Logo

EMCO MSI Package Builder - Getting Started

This tutorial is intended for first-time users of EMCO MSI Package Builder. It gives you a quick overview of the main features of the application and demonstrates MSI creation and installation repackaging procedures. By reading this tutorial, you will get familiar with the application and its features to be able to create MSI packages according to your needs.

Table of Contents

Introduction

EMCO MSI Package Builder is an MSI authoring tool that allows creating MSI packages ready for silent unattended deployment. Using this tool, you can convert existing non-silent installations into silent MSI packages and create new MSI packages according to your needs. MSI packages generated by EMCO MSI Package Builder are ready for silent deployment. It means that such packages can be installed automatically without selecting installation options; hence they can be easily deployed remotely on multiple PCs across a network using remote software deployment tools, such as EMCO Remote Installer or Microsoft SCCM.

EMCO MSI Package Builder is designed to simplify MSI creation and installation repackaging by automating these procedures. The application offers automatic installation repackaging, so you can get a silent MSI package for a non-silent installation in just a few mouse clicks, as demonstrated in this tutorial. EMCO MSI Package Builder doesn't require expert knowledge in MSI or in installation scripting to be able to successfully repackage installations and create MSI packages. You only need to understand the MSI creation approaches offered by the application and follow the on-screen instructions to create MSI packages quickly and easily.

This tutorial demonstrates the features of EMCO MSI Package Builder Enterprise edition. If you would like to follow the step-by-step instructions provided here, please make sure that you have downloaded and installed the right edition of the application. Otherwise, you will notice that some features are missing and not all options in the user interface are available.

Understanding MSI Creation Approaches

EMCO MSI Package Builder is designed to create MSI packages that function as installation files for Windows. As installation files, MSI packages can perform various changes during installation: adding, modifying and deleting files and registry keys, creating and deleting folders and shortcuts, modifying Windows services and environmental variables, etc. When creating an installation, you need to configure those changes in the installation project before you can generate an installation file applying the changes. Creating an installation project may take a lot of time if you follow the traditional approach and configure the changes manually through editors, but EMCO MSI Package Builder can automate this process and get the required MSI package within seconds.

EMCO MSI Package Builder offers a unique monitoring feature that allows tracking file system and registry changes performed on a PC to automatically create an MSI project containing the detected changes. This feature allows you to repackage non-silent installations into silent MSI packages and to create custom MSI package by capturing low-level changes and generating an MSI applying the captured results. Once an MSI project is created, you can modify it through visual editors, if required, or just generate an MSI package using the project data. The monitoring feature allows you to automate the creation of MSI projects, but, if you prefer, you can create an MSI project manually through editors and control all the installation changes.

Depending on the purpose for which MSI package is being created, you can use one of the following approaches to create an installation project and generate an MSI package.

1. Repackaging a non-silent installation into a silent MSI package
You can use this approach if you need to deploy a non-silent installation remotely over a network. Remote deployment requires a silent installation, so you can use EMCO MSI Package Builder to convert a non-silent installation into a silent MSI package. For installation repackaging, you should start changes monitoring and follow the steps of the original installation. The applied file system and registry changes are captured by EMCO MSI Package Builder, and you get an MSI package created from the capturing results. Installation of the generated MSI package, which can be deployed silently, is identical to the manual deployment of the original installation file.

2. Wrapping a silent installation into an MSI package
You can use this approach if you need to get an MSI package that deploys one or multiple silent installations. In this case, you just wrap original installation(s) in an MSI package. To generate an MSI that should be installed silently, you need to specify the commands to run the included installations in the silent mode. When you deploy the generated MSI, it deploys the included installations silently, as defined by you.

3. Automatic creation of a custom MSI package using monitoring
You can use this approach if you need to create a custom MSI package quickly and easily without configuring the installation project. In this case, you need to enable monitoring in EMCO MSI Package Builder and apply the required changes, for example, installing a font on a computer using standard Windows features. The underlying file system and registry changes are captured by EMCO MSI Package Builder, and you get an MSI package reproducing the captured changes.

