Create and Distribute MSI software packages using WinINSTALL


From past few days, there was a thought of implementing a guest post section on Msigeek. This was just to bring-in experts from different areas to showcase their expertise and share their knowledge/product with us!!

Well, Let me introduce the author of this post. His name is Scott Drucker and he has been working as a Senior Systems Engineer with Scalable Software. Scalable is a leading innovator in delivering cost-effective IT Asset Lifecycle Management solutions.

Scott has been building software packages with WinINSTALL for over 10 years now. Scott can be reached at sdrucker[at]scalable.com.

Over to Scott’s Article…

How to Create and Distribute MSI software packages using WinINSTALL

As an engineer, I find myself constantly evaluating software. I comb the internet trying to find products for whatever project I may be working on at that time. When it comes to the packaging of custom MSI files or editing of vendor supplied MSI files; I need a product that will give me maximum configurability with the least amount of headaches. Even before I began working for Scalable Software, I had used WinINSTALL to package minor applications for distribution with Active Directory and created transforms for our vendor supplied MSI files.

What I needed was a product that allowed me to do several things. First, I needed to be able to edit the tables of the MSI files directly; without having to use an external editor tool like ORCA. I also needed a product that would allow me to create shortcuts for the applications I created; push out registry keys when necessary; perform ASCII or INI file edits; push out already configured Services that would run with the credentials that I specify and also be able to edit existing MSI files by creating transforms or merge modules.

The snap-shot process was simple. The User Interface was a breeze to use compared to the other products on the market. I took a clean machine, performed a before snap-shot. Installed the setup.exe I wanted to make into an MSI. I customized the software the way I needed to, by creating shortcuts and a couple of TCP/IP connections for our emulation software. Then I ran the after snap-shot. I took a clean machine without the application installed, pushed it down to the machine and it installed like it was supposed. Creating the shortcuts and the TCP.IP connections.

WinINSTALL gave me the ability to perform all of these functions. Now I am not a scripting genius by any means, and for me WinINSTALL was perfect because its geared towards the Desktop Administrator and not the software developer. I looked at numerous products and compared each one to see which product would meet my needs. In the end, WinINSTALL was the wisest choice for me. I was able to take a vendor supplied MSI such as Office and create transforms for the installation, so that each group or department I pushed Office to, would get a different installation. Maybe some departments needed Higher Macro Security set and other departments needed certain options enabled that are out of the scope of a cookie cutter installation. With Adobe, I was able suppress the Eula agreement and disable the Update messages that plague users on a daily basis. I was also able to delete the Adobe Acrobat Reader icon from the Desktop, since in effect, this is a useless icon. WinINSTALL gave me that flexibility. It also allowed me to create Printer MSI installations and edit config files for existing applications not originally packaged with WinINSTALL.

Best of all, and well worth its weight in gold, was the ability to then distribute these applications to my end users. I was able to mass deploy Office 2003 to over 500 users which performed an Upgrade from Office 2000 and set the specific options that my users required.

So the benefit here, is that you can take a Suite product like WinINSTALL’s Desktop Availability Suite or Desktop Management Suite; create your packages with all the customizations necessary and then distribute them from one product. Scalable Software’s WinINSTALL Desktop Availability Suite combines the standard desktop management functions that administrators use for day to day asset management, software packaging and deployment, and patch management; while automating with a Zero-touch methodology, three of the most labor-intensive IT management tasks: PC Refresh, OS Migration, and PC Recovery.

If you already have a distribution process, you can download either the free version of Scalable’s MSI Packager or for your advanced MSI packaging needs, the MSI Packager Professional. You can find all of these products here

Scott’s Thoughts on MSigeek.com
“MSIGeek.com is a very informative site for any MSI user. You don’t need to be an expert to work with MSI’s, and MSIGeek’s How To’s and Best Practices sections, provide some valuable information to not only newbies but experienced end users. I myself, am very impressed with how well they have been covering the maturity of Windows 7. Way to go guys and keep the information coming!!”