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MSBuild .targets files

MSBuild includes several .targets files that contain items, properties, targets, and tasks for common scenarios. These files are automatically imported into most Visual Studio project files to simplify maintenance and readability.

SDK-style projects (projects with something like <Project Sdk="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">) import .targets files differently compared to projects that don't reference an SDK. For SDK-style projects, you don't see the imported .targets file in the project file, because those imports are managed by the SDK that you reference. However, SDK-style projects are equivalent to non-SDK-style projects with standard imports before and after the main body of the file, so it's still accurate to say that the standard .targets files are imported in those projects.

.NET SDK targets are installed with the .NET SDK, for example, at C:\Program Files\dotnet\sdk\{version}\Sdks\Microsoft.NET.Sdk\targets\ for Microsoft.NET.Sdk on Windows. For a complete list of SDKs and what .targets file they import, see .NET project SDKs.

Projects that don't specify an SDK usually explicitly import one or more .targets files to define their build process. For example, C# projects created by earlier versions of Visual Studio import Microsoft.CSharp.targets, which imports Microsoft.Common.targets. The C# project itself defines the items and properties specific to that project, but the standard build rules for a C# project are defined in the imported .targets files.

The $(MSBuildToolsPath) value specifies the path of these common .targets files. For .NET projects, the path is typically {Visual Studio installation folder}\MSBuild\Current\Bin\{architecture}.


For information about how to create your own targets, see Targets. For information about how to use the Import element to insert a project file into another project file, see Import element (MSBuild) and How to: Use the same target in multiple project files.

Common .targets files

.targets file Description
Microsoft.Common.targets Defines the steps in the standard build process for Visual Basic and C# projects.

Imported by the Microsoft.CSharp.targets and Microsoft.VisualBasic.targets files, which include the following statement: <Import Project="Microsoft.Common.targets" />
Microsoft.CSharp.targets Defines the steps in the standard build process for Visual C# projects.

Imported by Visual C# project files (.csproj).
Microsoft.VisualBasic.targets Defines the steps in the standard build process for Visual Basic projects.

Imported by Visual Basic project files (.vbproj).

If you open and view files, you see they're rather thin wrappers around other .targets files, usually Microsoft.{language}.CurrentVersion.targets, or for cross-targeting scenarios, Microsoft.{language}.CrossTargeting.targets.


Directory.Build.targets is a user-defined file that provides customizations to projects under a directory. This file is automatically imported from Microsoft.Common.targets unless the property ImportDirectoryBuildTargets is set to false. For more information, Customize your build.

See also