    Use the "View Certificate" link in the information popup to display the certificate information.

    View the SSL certificate before accepting and installing it.

    On the certificate page use the "Install Certificate" button, and follow the wizard. Continue with the wizard accepting the default options (page1, page2, page3), answer Yes to the security warning and now the certificate should be accepted.
    On Vista, if you run with UAC enabled the certificate page may not have an Install button, like in the following picture.
    On Vista, the certificate page does not have Install button
    To install the certificate on Vista, make sure you are logged in using an account in Administrators group. Also, make sure you start Internet Explorer 7.0 elevated by right clicking the IE7 icon and specifying "Run as Administrator" (doing this should display the Install button in the certificate page.) Also, in the second page of the wizard, don't let the certificate be placed automatically in a store based on the certificate type; make sure you explicitely select the "Trusted Root Certification Authorithies/Local Computer" store, as indicated in this picture page2 of the wizard for Vista. (Failing to do this will make IE work without warning only for the administrator accout.)
    After this if you try to browse the server's URL using https you should not receive the warning anymore.
  4. On the server, open SourceSafe Administrator again, open the database using the network share (\\ALINC-HOME\VssDB), open the Server/Configure dialog and check "Require secure communication using SSL" checkbox. Click the Ok button and the web service should be enabled for SSL.
    Note: If you get an error message that SSL could not be enforced and the service is disabled, verify again the settings from step 2 and 3. Make sure you have the right server name in the Service URL edit field, restart SSAdmin program (so it won't have cached connections, etc) and try again.
  5. Repeat step 3, this time on the client machine. This will take care of the certificate being trusted by the client. Note that before this step, if you tried to use the web service on the client from VisualStudio the connection would hava failed with various error messages. (If you attempted the connection and failed you may need to restart VisualStudio or wait 30 seconds for the VisualStudio cached connection status to expire).
  6. After the previous step the connection should work again, this time using HTTPS protocol. Note that because you still have provider's Advanced options set not to use SSL by default, VisualStudio will still make one HTTP request to the server, will discover that SSL is required by the server and will switch to HTTPS protocol. From now on, only HTTPS will be used to talk to the server (until VisualStudio is restarted, when the process will repeat). One other downside of working in this configuration is that VSS web service will still use the Windows account used to authenticate with the server (ALINC-HOME\Administrator) as a VSS user name (Administrator). So now it's finally the time to change that... Open the VSS Internet plugin Advanced page, check the "Always use SSL to connect to the server" checkbox and click Ok in the Advanced options dialog.

    Turn on SSL requirement to access the SourceSafe web service from VisualStudio using SSL

    You can also change the VSS username in the Login ID field if you like. I choose the VSS Guest account. From now on, VisualStudio will prompt for passwords for VSS accounts, and will pass the VSS usernames and passwords to the web service through the secure channel. The web service will then use this account to open the VSS database. Note that the account used to authenticate with the server (ALINC-HOME\Administrator) will continue to be used when the server will verify the permissions for the NTFS folder and database share.

Notes about the VSS web service

Further problems?

Translations, related articles

(Back to SourceSafe and source control integration page)