Windows Installer (previously known as Microsoft Installer, codename Darwin) is a software component and application programming interface (API) of Microsoft Windows used for the installation, maintenance, and removal of software. The installation information, and optionally the files themselves, are packaged in installation packages, loosely relational databases structured as COM Structured Storages and commonly known as "MSI files", from their default filename extensions. Windows Installer contains significant changes from its predecessor, Setup API. New features include a GUI framework and automatic generation of the uninstallation sequence. Windows Installer is positioned as an alternative to stand-alone executable installer frameworks such as older versions of InstallShield and NSIS.
Before the introduction of Windows Store, Microsoft encouraged third parties to use Windows Installer as the basis for installation frameworks, so that they synchronize correctly with other installers and keep the internal database of installed products consistent. Important features such as rollback and versioning depend on a consistent internal database for reliable operation. Furthermore, Windows Installer facilitates the principle of least privilege by performing software installations by proxy for unprivileged users.
Help screen of Windows Installer 5.0 running on Windows 7.
|Initial release||31 August 1999|
5.0 / 22 July 2009
|Operating system||Windows 2000 and later|
|Platform||IA-32, x86-64, Itanium|
|Windows Installer Package|
|Internet media type|
|Type of format||Archive|
|Container for||Installation information and an optional .cab file payload|
|Extended from||COM Structured Storage|
A package describes the installation of one or more full products and is universally identified by a GUID. A product is made up of components, grouped into features. Windows Installer does not handle dependencies between products.
A single, installed, working program (or set of programs) is a product. A product is identified by a unique GUID (the ProductCode property) providing an authoritative identity throughout the world. The GUID, in combination with the version number (ProductVersion property), allows for release management of the product's files and registry keys.
A package includes the package logic and other metadata that relates to how the package executes when running. For example, changing an EXE file in the product may require the ProductCode or ProductVersion to be changed for the release management. However, merely changing or adding a launch condition (with the product remaining exactly the same as the previous version) would still require the PackageCode to change for release management of the MSI file itself.
A feature is a hierarchical group of components. A feature may contain any number of components and other sub-features. Smaller packages can consist of a single feature. More complex installers may display a "custom setup" dialog box, from which the user can select which features to install or remove.
The package author defines the product features. A word processor, for example, might place the program's core file into one feature, and the program's help files, optional spelling checker and stationery modules into additional features.
A component is the basic unit of a product. Each component is treated by Windows Installer as a unit. The installer cannot install just part of a component. Components can contain program files, folders, COM components, registry keys, and shortcuts. The user does not directly interact with components.
Components are identified globally by GUIDs; thus the same component can be shared among several features of the same package or multiple packages, ideally through the use of Merge Modules.
A key path is a specific file, registry key, or ODBC data source that the package author specifies as critical for a given component. Because a file is the most common type of key path, the term key file is commonly used. A component can contain at most one key path; if a component has no explicit key path, the component's destination folder is taken to be the key path. When an MSI-based program is launched, Windows Installer checks the existence of key paths. If there is a mismatch between the current system state and the value specified in the MSI package (e.g., a key file is missing), the related feature is re-installed. This process is known as self-healing or self-repair. No two components should use the same key path.
However, the user interface sequence should not make any changes to the system, for the following reasons:
When the user clicks the "Install" button in a typical MSI installation wizard, installation proceeds to the Execute phase, in which software components are actually installed. The Execute phase makes system changes, but it does not display any user interface elements.
The Execute phase happens in two steps:
All installation operations are transactional. In other words, for each operation that Windows Installer performs, it generates an equivalent undo operation that would revert the change made to the system. In case any script action fails during deferred execution, or the operation is cancelled by the user, all the actions performed until that point are rolled back, restoring the system to its original state. Standard Windows Installer actions automatically write information into a rollback script; package authors who create custom actions that change the target system should also create corresponding rollback actions (as well as uninstall actions and uninstallation-rollback actions). As a design feature, if applied correctly this mechanism will also roll back a failed uninstall of an application to a good working state.
Windows Installer can advertise a product rather than actually install it. The product will appear installed to the user, but it will not actually be installed until it is run for the first time by triggering an entry point (by means of a Start menu shortcut, by opening a document that the product is configured to handle, or by invoking an advertised COM class). A package can be advertised by an administrator using Group Policy or other deployment mechanism, or by running the msiexec executable with the /jm (for per-machine advertisement) or /ju (for per-user advertisement) switch. Some MSI packages authored in InstallShield may prevent the use of these and other native MSI features.
The user must have administrator privileges to complete the advertised installation.
