MAKEMSI quickly and reliably creates MSI files in a non-programmatic way
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Have your say! Join the MAKEMSI discussion list or view archive! Suggest improvements. No question too simple or too complex.
\->Building or Updating MSIs->Repackaging - Converting an EXE to MSI->Recreate Setup

Recreate Setup

I don't use "hands off" setup capture programs so where an installer is so crappy I can't reliably wrap it, I generally try reverse engineering the installation process. You generally put enough thought into this process to eliminate the most likely setup capture related issues.

A large number of products are simply a bunch of files plus some registry and so are simple to handle. Java applications are examples where little use of "fancy windows features" are likely.

These are the general steps:

  1. There may be information already available in the products "read me" or on some repackaging related sites (see the links). See if you can find anything and its always worth googling the newsgroups and web.

  2. Monitor an install with a tool such as Install Watch PRO to determine where all files, registry and shortcuts go.

    The "SysInternals" site is one of my favourite sites and has many free tools (such as "FileMon.exe" and "RegMon.exe") which can help identify install activity and diagnose issues such as missing files and registry.

    Monitoring without any tools other than a comparison tool ("WinMerge.EXE" or perhaps your eyes!) is possible. Registry can be exported in text format (its sorted) with many tools including "REGEDIT.EXE" and a sorted file listing can be created with "dir c:\ /s /on /a >somefile.txt". My "IisDumpMetaBase.VBS" can produce a text file representing all or part of an IIS metabase. Do not ignore the possibilites of text comparison! In some situations this is actually the easiest approach!

  3. You need to be on the look out for files, ini files, registry or other resources that are being updated (rather than replaced). The "WinMerge.EXE" tool will simplify the determination of differences in text files. Depending on what these differences are you may need to create one or more custom actions to reproduce these changes.

  4. I'd ignore any class registration registry entries and ensure that when you install the files you specify "SelfReg=^?^" to cause self registration of any eligible files.

  5. Use "REGEDIT" or similar tool to export the located registry in "REGEDIT4" (text) format as this can easily be imported (see the "Registry Conversion" option and the "RegistryImport" command).

  6. I like the files to be stored in one or more zip files to keep everything in one place.

While this is similar to "setup capture" the real difference is that you fully understand the requirements of the install and so chances of problems are minimised and you don't have to take the full risk of recreating a full setup on a new release of a product (the installation details don't tend to change much between releases).


Microsoft awarded me an MVP (Most Valuable Professional award) in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 for the Windows SDK (Windows Installer) area.Please email me any feedback, additional information or corrections.
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Sunday August 13 2017 at 2:39pm
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Microsoft awarded me an MVP (Most Valuable Professional award) in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 for the Windows SDK (Windows Installer) area.