Accessing the Global Assembly Cache using Windows Explorer
This is something I have to look up every time I need to do it as I always managed to forget, so I thought it may be something that is useful to other users.
By default it is not possible to browse the physical DLLs held within the GAC (Global Assembly Cache) using Windows Explorer as it automatically uses the built in Assembly Cache Viewer to display a view of the installed assemblies along with their version, culture, token and architecture information. You don’t get to see the actual folder structure contained within it.
If you want to see the actual folders with in the assembly or access the physical DLL files then there are a couple of different methods to achieve this but the easiest by far (in my opinion) is to simply run the following command at the command prompt to map a drive to the GAC (NOTE: replace [X] with the drive letter you wish to use for browsing your GAC folder):
SUBST [X]: “C:\Windows\assembly”
SUBST Z: “C:\Windows\assembly”
The SUBST DOS command allows a drive letter to be mapped to a physical path and this will provide access to the contents of the assembly by browsing to the drive letter we selected, in this instance drive Z:\.
When accessing the newly mapped drive you will be presented with a selection of folders and you will be able to browse for the specific DLL of interest. The location will depend on the name of the assembly and whether it is an x86 or x64 DLL but it should be easy enough to location using this method.
You will now have full access to all of the physical DLLs held in the cache which can be useful in a number of situations.