MSI Application Packaging – Tutorial 1 – Understanding Vendor Installers

3 Common Vendor Installer Types


There are three common vendor installer types that every application packager will come across. Knowing which type you have been given to work with is important in determining the best approach in which to apply the customisation requirements.

Below we take look at the 3 types that are typically found, Win32 EXE, MSI and the EXE wrapper with an MSI.

Table 1: 3 common types of vendor installer types.


Win32 EXE (Native Executable)

This type of setup installer also referred to as a native executable, is designed to be operating system agnostic and contains custom installation control behavior, software vendors will usually add dialogs to the installation in order the enable a user to configure software setup at the time of install. These EXE installers can also have the capability to receive configuration commands that can be passed on a command line as well as output installation log files to the user temp folder %TEMP%

Command line parameter options to perform an unattended install and uninstall is not common with these types of installers.

Examples of common native Executables

  • Winrar – winrar.exe
  • PdFCreator
  • Putty – Putty.exe


MSI (Microsoft Installer)

Is a Microsoft only supported file type designed to be a delivery mechanism of software installation. The MSI relies on the Microsoft Windows installer service, which is a service (msiexec.exe) found in all of Microsoft windows operating systems and like other Microsoft system services or platforms, there have been different versions that have been shipped as part of the different Windows operating systems. The latest windows installer version to be released with windows 10 is version 5.0.10240.1634.

The MSI file is still used today as an alternate delivery mechanism for Application virtualisation technologies like Microsoft App-V and VMware Thinapp.

Examples: Windows Installer MSI

  • Orca – Orce.msi
  • 7zip – 7ZIP.msi


Win32 EXE wrapper with MSI

The third type of installer that is commonly used by major software vendors including Microsoft. A wrapper executable is a native Win32 installer that contains proprietary code with smarts to check target operating system state and configure complex requirements for successful attended and unattended software installation.


The EXE wrapper can also contain single or multiple embedded MSI’s used as part of its installation process to deliver software.


These wrappers are sometimes also designed to accept MSI command line parameters that can  pass-through settings to achieve an unattended installation. Although this is a vendor supported method of customisation for wrapper installers. To achieve greater customisation, distribution and SOE management capabilities, it is best to extract or separate the MSI/s to customise directly using supported windows installer customsation.


Examples: Exe wrappers with MSI’s embedded or used as part of the

  • Microsoft Office 2013 – Setup.exe
  • Autocad DWG viewer 2015

Examples: Exe wrappers with MSI’s embedded

  • Adobe Reader 11
  • Adobe Air
  • Apple Itunes 12


Asking yourself the question “What is a Native EXE installer?,  then check out more in our next tutorial

“What is a Native EXE installer”


New to Application Packaging, check out some more of our online tutorials.



Author: Geoffrey Regalado

With career spanning over 10 years specialising as an Application Delivery Systems and Application Packaging engineer, I have worked on various enterprise projects as a technical lead and consultant. As a specialist trainer in MSI, application virtualisation and layering technologies i am also a tech evangelist in the field.