In-Depth Installer

The Administrator’s Introduction to Application Repackaging and Software Deployment using Windows Installer provides a solid reference.

As a developer, I’ve been writing and distributing applications for many years. I first started out distributing DOS-based applications, a fairly simple task. All I had to do was copy my files to a directory on the hard drive, and people could use my application.

When Windows came out, things became a bit more complex, as we had to deal with .ini files and had to start working with something called a “registry.” At that point, we began writing more complex setup programs to make sure all files were copied to the right place and everything registered correctly. In fact, writing a setup procedure became like writing a separate program just to deploy your own application.

Originally, the installation setup was accomplished by writing scripts to copy files, but this was cumbersome; when an installation failed, recovery was difficult. In fact, this became such a burden to the tech support folks at Microsoft that they developed a new way to install applications: Windows Installer. This new technology comes with Windows 2000 and is available for Windows 9x and newer. It’s a better technology than the old scripting method because it’s database-driven, which makes it easier to track everything that’s installed, as well as roll back from a failed installation or uninstall the application completely.

The Administrator’s Introduction to Application Repackaging and Software Deployment using Windows Installer is designed to help you understand this new technology and how to migrate older, scripted applications to the new technology using InstallShield’s AdminStudio.

The best thing about this book is that the authors go into a great technical depth, yet still make it easy to understand. You can certainly tell that they make their living by training others, as it shows through in everything they write. The book is well-organized and easy to follow, making it simple to understand what the authors are saying.

Sometimes, though, there’s too much information, which distracts the reader from the main topic. For example, the book addresses how Windows Installer gives administrators the ability to install applications on user’s machines even if they don’t have administrative privileges. That’s great fodder, but the authors take this security theme too far by writing an in-depth chapter on how Windows security works, going so far as to explain all the different components that comprise Security Identifiers (SIDs) and how they’re assigned. While that’s good information for a security book, it’s simply too much for this tome.

Overall, though, this is an excellent book and a fine reference for people who need to repackage legacy applications to use the Windows Installer technology — whether or not they’re using InstallShield’s AdminStudio to do so.

About the Author

Joseph L. Jorden, MCSE, MCT, CCNA, CCDA is Chief Technical Officer for Dugger & Associates ( He was one of the first 100 people to achieve the MCSE+I and one of the first 2,000 to become an MCSE under Windows 2000. Joseph frequently contributes to books from Sybex and various periodicals.


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