4. Manual creation of a custom MSI package
You can use this approach if you know the changes you need to apply during installation. In this case, you can use visual editors to configure the installation project and then generate an MSI package that includes the configured changes.

The Application Interface Overview

EMCO MSI Package Builder is a system application that needs to track file system and registry changes in the monitoring mode, so you need to have administrative permissions in Windows to run it. When you run the application on Windows Vista or a later OS, you need to allow the application to apply system changes in the User Account Control (UAC) prompt. If you use the evaluation version of the application, you need to press the Evaluate link to close the Welcome dialog, which appears at startup.

The application has a modern Ribbon-based interface : the Ribbon is available at the top of the main screen . It consists of three main tabs with items and can also display additional contextual tabs highlighted on the Ribbon when you use some of the available views and editors.

 
Pic 1. The main application window
 

Under the Ribbon, on the left side of the screen, you can find the Projects view . This view displays one or multiple installation projects that are currently opened in the application. An installation project includes one or multiple packages also displayed in the Projects view under the project node. A package is used to define a set of file system, registry and other changes, while a project is used to group packages and define general installation settings. For a project you can define the project settings, pre- and post-actions, and wrapping settings using the corresponding tabs .

On the right side of the Projects view, you can see the main area, which shows different views depending on your current selection . If there are no projects opened, you can see the Welcome screen there with a set of available actions. If a project is selected in the Projects view, you can see tabs in the main area where you can define the project settings, pre- and post-actions, and wrapping settings. If you select a package in the Projects view, you can edit its content in the main area using the File System, Registry, Environment Variables and Services tabs .

 
Pic 2. The project and package editors
 

At the bottom of the main screen, you can find the Application Log and Operation Management tabs . The Application Log view can be used to see all the events and error messages reported by the application. The Operation Management view can be used to manage the running operations.

To configure the application settings, you can open the Preferences dialog by selecting the corresponding option under the Application menu. The Preferences dialog allows you to configure the monitoring filters and other settings in the application.

Example 1 - Repackaging a Non-Silent Installation into an MSI Package Using Monitoring

Repackaging of existing non-silent installations into silent MSI packages is one of the main features of EMCO MSI Package Builder, so let's see how to use it. Let's assume we need to distribute Adobe Reader across our entire network. When you run an Adobe Reader installation, it requires that you select installation options, so you cannot use the original installation for remote deployment because it isn't silent. To prepare the installation for remote deployment, we can repackage it into a silent MSI package using EMCO MSI Package Builder.

Configuring repackaging environment and understanding the repackaging best-practices

The installation repackaging process is based on monitoring file system and registry changes performed by the monitored installation. Depending on the computer state before and during the repackaging process, you may obtain correct or incorrect repackaging results. We recommend that you use a special repackaging environment and follow the repackaging best practices explained below to achieve correct repackaging results.

It's recommended to perform repackaging on a clean environment where only the OS and EMCO MSI Package Builder are installed. For your convenience, you may create a virtual machine (VM) for repackaging, and after installing the OS and EMCO MSI Package Builder, create a snapshot with a clean VM configuration. Every time before repackaging an installation, you need to roll back the VM to the snapshot in order to use a clean repackaging environment. This approach guarantees that you follow most of the repackaging best practices. A complete list of the general repackaging best practices is introduced below.

  1. Repackage an installation on the same platform (x86 or x64) or, preferably, on the same OS that will be used for deployment of the generated MSI. If you need to deploy an installation on both the x86 and x64 platforms, you need to create two MSI packages for these platforms.
  2. If you have security or anti-virus software installed, you need to disable it, because it might cause unstable or incorrect operation of the monitoring.
  3. If an installation you need to repackage is already installed, uninstall it with all its components and dependencies.
  4. Close all running applications and processes except for EMCO MSI Package Builder, because they can produce unwanted changes that will be captured.
  5. If monitored installation requires a reboot, you need to stop monitoring and generate an MSI before rebooting.
  6. Some complex installations that install drivers or apply Windows system changes cannot be repackaged successfully because of the Windows security limitations. In this case, you will be warned by EMCO MSI Package Builder and can use wrapping instead of monitoring to repackage such installations.

