Microsoft Windows Installer Technology

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jan 21, 2001


by John Loomes

This first section is an introduction to the subject, I aim to provide articles, links to resources and useful tips - although this technology has been around for a year or more, uptake would appear to be relatively slow, as it is still not as easy as it might be to find good informtaion sources on the subject. There are a few good ones around though, and I'll try and point you in the right direction. Comments and corrections, are - as always - most welcome.

This first section is an introduction to the subject, I aim to provide articles, links to resources and useful tips - although this technology has been around for a year or more, uptake would appear to be relatively slow, as it is still not as easy as it might be to find good informtaion sources on the subject.

Introduction

Windows Installer (MSI) was first introduced with the release of Office 2000, and represents a significant leap forward in the way that applications are installed and managed. MSI is Microsoft's response to all the age-old problems associated with installing applications on the desktop: .DLL incompatibility, inconsistent behaviour of setup programs, lack of proper uninstall and rollback support, to name but a few.

Windows Installer changes the way applications install by changing the way they are engineered. In the past most setup programs did little more than copy files and write registry entries, often with little or no regard for what else might already be installed on the system. Windows Installer (MSI), divides applications into 'Products' (whole applications e.g. Office 2000), 'Features' (modules within an application e.g. Excel), and 'Components' (functional units such as .DLL's OCX's and specfic registry entries)

The key features of Windows Installer are as follows:

  • Management of shared files via components

  • Self - repair of components

  • Clean Install/Uninstall

  • Full roll-back support for failed installations

  • Advertisement of applications via Active Directory

  • Installation on locked down systems via Elevated Privleges

Windows Installer Architechture

MSI (the Windows Installer File Format), is essentially a database, describing how an application installs, and dividing it up in to parts  - i.e. Products, Features etc as described above. The MSI, along with the application source files therefore contains all the information about an application. The database format is recorded on the target PC at install time, which means the information necessary to repair the application is always available.


Windows Installer Articles by Jon Loomes

Wise for Windows Installer Macro to Automatically Set Shared .dll Attribute Check the shared .dll attribue on system files every time you save an MSI file.

Fix WISE Square Bracket Bug - Fix a bug in WISE 3 that creates invalid registry entries

Export File List from MSI using VBS - Export File names from MSI Packages to an Excel spreadsheet

Extract Source files from WISE MSI Packages using VBS - Extract source files from WISE for Windows Installer Packages

Links to the best Windows Installer Links on the Web - Whether your new or a seasoned pro. You'll find these useful! Actually if your a seasoned pro and havent looked at these sites,  I'd like to know where you got your info from!

Windows Installer Best Practices - Several suggestions for things you might want to consider when writing MSI packages.


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