C++ programming with Visual Studio Code (2024)

C/C++ support for Visual Studio Code is provided by a Microsoft C/C++ extension to enable cross-platform C and C++ development on Windows, Linux, and macOS. When you create a *.cpp file, the extension adds features such as syntax highlighting (colorization), smart completions and hovers (IntelliSense), and error checking.

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Install the extension

  1. Open VS Code.
  2. Select the Extensions view icon on the Activity bar or use the keyboard shortcut (⇧⌘X (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+X)).
  3. Search for 'C++'.
  4. Select Install.

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Set up your C++ Environment

C++ is a compiled language meaning your program's source code must be translated (compiled) before it can be run on your computer. The C/C++ extension doesn't include a C++ compiler or debugger, since VS Code as an editor relies on command-line tools for the development workflow. You need to install these tools or use the tools already installed on your computer.

Check if you have a compiler installed

Note: There may already be a C++ compiler and debugger provided by your academic or work development environment. Check with your instructors or colleagues for guidance on installing the recommended C++ toolset (compiler, debugger, project system, linter).

Common compilers that already come preinstalled on some platforms are the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) on Linux and the Clang tools with Xcode on macOS.

To check if you already have them installed:

  1. Open a new VS Code terminal window using (⌃⇧` (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+`))

  2. Use the following command to check for the GCC compiler g++:

    g++ --version

    Or this command for the Clang compiler clang:

    clang --version

The output should show you the compiler version and details. If neither are found, make sure your compiler executable is in your platform path (%PATH on Windows, $PATH on Linux and macOS) so that the C/C++ extension can find it. Otherwise, use the instructions in the section below to install a compiler.

Install a compiler

If you don't have a compiler installed, you can follow one of our installation tutorials:


Go to the MSVC tutorial

Go to the MinGW tutorial


Go to the GCC tutorial


Go to the Clang tutorial

Note: If you would prefer a full Integrated Development Environment (IDE), with built-in compilation, debugging, and project templates (File > New Project), there are many options available, such as the Visual Studio Community edition.

Example: Install MinGW-x64 on Windows

To understand the process, let's install Mingw-w64 via MSYS2. Mingw-w64 is a popular, free toolset on Windows. It provides up-to-date native builds of GCC, Mingw-w64, and other helpful C++ tools and libraries.

  1. Download using this direct link to the MinGW installer.

  2. Run the installer and follow the steps of the installation wizard. Note, MSYS2 requires 64 bit Windows 8.1 or newer.

  3. In the wizard, choose your desired Installation Folder. Record this directory for later. In most cases, the recommended directory is acceptable. The same applies when you get to setting the start menu shortcuts step. When complete, ensure the Run MSYS2 now box is checked and select Finish. A MSYS2 terminal window will then automatically open.

  4. In this terminal, install the MinGW-w64 toolchain by running the following command:

    pacman -S --needed base-devel mingw-w64-ucrt-x86_64-toolchain
  5. Accept the default number of packages in the toolchain group by pressing Enter.

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  6. Enter Y when prompted whether to proceed with the installation.

  7. Add the path of your MinGW-w64 bin folder to the Windows PATH environment variable by using the following steps:

    1. In the Windows search bar, type Settings to open your Windows Settings.
    2. Search for Edit environment variables for your account.
    3. In your User variables, select the Path variable and then select Edit.
    4. Select New and add the MinGW-w64 destination folder you recorded during the installation process to the list. If you selected the default installation steps, the path is: C:\msys64\ucrt64\bin.
    5. Select OK, and then select OK again in the Environment Variables window to update the PATH environment variable.You have to reopen any console windows for the updated PATH environment variable to be available.
  8. Check that your MinGW-w64 tools are correctly installed and available, open a new Command Prompt and type:

gcc --versiong++ --versiongdb --version

You should see output that states which versions of GCC, g++ and GDB you have installed. If this is not the case, make sure your PATH entry matches the Mingw-w64 binary location where the compiler tools are located or reference the troubleshooting section.

