HOWTO: Install Windows Installer with Visual Studio Installer Packages

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It may be necessary to include the Windows Installer redistributable with the package that is created with Visual Studio Installer because Windows Installer may not be present on the operating system on which you are installing your product.
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Microsoft Windows 95, Microsoft Windows 98, and Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 do not include the Windows Installer as part of the operating system. You may receive an error message indicating that the package has no file extension associated with it when you try to install. On the preceding operating systems, you need to install Windows Installer prior to launching your Visual Studio Installer Package.

To include the Windows Installer installation for all operating systems with your Microsoft Visual Studio package, follow these steps:
  1. Open your package in Visual Studio Installer.
  2. On the Project menu, select [My Project] Properties.
  3. In the Properties windows, select the Build tab.
  4. Change the Build Type to Installer with Windows Installer Loader.
  5. Build your project to create an Installer package file with a Windows Installer bootstrap loader (setup.exe file).
The bootstrap loader checks to see if the Windows Installer is already on the target computer. If not, the bootstrap loader installs the correct Installer for the operating system of the target computer. The bootstrap loader runs the Installer package file after checking for (and, if necessary, installing) the Windows Installer.

Building an installation with the Windows Installer bootstrap loader creates the following distinct files as part of your Installer package:
  • Your .msi file.
  • Setup.exe - the file that determines whether the Windows Installer resides on the target computer. If necessary, the file installs the Windows Installer.
  • Setup.ini - the file that tells setup.exe the name of your .msi file to install.
  • Instmsiw.exe - the Windows Installer for Windows NT-based computers.
  • Instmsia.exe - the Windows Installer for Windows 95- and Windows 98-based computers.
For more information, see the topic "Build Tab (Project Properties Dialog Box)" in the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) Library.

Article ID: 283168 - Last Review: 01/10/2015 12:54:34 - Revision: 3.0

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