Similar to advertising, it installs a feature as soon as the user tries to use it.
An administrative installation creates an uncompressed source image for a product, typically to be used for installing or running an application from a network location. An administrative installation is not a typical installation, in that it does not create any shortcuts, register COM servers, create an Add or Remove Programs entry, and so on. Often an administrative installation enables a user to install the product in such a way that its features run from the uncompressed installation source.
Administrative installations are also useful when creating a Windows Installer patch, as this requires uncompressed images of the earlier and current versions of a product in order to compute binary file differences. An administrative installation is performed by running the msiexec executable with the /a switch.
Msiexec provides a way to break after loading a specified custom action DLL but before invoking the action.
A Windows Installer package may contain another package to be installed at the same time. These are ideally provided as a .msm file component, but may also be a separate executable program which will be unpacked from the installer package during the InstallExecuteSequence and can be run immediately. The file can then optionally be deleted before the end of the InstallExecuteSequence, and so is ideal for using with older installers. .msm file component is called Microsoft Merge Module and is utilized to single out and integrate common components. It contains images of all tables, which have relevant information regarding the common components. Ready-made merge modules are supplied with Visual Studio or can be downloaded from the alternative sources.
Windows Installer 4.0, which was shipped with Windows Vista, incorporates capabilities to take advantage of the User Account Control feature. If an application can install without elevated privileges, its MSI package can be marked as such, thus allowing install without prompting the user for Administrator credentials. Windows Installer also works in conjunction with the Restart Manager; when installing or updating an application or system component with "full" user interface mode, the user will be displayed a list of affected applications that can be shut down, and then restarted after files have been updated. Installer actions running in silent mode perform these application restarts automatically. System services and tray applications can also be restarted in this manner.
Creating an installer package for a new application is not trivial. It is necessary to specify which files must be installed, to where and with what registry keys. Any non-standard operations can be done using Custom Actions, which are typically developed in DLLs. There are a number of commercial and freeware products to assist in creating MSI packages, including Visual Studio (up to VS 2010), InstallShield and WiX. To varying degrees, the user interface and behavior may be configured for use in less common situations such as unattended installation. Once prepared, an installer package is "compiled" by reading the instructions and files from the developer's local machine, and creating the .msi file.
The user interface (dialog boxes) presented at the start of installation can be changed or configured by the setup engineer developing a new installer. There is a limited language of buttons, text fields and labels which can be arranged in a sequence of dialogue boxes. An installer package should be capable of running without any UI, for what is called "unattended installation".
Microsoft provides a set of Internal Consistency Evaluators (ICE) that can be used to detect potential problems with an MSI database. The ICE rules are combined into CUB files, which are stripped-down MSI files containing custom actions that test the target MSI database's contents for validation warnings and errors. ICE validation can be performed with the Platform SDK tools Orca and msival2, or with validation tools that ship with the various authoring environments.
For example, some of the ICE rules are:
Addressing ICE validation warnings and errors is an important step in the release process.
|Version||Included with||Also available for|
|1.1||Windows 2000 RTM, SP1, SP2||Windows 95, Windows 98|
Windows NT 4.0
|2.0||Windows XP RTM, SP1
Windows 2000 SP3, SP4
Windows Server 2003 RTM
Windows NT 4.0
|3.0||Windows XP SP2||Windows 2000|
Windows Server 2003
|3.1||Windows XP SP3
Windows Server 2003 SP1, SP2
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Windows Server 2003
|4.0||Windows Vista RTM, SP1
Windows Server 2008 RTM
|4.5||Windows Vista SP2
Windows Server 2008 SP2
Windows Server 2003
Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Windows Server 2008
|5.0||Windows 7 and later
Windows Server 2008 R2 and later
In October 2018, Microsoft released MSIX Packaging Tool as the successor to MSI.
|7-Zip||Igor Pavlov||7-Zip is an open-source file archiver utility, and can extract the contents of MSI files.||GNU Lesser General Public License|
|EMCO MSI Package Builder||EMCO Software||An installation editor that allows creating new MSI packages and converting non-silent EXE setups to silent MSI packages for unattended remote installation.||Shareware|
|InstallShield||Flexera Software||InstallShield is a software tool for creating installers or software packages primarily used for installing software for Microsoft Windows desktop and server platforms.||Trialware|
|Orca||Microsoft||Orca is a database table editor for creating and editing Windows Installer packages and merge modules.||Freeware|
|Visual Studio||Microsoft||Visual Studio 2002 through 2010 is capable of building Windows Installer Deployment projects that can create installer packages. Microsoft has dropped support for deployment projects in 2012 and recommends using WiX instead. While not included in the main installation of Visual Studio since 2012, Windows Installer Projects are supported in Visual Studio 2013/2015/2017 by installing an optional VSIX add-ons such as https://marketplace.visualstudio.com/items?itemName=VisualStudioClient.MicrosoftVisualStudio2017InstallerProjects.||Shareware|
|WiX||Outercurve Foundation (Microsoft)||WiX (Windows Installer XML) is a free and open-source set of tools that helps build a Windows Installer packages from an XML document. It can be either used from command-line or integrated into Microsoft Visual Studio. SharpDevelop, a free and open-source alternative to Visual Studio, has adopted WiX.||Common Public License|
Windows Installer deployment enables you to create installer packages to be distributed to users; the user runs the setup file and steps through a wizard to install the application.