Create a Hello World App

To make sure the compiler is installed and configured correctly, lets create a Hello World C++ program.

Create a C++ file

  1. On Windows, launch a Windows command prompt (Enter Windows command prompt in the Windows search bar). On macOS and Linux, you can enter these commands in the terminal.
  2. Run the following commands. They are creating an empty folder called projects where you can place all your VS Code projects. The next commands create and navigate you to a subfolder called helloworld. From there, you are opening helloworld directly in VS Code using the code command.
mkdir projectscd projectsmkdir helloworldcd helloworldcode .

The "code ." command opens VS Code in the current working folder, which becomes your "workspace". Accept the Workspace Trust dialog by selecting Yes, I trust the authors since this is a folder you created.

Now create a new file called helloworld.cpp with the New File button in the File Explorer or File > New File command.

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Add Hello World source code

Paste in the following source code:

#include <iostream>int main(){ std::cout << "Hello World" << std::endl;}

Now press ⌘S (Windows, Linux Ctrl+S) to save the file. You can also enable AutoSave to automatically save your file changes, by checking Auto Save in the main File menu.

Run helloworld.cpp

  1. Make sure you have helloworld.cpp open so it is the active file in your editor.

  2. Press the play button in the top right corner of the editor.

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  3. Choose C/C++: g++.exe build and debug active file from the list of detected compilers on your system.

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You are only prompted to choose a compiler the first time you run helloworld.cpp. This compiler becomes "default" compiler set in your tasks.json file.

  1. After the build succeeds, you should see "Hello World" appear in the integrated Terminal.

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Congratulations! You've just run your first C++ program in VS Code! The next step is to learn more about the Microsoft C/C++ extension's language features such as IntelliSense, code navigation, build configuration, and debugging using one of the Tutorials in the next section.


Get started with C++ and VS Code with tutorials for your environment:

  • GCC on Windows via MinGW
  • Microsoft C++ on Windows
  • GCC on Linux
  • GCC on Windows Subsystem For Linux
  • Clang/LLVM on macOS
  • CMake Tools on Linux


You can find more documentation on using the Microsoft C/C++ extension under the C++ section of the VS Code website, where you can find articles on:

  • Debugging
  • Editing
  • Settings
  • FAQ

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Remote Development

VS Code and the C++ extension support Remote Development allowing you to work over SSH on a remote machine or VM, inside a Docker container, or in the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

To install support for Remote Development:

  1. Install the VS Code Remote Development Extension Pack.
  2. If the remote source files are hosted in WSL, use the WSL extension.
  3. If you are connecting to a remote machine with SSH, use the Remote - SSH extension.
  4. If the remote source files are hosted in a container (for example, Docker), use the Dev Containers extension.

Enhance completions with AI

GitHub Copilot is an AI-powered code completion tool that helps you write code faster and smarter. You can use the GitHub Copilot extension in VS Code to generate code, or to learn from the code it generates.

GitHub Copilot provides suggestions for numerous languages and a wide variety of frameworks, and it works especially well for Python, JavaScript, TypeScript, Ruby, Go, C# and C++.

You can learn more about how to get started with Copilot in the Copilot documentation.


If you run into any issues or have suggestions for the Microsoft C/C++ extension, please file issues and suggestions on GitHub. If you haven't already provided feedback, you can take this quick survey.


C++ programming with Visual Studio Code (2024)


Is Visual Studio Code good for C++ development? ›

Visual Studio is a powerful IDE (integrated development environment) that is one of the most popular among C++ developers. It provides advanced features that allow them to significantly simplify and speed up the process of writing, debugging, and testing C++ code.

Can you program C++ in Visual Studio Code? ›

C/C++ support for Visual Studio Code is provided by a Microsoft C/C++ extension to enable cross-platform C and C++ development on Windows, Linux, and macOS.

