Using localdb with VSTS

Today I had my devops hat on and got to work with Visual Studio Team Services automated builds.

I was really hoping that the default Hosted VS2017 build agent had a copy of SQL Server or SQL Express installed so that my integration test library would be able to deploy and execute a number of tests.


System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException : Connection Timeout Expired. The timeout period elapsed while attempting to consume the pre-login handshake acknowledgement. This could be because the pre-login handshake failed or the server was unable to respond back in time. The duration spent while attempting to connect to this server was - [Pre-Login] initialization=141279; handshake=79;

System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception : The wait operation timed out

After a moment of despair and a frantic Google I sussed that SQL Express should indeed be installed, so why the Connection Timeout?

Turns out SQL Express isnt always started when your build agent starts.

I managed to fix this by introducing a PowerShell step into my VSTS Build Definition.

Version: 1.*
Display name: Start localdb
Type: inline script
Inline Script:

sqllocaldb start mssqllocaldb.

And hey presto - we have a localdb!

##[section]Starting: Start localdb
Task         : PowerShell
Description  : Run a PowerShell script
Version      : 1.2.3
Author       : Microsoft Corporation
Help         : [More Information](
##[command]. 'D:\a\_temp\455ec5ea-0200-42c0-8ddc-78ca01be30bb.ps1' 
LocalDB instance "mssqllocaldb" started.
##[section]Finishing: Start localdb

Happy testing!

— Dan