App Installer is a software component of Windows 10, introduced in the 2016 Anniversary Update, used for the installation and maintenance of applications packaged in .appx or .appxbundle installation packages; they are loosely relational databases with an XML app manifest. The .appx and .appxbundle files contain either a Win32 or a Universal Windows Platform app, icons for the Start menu and taskbar, a virtualized version of any Windows Registry keys needed, and any other assets needed for the installed app to function.The only other Windows components capable of installing APPX packages are Windows Store and Windows PowerShell. However, the latter requires Developer Mode to be turned on. App Installer provides a more user-friendly interface that is opened by clicking on the installation package.The design for App Installer is similar to the one for the classic Windows Installer, which installs stand-alone MSI files. It shows the app name, the developer, the app's Start menu tile, and a set of capabilities enabled by the app manifest. If the user clicks the Install button at the bottom right corner, the App Installer checks the app's digital certificate. Unlike a standalone installer, App Installer refuses to install an app without a valid digital certificate. If the certificate is valid, the app displays a blue installation progress bar and shows the user a button to launch the app once it is fully installed.
App Installer is physically more flexible than Windows Installer. It can be resized and viewed in full-screen mode and the background changes based on the system-wide light or dark mode. Apps installed with App Installer can be updated through the Windows Store. It is also possible to update an app with App Installer by opening package with a higher version number than the one installed. Since APPX installations are sandboxed, unlike traditional software, it is possible to run multiple installations at once.Bob Kelly (author)
Bob Kelly (born April 17, 1971 in Massachusetts) best known as an expert on the deployment of the Microsoft Windows operating system.
Kelly was a cryptologic technician in the US Navy from 1989 to 1997, finishing his service as the systems administrator for communications system at the White House during the Clinton administration.
Bob Kelly is a subject-matter expert on Microsoft Windows deployment and Windows Installer technologies. He is the founder of AppDeploy.com – a resource focused on desktop management products and practices. He is author of the Start to Finish Guide to Scripting with KiXtart and The Definitive Guide to Windows Desktop Administration as well as several white papers and articles on similar topics. Kelly is also co-founder and president of iTripoli, Inc.– a software company focused on producing helpful tools for Windows administrators where he produces and supports applications like Admin Script Editor (a scripting editor for Windows Administrators).CDBurnerXP
CDBurnerXP is an optical disc authoring utility for Windows 2000 and later, written mostly in Visual Basic .NET as of version 4, released in September 2007. It has international language support. The software is available to download in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants.
The program supports burning data on CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD as well as burning audio files (WAV, MP3, MP2, FLAC, Windows Media Audio, AIFF, BWF (Broadcast WAV), Opus, and Ogg Vorbis in the Red Book format. ISO images can also be burnt and created via the program, along with UDF and/or ISO-9660 formats. Bootable data discs are also supported.
CDBurnerXP is freeware but closed source because it uses some proprietary libraries. The standard CDBurnerXP installer comes bundled with installCore but an installer without it can be downloaded. There are also versions for the x64 platform, a Windows Installer-based version for deployment via corporations and a portable version for putting onto USB or other types of media.Cabinet (file format)
Cabinet (or CAB) is an archive-file format for Microsoft Windows that supports lossless data compression and embedded digital certificates used for maintaining archive integrity. Cabinet files have .cab filename extensions and are recognized by their first 4 bytes MSCF. Cabinet files were known originally as Diamond files.