Do you need a compiler for C++ in Visual Studio Code? ›

Remember, the C++ extension uses the C++ compiler you have installed on your machine to build your program. Make sure you have a C++ compiler installed before attempting to run and debug helloworld.cpp in VS Code. Open helloworld.cpp so that it is the active file.

Why is my C++ program not running in VS Code? ›

Check that you have configured the C/C++ extension in VS Code correctly. In VS Code, go to File > Preferences > Settings and search for "C_Cpp: Default Configuration Provider". Make sure it is set to "ms-vscode. cpptools" if you are using the Microsoft C/C++ extension.

Is Visual Studio Code demanding? ›

VS Code is lightweight and should easily run on today's hardware. We recommend: 1.6 GHz or faster processor.

Is VS Code good for beginners? ›

In short, if you're new to programming, Visual Studio Code is an excellent choice of code editor. It's easy to use, features syntax highlighting, supports many programming languages, offers valuable error detection and handy autocompletion.

Can I debug C++ in Visual Studio Code? ›

Visual Studio Code supports the following debuggers for C/C++ depending on the operating system you are using: Linux: GDB. macOS: LLDB or GDB. Windows: the Visual Studio Windows Debugger or GDB (using Cygwin or MinGW)

Is Visual Studio better than Visual Studio Code? ›

Visual Studio might be the way to go if you prioritize Microsoft support and robust features for complex projects. On the other hand, if you seek versatility and a lightweight environment, Visual Studio Code could be your preferred choice.

What compiler does Visual Studio use for C++? ›

Microsoft Visual C++ Microsoft Visual C++ (MSVC) is a compiler for the C, C++, C++/CLI and C++/CX programming languages by Microsoft.

What Visual Studio should I download for C++? ›

Visual Studio 2022

The most comprehensive IDE for .NET and C++ developers on Windows for building web, cloud, desktop, mobile apps, services and games.

Can you run C++ program without compiler? ›

C++ is a compiled language. That means that to get a program to run, you must first translate it from the human-readable form to something a machine can “understand.” That translation is done by a program called a compiler.

Can I run C++ on Visual Studio? ›

Have Visual Studio with the Desktop development with C++ workload installed and running on your computer. If it's not installed, follow the steps in Install C++ support in Visual Studio. Create a "Hello, World!" project. By default, it contains code to print Hello World! .

Where do I run my C++ code? ›

To run the C++ program in your terminal, you need to make sure to change the directory to the one where your program resides, you can use the 'cd <File_Path>' command to change the path and to generate an executable file, the command, 'g++ File_Name. cpp -o FileName', is used.

How to compile C++ code? ›

Compile and Execute C++ Program
  1. Open a text editor and add the code as above.
  2. Save the file as: hello.cpp.
  3. Open a command prompt and go to the directory where you saved the file.
  4. Type 'g++ hello. cpp' and press enter to compile your code. ...
  5. Now, type 'a. ...
  6. You will be able to see ' Hello World ' printed on the window.

Why can't I run C in VS Code? ›

Instead, you need to set up a C compiler to compile and run C programs. You can visit the MinGW website at http://www.mingw.org/ to install GCC and download the installer. Then Open VS code and install C/C++ extension provided by Microsoft. Now you are ready to code using C in VS code.

Is Visual Studio the best IDE for C++? ›

1. Visual Studio Code (VS Code) Visual Studio Code (VS Code) is one of the most widely used IDEs for C++. Developed and published by Microsoft, VS Code is a free and open-source code editor with powerful features.

Which is better Visual Studio or Dev-C++? ›

Yes: Visual studio is good for C++. It comes with a highly standards-conformant compiler and a highly standards-conformant version of the standard library. If you are developing for Windows in C++, it's almost always the best option.

What is the best language for Visual Studio Code? ›

JavaScript is a first-class language in Visual Studio. You can use most or all of the standard editing aids (code snippets, IntelliSense, and so on) when you write JavaScript code in the Visual Studio IDE.


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