Repackaging an installation

Once you have created a clean repackaging environment by following the provided recommendations, you can run EMCO MSI Package Builder and start the repackaging process.

Step 1. Open the Repackage Installation Wizard
The Repackage Installation Wizard is automatically opened when you start the application. If you don't see it on the screen, press the Repackage Installation button on the Home tab in the Ribbon. When the wizard is started, read the welcome information and press the Next button.

Step 2. Select the monitoring option
The wizard allows you to repackage an installation using either monitoring or wrapping. We are going to use monitoring, so select the Monitor Installation option and press the Next button. In the next step, you can see information on the repackaging best practices. Read it carefully and press the Next button. Finally, you need to select the monitoring mode to be used. Select the Automated Monitoring option . In this case, the application will automatically stop monitoring and generate an MSI once the monitored installation is completed. Press the Next button to proceed to the next step.

Step 3. Select the installation file
In this step, we need to specify the path to the original installation file to be monitored. Select the path to the downloaded Adobe Reader installation. Once the path to the installation file is specified, you are prompted to enter the installation parameters . The parameters are optional and should be specified only if you need to run the monitored installation in a special way. In our case, we can leave the parameters empty and press the OK button to confirm the installation configuration. As you can see, the wizard allows you to specify multiple installations to be monitored one by one . We need to create an MSI for the Adobe Reader installation only, so we can press the Next button.

 
Pic 3. Selecting the repackaging options
 
Pic 4. Selecting the monitoring mode
 
 
Pic 5. Specifying the installation settings
 
Pic 6. Configuring installations for monitoring
 

Step 4. Specify the MSI properties
Now, you need to specify the path to the MSI package to be generated. Also, you need to enter the manufacturer info. If you wish, you can change the product name that will be displayed in Windows Programs and Features after installation, the installation icon, the version number and other properties available in the dialog . Note that if you use the evaluation version of the application, the installed MSI will be displayed in Windows Programs and Features with the evaluation mark. Once you have specified the required settings in the dialog, you may press the Next button.

Step 5. Filter out the running applications/processes
When monitoring is started, the application will be capturing all file system and registry changes. Since multiple applications/processes may be running at the same time under Windows, the changes applied by all running Windows processes will be captured. If you have other applications/processes running during repackaging, they may create unwanted changes that will appear in the capturing results and in the generated MSI package, so it's recommended to filter them out. If you use a clean environment for repackaging, the wizard will be displaying an empty list of running applications. In case the list is non-empty but the running applications do not relate to the installation to be monitored, select them to filter the changes made by them out of the monitoring results . Once you have finished the filters configuration, press the Finish button to start monitoring.

 
Pic 7. Specifying the MSI generation options
 
Pic 8. Filtering the running applications out
 

Step 6. Follow the installation steps
As you can see, the wizard has been closed and the specified original installation has been started. It means that the monitoring is in progress now, and you need to follow the steps of the original installation. You can select the required installation options and, as the result, the original installation will create corresponding files and registry keys that are monitored by the application. Once the installation is completed, the application will automatically stop monitoring and generate an MSI package. Note that if the installation prompts you to run the installed application, you should skip this step to let EMCO MSI Package Builder detect that the installation has been completed. If the application starts automatically after the installation, just close it to notify EMCO MSI Package Builder about the end of the installation process.

Step 7. Getting the generated MSI package
Once the installation is completed, you can return to EMCO MSI Package Builder that should automatically start generating an MSI package using the capturing results. Depending on the captured data size, the generation process may take some time. Once the generation is completed, you can see the generated MSI package in Windows Explorer. If you use the evaluation version of the application, the generated MSI package has an expiration time and can work during 30 days only.

