Windows 8 : Managing traditional desktop applications (part 1) - Using Windows Installer in Windows 8, Running Windows Installer packages and MSIExec

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Using Windows Installer in Windows 8

Windows 8 includes version 5.0 of Windows Installer, the installation and configuration utility that enables corporate IT administrators to control how software is installed, uninstalled, and managed within a Windows environment. In addition to ensuring uniform installation of applications on computers, Windows Installer can ensure that applications are installed in a specific manner.

Windows Installer is used in many environments that run Active Directory directory service with Group Policy, which enables administrators to position user and computer objects within Active Directory to apply certain settings at computer startup or when a user signs in. Among these settings, application management is included through Windows Installer.

Windows Installer 5 brings a few enhancements to previous versions of the product, including:

  • The ability to configure services on a computer.

  • The MSIFastInstall property, which you can use to modify the options available during installation to reduce the amount of time needed to complete the process. The available options are listed in Table 1.

  • The MSIInstallPerUser property, which you can use to install applications for the current user or for all users on a computer during installation, either within the graphical user interface or with the command line.

Table 1. MSIFastInstall options




Default value


No restore point saved for the installation


Perform File Costing only, skip checking other costs of installation


Reduce progress message frequency during installation

Running Windows Installer packages and MSIExec

Many software vendors today include a Windows Installer package for their applications to make installation easier or at least more manageable for Windows administrators. There are multiple ways to install applications by using Windows Installer, including:

  • Running an application’s Setup.exe file many times. The Setup.exe file is a wrapper for a Windows Installer package that is extracted and run when the file is executed.

  • Creating batch files to run Windows Installer packages. By running Msiexec.exe from a batch script, you can make the execution silent or scheduled.

  • Double-tapping or double-clicking the Windows Installer package file. When an MSI package is double-clicked, it executes and behaves much like any other executable setup file.

  • Using Group Policy to execute a published Windows Installer package. Use this method to publish or assign applications to user accounts at sign-in or to machines at startup. The installation process is generally visible to the individual signing in, but it is not interactive.

Often, Windows administrators want applications to run silently or be minimally visible while the installation completes. Using MSIExec at the command line can help accomplish these tasks. The options available for MSIExec include:

  • Installation Options

    • /package | /I <path to MSI package.msi> Specifies the install option and the path to the package to be configured

    • /a <path to MSI package.msi> Specifies an administrative installation, creating a product installation on a network share

    • /j (u|m)<path to MSI Package.msi> Advertises the package for installation to m: All users or u: current user

    • /t <path to transform file > Applies preconfigured settings to the MSI package at installation

    • ;g <language ID> Allows a specific language to be installed

    • /uninstall | /x <path to MSI Package.msi | Product Code> Uninstalls the application

  • Display Options

    • /quiet Silent installation, no user interaction

    • /passive Unattended mode, displays only a progress bar

    • /q n|b|f Sets the user interface level; n: no user interface | b: basic user interface | f: full user interface

    • /help Displays help information for Windows Installer

  • Restart Options

    • /norestart Specifies that Windows should not restart when installation completes

    • /promprestart Displays a message following installation, prompting whomever is signed in to restart the computer

    • /forcerestart Restarts the computer when the installation completes

  • Logging Options Allows specification of the logging level that should be used with the install

  • Update Options

    • /update <update package.msp> Applies the specified updates to applications

    • /Uninstall <Patch code GUID>:<update package.msp> /package <path to MSI Package.msi | Product Code> Uninstalls the specified update from the specified product

  • Repair Options Specifies options to use in repairing Windows Installer installations



Further information about Msiexec.exe can be found by executing MSIExec with no options specified from the Start screen or at a command line.

Quick check

  • Which Windows Installer option prevents the user from seeing an application installation taking place?

Quick check answer

  • /quiet

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