Package Restore

To promote a cleaner development environment and to reduce repository size, NuGet Package Restore installs all referenced packages before a project is built. This widely-used feature—available in Visual Studio, .NET Core 2.0+, and xbuild on Mono—ensures that all dependencies are available in a project without requiring those packages to be stored in source control (see Packages and Source Control on how to configure your repository to exclude package binaries). You can also manually restore packages at any time.

For additional details on package restore on build servers, see Package restore with TFBuild.

Package restore overview

Restoring packages first installs the direct dependencies of a project as needed, then installing any dependencies of those packages throughout the entire dependency graph.

If a package is not already installed, NuGet first attempts to retrieve it from the cache. If the package is not in the cache, NuGet then attempts to download (and cache) the package from all enabled sources (see Configuring NuGet behavior); sources also appear in the Tools > Options > NuGet Package Manager > Package Sources list in Visual Studio). NuGet ignores the order of package sources, using the package from whichever source is first to respond to requests.


NuGet does not indicate a failure to restore a package until all the sources have been checked. At that time, NuGet reports the failure for only the last source in the list. The error implies that the package wasn't present on any of the other sources, even though errors are not shown for each of those sources individually.

Package restore is triggered in the following ways:

  • dotnet CLI: use the dotnet restore command, which restores packages listed in the project file (see PackageReference). With .NET Core 2.0 and later, restore is done automatically with dotnet build and dotnet run.

  • Package Manager UI (Visual Studio on Windows): Packages are restored automatically when creating a project from a template and when building a project (subject to the option described in Enabling and disabling package restore). In NuGet 4.0+, restore also happens automatically when changes are made to a .NET Core SDK-based project.

    To restore manually, right-click the solution in Solution Explorer and select Restore NuGet Packages. If one or more individual packages are still not installed properly (meaning that Solution Explorer shows an error icon), then use the Package Manager UI to uninstall and reinstall the affected packages. See Reinstalling and updating packages

    If you see the error "This project references NuGet package(s) that are missing on this computer" or "One or more NuGet packages need to be restored but couldn't be because consent has not been granted," turn on automatic restore by following the instructions under Enabling and disabling package restore.

  • NuGet CLI: use the nuget restore command, which restores packages listed in the project file (see PackageReference) or in a packages.config file. You can also specify a solution file.

  • MSBuild: use the msbuild /t:restore command, which restores packages packages listed in the project file (see PackageReference). Available only in NuGet 4.x+ and MSBuild 15.1+, which are included with Visual Studio 2017. nuget restore and dotnet restore both use this command for applicable projects.

  • Visual Studio Team Services: When creating a build definition on Team Services, include the NuGet restore or .NET Core Restore task in the definition before any build task. This task is included by default in a number of build templates.

  • Team Foundation Server: TFS 2013 and later automatically restores packages during build, provided that you're using a Team Build Template for TFS 2013 or later. For earlier version of TFS, you can include a build step to invoke one of the command-line restore options above. You can optionally migrate the build template to TFS 2013. For more information, see the Walkthrough of package restore with Team Foundation Build.

Enabling and disabling package restore

Package restore is primarily enabled through Tools > Options > NuGet Package Manager in Visual Studio:

Controlling package restore behaviors through NuGet Package Manager options

  • Allow NuGet to download missing packages: controls all forms of package restore by changing the packageRestore/enabled setting in the NuGet.Config file as shown below (%AppData%\NuGet\NuGet.Config on Windows, ~/.nuget/NuGet/NuGet.Config on Mac/Linux). In Visual Studio, this setting allows the Restore NuGet Packages command on the solution's context menu to work.

            <!-- The 'enabled' key is True when the "Allow NuGet to download missing packages" checkbox is set.
                 Clearing the box sets this to False, disabling command-line, automatic, and MSBuild-Integrated restore. -->
            <add key="enabled" value="True" />


    The packageRestore/enabled setting can be overridden globally by setting an environment variable called EnableNuGetPackageRestore with a value of TRUE or FALSE before launching Visual Studio or starting a build.

  • Automatically check for missing packages during build in Visual Studio: controls automatic restore by changing the packageRestore/automatic setting in the NuGet.Config file as shown below (%AppData%\NuGet\NuGet.Config on Windows, ~/.nuget/NuGet/NuGet.Config on Mac/Linux). When this option is set, running a build from Visual Studio automatically restores any missing packages. The option does not affect builds run from the command line using MSBuild.

            <!-- The 'automatic' key is set to True when the "Automatically check for missing packages during
                 build in Visual Studio" checkbox is set. Clearing the box sets this to False and disables
                 automatic restore. -->
            <add key="automatic" value="True" />

For reference, see the NuGet config file - packageRestore section.

In some cases, a developer or company might want to enable or disable package restore for all users on a computer. This is done by adding the same settings above to the global NuGet configuration file located in %ProgramData%\NuGet\Config[\{IDE}[\{Version}[\{SKU}]]]. Individual users can then selectively enable restore as needed on a project level. See Configuring NuGet behavior for exact details on how NuGet prioritizes multiple config files.

Constraining package versions with restore

When restoring packages through any method, NuGet honors any constraints specified in packages.config or the project file:

  • packages.config: Specify a version range in the allowedVersion property of the dependency. See Reinstalling and updating packages. For example:

    <package id="Newtonsoft.json" version="6.0.4" allowedVersions="[6,7)" />
  • PackageReference: Specify a version range directly with the dependency's version number. For example:

    <PackageReference Include="Newtonsoft.json" Version="[6, 7)" />

In all cases, use the notation described in Package versioning.


See Troubleshooting package restore.