Reviewing the monitoring results and customizing the installation

When the repackaging process has been finished and you have obtained an MSI package, you will notice that the main application screen has been changed. In the Projects view, you can find the new project with one or multiple packages under it. If you select the project node, you can see the properties you specified in the repackaging wizard on the right side of the screen on the Project Details tab . If you need to re-generate an MSI, you can just press the Create MSI Package button on the Home tab of the Ribbon, and there is no need for you to follow the repackaging steps again. Moreover, now you can change the installation project to customize it according to your needs.

You may wonder where you can see the captured changes and why there are so many packages displayed under the project. If you select a package in the Projects view, you can see that the File System, Registry, Environment Variables and Services tabs are displayed on the right side of the screen. Those tabs show the captured changes . Every displayed package corresponds to the Windows process that generated the captured changes, so the changes are grouped by processes, and the package names correspond to the processes names. It is normal that installation changes are applied by different processes. You can review the captured changes and if you find a package that includes any changes unrelated to the captured installation, you can delete such a package from the project and re-generate the MSI.

 
Pic 9. The created installation project
 
Pic 10. The monitored installation changes
 

Using the available visual editors, you can not only review the captured changes but also modify them, if required. For example, you can add/remove files, registry keys and other resources by selecting a package in the Projects view. By selecting a project in the tree, you can modify its properties or add pre- and post-installation actions, for example. Once the required changes have been applied, you can re-generate the MSI package.

Testing the created MSI package and troubleshooting the problems

Once an MSI package has been generated, it needs to be thoroughly tested before being deployed remotely across a network. To test an MSI, it's recommended to install it manually on a virtual machine with a fresh OS installation. After the deployment, you need to run the installed application to make sure it works as expected.

If you notice a problem with the generated MSI, you can repeat the repackaging process. A lot of problems can be resolved if you use a clean environment for repackaging and follow the repackaging best practices. Unfortunately, in some situations it isn't possible to successfully repackage an installation using the monitoring technology. It may happen if an installation deploys Windows drivers or modifies Windows system resources. Such types of installations are unique for every PC and cannot be moved from one PC to another. If any unsupported changes are detected, EMCO MSI Package Builder will report an MSI generation problem and should suggest using installation wrapping instead of installation monitoring to repackage a particular installation. You can see an example of using wrapping in this tutorial below.

Example 2 - Creating a Custom MSI Package Using Monitoring

Sometimes you need to create a custom MSI package to apply some changes, but creating an installation using the traditional approach seems very time-consuming, or you may have no idea how to describe the required changes in an installation project. For example, let's assume that you need to install a font into a system, but you only know how to do it manually through Windows dialogs, and you don't know which file system and registry changes should be applied, so you can't create the required installation project manually. In this case, you can rely on the monitoring technology that will automatically do all the hard work for you.

Basically, using monitoring for creating custom MSI packages is identical to repackaging, except for the fact that you don't have an original installation file, so you have to manually perform the required changes to be captured by EMCO MSI Package Builder.

Step 1. Start monitoring
To start monitoring, press the Start Monitoring button available on the Home tab of the Ribbon. As the result, the wizard will be started and you will see information on the monitoring best practices. You should follow the same rules you follow during the installation monitoring. Read the displayed information and press the Next button. Then enter the name of the MSI project that will be created to include the monitoring results and press the Next button to proceed to the next step . Finally, you can see the list of currently running applications/processes, and you can select any of them if you need to filter out changes made by them. Once you are ready, press the Finish button to start monitoring changes.

Step 2. Apply the required changes
Now that all the changes are monitored by the application, you can select the font file that needs to be installed in Windows Explorer and the option to install it from the context menu. Check the Windows Control Panel > Fonts to make sure that the font has been installed correctly.

Step 3. Stop monitoring and review the captured results
Return to EMCO MSI Package Builder and press the Stop Monitoring button on the Home tab of the Ribbon. As the result, you can see that a new project has appeared in the Projects view . You can review the captured changes and delete any unwanted changes, if required.