The CAB file format may employ the following compression algorithms:
DEFLATE – invented by Phil Katz, the author of the ZIP file format
Quantum compression – licensed from David Stafford, the author of the Quantum archiver
LZX – invented by Jonathan Forbes and Tomi Poutanen, given to Microsoft when Forbes joined the companyA CAB archive can reserve empty spaces in the archive as well as for each file in the archive, for some application-specific uses like digital signatures or arbitrary data. A variety of Microsoft installation technologies use the CAB format - these include Windows Installer, Setup API, Device Installer and AdvPack (used by Internet Explorer to install ActiveX components). CAB files are also often associated with self-extracting programs like IExpress where the executable program extracts the associated CAB file. CAB files are also sometimes embedded into other files. For example, MSI and MSU files usually include one or more embedded CAB files.EC (programming language)
eC (Ecere C) is an object-oriented programming language, defined as a super-set of the C language.
eC was initially developed as part of the Ecere cross-platform software development kit (SDK) project.
EMCO MSI Package Builder is a software tool that creates Windows Installer (MSI) packages. The tool allows creating new MSI packages and converting non-silent EXE setups to silent MSI packages for unattended remote installation.FarsiTeX
FarsiTeX is a free Persian/English bidirectional typesetting system based on the TeX system. The FarsiTeX project was initiated by Mohammad Ghodsi at Sharif University of Technology in 1993.
The latest (experimental) version of FarsiTeX in 2006 is released with a Windows installer, bundled with an editor and makeindex utility. The source tarball can be used on Linux and other systems as well.
It is released under the GNU GPL.INF file
In computing, an INF file or Setup Information file is a plain-text file used by Microsoft Windows for the installation of software and drivers. INF files are most commonly used for installing device drivers for hardware components. Windows includes the IExpress tool for the creation of INF-based installations. INF files form part of the Windows Setup API and of its successor, Windows Installer.
The \windows\inf directory contains several such .inf files.Merge Module
A merge module is a special kind of Windows Installer database that contains the components needed to install a discrete software bundle. A merge module cannot be installed alone, but must be merged into a standard Windows Installer installation during the creation of the installation. Typically, a merge module or a collection of merge modules related by dependencies, installs a software product or portion of a product at runtime. The purpose of merge modules is to let you add self-contained software modules to multiple installations.
For example, if there are a number of applications that require a specifically configured component, it would be possible to create a merge module that installs and configures that component. That merge module could then be added to the installation packages of each product that required that particular component. This saves the effort of having to individually add the necessary files, registry entries, and other components to every installation. It also saves time if updates are needed, as instead of updating the installations for all applications, only the merge module is updated, and the installations only need to be rebuilt.
Standard merge modules have a .msm file extension. Some merge modules may be configurable merge modules. Such merge modules contain certain values that can be set to specify how the module behaves in your installation. For example, the author of the configurable merge module may allow attributes to be set on components, enable or disable isolated components, specify a bitmap for a dialog, or specify how a custom action is run. Configurable merge modules are supported only by Windows Installer 2.0 or higher.There exist a number of pre-created merge modules which install commonly used Microsoft software packages, such as MDAC, ActiveX controls, MFC, SAPI and DCOM.Microsoft Office 2000
Microsoft Office 2000 is a release of Microsoft Office, an office suite developed and distributed by Microsoft for the Windows family of operating systems. Office 2000 was released to manufacturing on March 29, 1999, and was made available to retail on June 7, 1999. It is the successor to Office 97 and the predecessor to Office XP.
New features in Office 2000 include HTML document creation and publishing, Internet collaboration features such as integration with NetMeeting, roaming user profile support, COM add-in support; an updated version of the Office Assistant, improved compliance with the year 2000, and interface improvements including personalized menus and toolbars that omit infrequently used commands from view. Office 2000 introduces PhotoDraw, a raster and vector imaging program, as well as Web Components. It is also the first version of Office to use Windows Installer for the installation process. It also comes with Internet Explorer 5 and uses its technologies as well.Microsoft released five main editions of Office 2000 globally: Standard, Small Business, Professional, Premium, and Developer. An additional Personal edition exclusive to Japan was also released. All retail editions sold in Australia, Brazil, China, France, and New Zealand, as well as academic copies sold in Canada and the United States, required the user to activate the product via the Internet. Microsoft extended this requirement to retail editions sold in Canada and the United States with the availability of Office 2000 Service Release 1. However, product activation is no longer required as of April 15, 2003. Product activation would become a requirement for all editions of Office from Office XP onward.
