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Windows Installer Basics: Transforms

Public properties (all upper case) can be tweeked from the command line during an install (silent or not) but other configuration alterations may need the database to be manipulated.

This manipulation can be performed manually using "ORCA" or automatically using "MAKEMSI". MAKEMSI can also create transforms with the "transform" command (also see the "Create a MSI Transform" repackaging section).

You could install this changed MSI or use this "after" copy to create a transform file (*.MST) which can be specified during install to dynamically alter the original unchanged MSI (in memory).

More than one transform can be applied at install time (listed in the TRANSFORMS public property).

Some known issues with transforms:

There is an undocumented way of imbedding language transforms inside an MSI and having these automatically applied, this is documented at "http://www.installsite.org/pages/en/msi/articles/embeddedlang/".

The MsiDiff.VBS tool can display the contents of a transform as do some Windows Installer SDK tools.

Please be aware that transforms can't capture all details (for example "_Streams" table changes) so if you are having problems be sure to check the generic Windows Installer documentation for more information.

SDK Tools

The Windows Installer SDK supplied script "WiGenXfm.vbs" can generate a transform given two MSIs ("before" and "after").

As the "after" MSI could be created automatically using "MAKEMSI" the whole transformation creation process could be automated.

The "ORCA" tool is also capable of manually creating transforms.


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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Microsoft awarded me an MVP (Most Valuable Professional award) in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2009 for the Windows SDK (Windows Installer) area.