How to Create an MSI Package

MSI package is the installation in the Windows Installer format. It is similar to other installation types and includes installation resources and is designed to manage these resources in scope of deployment process. For example, it can create a folder and copy application files to this folder, register DLL libraries, create shortcuts and so on. Windows Installer technology defines a standard for MSI files, so all created MSI packages should follow this standard in order to being installed through Windows Installer.

Three Methods of MSI Package Creation

You can use different tools and approaches to create MSI packages. All of them can produce MSI files in a format compatible with Windows Installer requirements, but these tools and approaches are different by nature, provide different level of assistance and require different level of knowledge. Anyway you always have few options and can select the best approach for MSI creation in any particular case.

If you are a software developer, you can create MSI installation right from your development environment without needing third-party MSI creation tools. Microsoft Visual Studio among other things include Windows Installer development libraries that you can use to build your own MSI. Also you can use WiX project that allows to create MSI package from the XML source code.

If you prefer to use a visual interface for installation creation instead of writing everything in a source code, you can use a third-party MSI building tool. Install Shield, Wise Installer and other tools, well-known as installation editors, today allow to create installations not only in EXE, but also in MSI format as well. These tools provides you with ability to create MSI from scratch on the low level by manipulating MSI entries, so in order to use them you at least need to know and understand fundamentals of MSI format.

If none of above works for you because of the process complexity, you can try to use an automatic approach to create MSI packages. This approach is based on monitoring of system activity and capturing changes to create MSI. In this case you have to make changes to be tracked and you will get MSI package that performs these changes. This approach is implemented by EMCO MSI Package Builder tool, that can be used to create MSI on easy way or repackage EXE installations into MSI format.

MSI Creation Example

Automatic MSI package creation is the simplest and fastest way to create MSI package. You only need to start monitoring, perform changes and then stop monitoring to get MSI package ready for deployment. You can see how it works by watching the video below.