Office 2000 is incompatible with Windows 3.1 and Windows NT 3.51. Office 2000 supports Windows 95, Windows NT 4.0 SP3, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista. It is the last version of Office to support Windows 95 as its successor, Office XP, is not compatible.Microsoft released three service packs for Office 2000 throughout its life cycle. The first update was called Service Release 1 (SR-1), while subsequent updates were referred to as service packs. Mainstream support for Office 2000 ended on June 30, 2004, and extended support ended on July 14, 2009.OpenCandy
OpenCandy is an adware module classified as malware by many anti-virus vendors. They flag OpenCandy due to its undesirable side-effects. It is designed to run during installation of other desired software. Produced by SweetLabs, it consists of a Microsoft Windows library incorporated in a Windows Installer. When a user installs an application that has bundled the OpenCandy library, an option appears to install software it recommends based on a scan of the user's system and geolocation. Both the option and offers it generates are selected by default and will be installed unless the user unchecks them before continuing with the installation.OpenCandy's various undesirable side-effects include changing the user's homepage, desktop background or search provider, and inserting unwanted toolbars, plug-ins and extension add-ons in the browser. It also collects and transmits various information about the user and their Web usage without notification or consent.WiX
Windows Installer XML Toolset (WiX, pronounced "wicks"), is a free software toolset that builds Windows Installer packages from XML. It consists of a command-line environment that developers may integrate into their build processes to build MSI and MSM packages. WiX was the first Microsoft project to be released under an open-source license, the Common Public License. It was also the first Microsoft project to be hosted on an external website.
After its release in 2004, Microsoft has used WiX to package Office 2007, SQL Server 2005, Visual Studio 2005/2008, and other products.WiX includes Votive, a Visual Studio add-in that allows creating and building WiX setup projects using the Visual Studio IDE. Votive supports syntax highlighting and IntelliSense for .wxs source files and adds a WiX setup project type .wixproj to Visual Studio.Windows Installer CleanUp Utility
The Windows Installer CleanUp Utility (MSICU.exe, MSICUU.exe, MSICUU2.exe) was a software utility for the Microsoft Windows operating system designed to solve uninstallation problems of programs that use the Windows Installer technology. It looks up registry references and files related to Windows Installer that were installed by various programs, and forcibly wipes invalid entries out. It works in all 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft first released the utility in 1999 to help Windows-based computers clean up installed programs that would either refuse or pretend not to remove themselves from the "add/remove programs" feature in Microsoft Windows.
The utility only changes registry values and files associated with Windows Installer and does not remove any files associated with installed programs. Only users who have logged in as system administrators may run the utility.
For developers who have problems with the Windows Installer automatically repairing their own installations on developer machines (when the developer has manually updated some of the binaries), this utility is ideal to remove the Windows Installer information whilst leaving the actual installation intact.
Microsoft retired the Windows Installer CleanUp utility on June 25, 2010, due to conflicts with Microsoft Office 2007. A Program Install and Uninstall Troubleshooter for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 was instead made available.Windows Support Tools
Windows Support Tools is a suite of management, administration and troubleshooting tools for Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003 R2 from Microsoft Corporation.Wix
Wix may refer to:
WiX, the Windows Installer XML toolset
Wix.com, a HTML5 and Flash website builder
Wix (name), a given name and surname
Wix, Essex, England
Wix Filters, automotive products made by Mann+Hummel
Vicques, Switzerland, or Wix
Paul Wickens or Wix (born 1956), keyboardistWubi (software)
Wubi (Windows-based Ubuntu Installer) is a discontinued free software Ubuntu installer, that was the official Windows-based software, from 2008 until 2013, to install Ubuntu from within Windows, to a single file within an existing Windows partition.
After installation, it added a new "Ubuntu" option to the existing Windows boot menu which allowed the user to choose between running Linux or Windows, and avoided the need to re-partition the disk.XCOPY deployment
XCOPY deployment or xcopy installation is a software application's installation into a Microsoft Windows system simply by copying files. The name is derived from the XCOPY command line facility provided by Microsoft operating systems.
In contrast, the installation of a typical Windows application will require a significant number of additional steps before the application is ready to be used. Most of this additional work involves, directly or indirectly, adding or modifying entries in the Windows Registry. Even when an application uses ordinary files for its own data, many common facilities provided by Windows require some type of registration step before they are available to programs. Usually, one or more specialized tools (such as Windows Installer, InnoSetup, or NSIS) are used to help coordinate these relatively complex operations.XWinLogon
XWinLogon is an interface to the Cygwin/X Server (The graphical interface of an X Window System) to allow the user to easily connect to a Unix/Linux box from Windows computer. The XWinLogon system is free and stable, but has not been updated since 2004-11-22.
XWinLogon has a Windows installer that makes installation easy. This installer copies the required packages of Cygwin and the frontend window that can be used to easily start an X session on a remote computer.
A known problem with XWinLogon is that it conflicts with an existing Cygwin installation.
|Spun off to|
|File system navigation|
|Maintenance and care|
|Archiving and compression|
|Software packaging and distribution|
|Document packaging and distribution|