 
Pic 11. Specifying the project name
 
Pic 12. Reviewing the captured changes
 

Step 4. Generate an MSI package
Select the created project in the Projects view and press the Create MSI Package button on the Home tab of the Ribbon to generate an MSI package. In the MSI generation dialog, you need to specify the path to the generated file and the manufacturer name. You can specify other options as well, but what's important for the current installation is that you enable the rebooting option.

Step 5. Test the created MSI package
Use a virtual machine with a clean OS installation to test the generated MSI package. After installing the MSI and rebooting the PC, the installed font should appear in the Windows settings.

Example 3 - Repackaging Silent Installations into an MSI Package Using Wrapping

You can use the wrapping method to obtain MSI packages for installations that support silent deployment. The original installation files are wrapped by an MSI package and are silently deployed when you install the MSI. It's preferred to use wrapping instead of monitoring when you know that the repackaged installations support silent deployment. In case of wrapping, you can use original unmodified installations files, and you only need to run them silently instead of having to apply external modifications that are required when using monitoring, so you get better repackaging results when using wrapping. Wrapping can be used to distribute any types of installations, including installations that deploy Windows drivers or modify Windows system resources, which cannot be repackaged using monitoring.

To see how to use the installation wrapping method, let's assume that we need to create an MSI package to install 7-Zip and Notepad++. Of course, you can use wrapping to create an MSI for a single installation only, but in this case let's see how to create a single MSI package for multiple wrapped installations.

Step 1. Determine and test the silent installation parameters
Since we need to create a wrapping MSI package ready for silent deployment, we should ensure that the included installations can be deployed silently. Using the Internet search, we can find out that both the 7-Zip and Notepad++ installations can be deployed silently if the installation files are executed with specific parameters. Before generating an MSI package, we need to ensure that silent deployment of the original installations works as expected. Use a virtual machine with a clean environment to test the silent installations of 7-Zip and Notepad++. Silent installations should be completed automatically, and you should not be prompted to select any installation settings. If the tested installations can be deployed silently, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2. Open the Repackage Installation Wizard
Run EMCO MSI Package Builder. By default, at the start of the application, you should see the opened Repackage Installation Wizard. If it doesn't open automatically, you can click the Repackage Installation button on the Home tab of the Ribbon. Once the wizard is started, read the welcome information and press the Next button.

Step 3. Select the installation wrapping option
We are going to use installations wrapping, so select the Wrap Installation option in the wizard and press the Next button to proceed to the next step .

Step 4. Specify the installation files and the installation options
You are prompted to enter the path to the first installation. In the file picker dialog, specify the path to the 7-Zip executable installation file. You should specify the installation options in the New Wrapped Package dialog. You can change the package name to 7-Zip, if you like. In this dialog, you also need to specify the silent command-line parameters to being passed to the installation . As we know, the 7-Zip installation can be deployed silently when executed with the /S parameter, so enter it into the Parameters field and press OK to close the dialog. Since we also need to add the Notepad++ installation to the MSI package, press the Add Package button in the wizard to configure another installation entry. Select the location of the Notepad++ installation file and specify the /S installation parameter in the New Wrapped Package dialog that appears as we know that this parameter is required for silent installation . Finally, press the Next button in the wizard to proceed to the next step.

Step 5. Specify the MSI properties
You should enter the path to the MSI package to be generated. Also, you need to enter the manufacturer name and change other options, if required . Press the Finish button to start the MSI generation.

 
Pic 13. Selecting the wrapping option
 
Pic 14. Configuring the 7-Zip install options
 
 
Pic 15. Configuring the Notepad++ install options
 
Pic 16. Specifying the MSI generation options
 

Step 6. Get the MSI package and test it
After some time required for generating an MSI, you can see the generated MSI package. Before deploying it remotely across a network, you should test it to make sure the MSI works as expected. It's recommended to use a virtual machine with a clean environment for testing the MSI installation. After deploying the MSI package, both 7-Zip and Notepad++ should be installed and work properly.

Summary

By reading this tutorial, you can understand how to use the main features of EMCO MSI Package Builder. If you need to get more detailed information about the described features or about features and options that aren't explained here, you can press F1 in the application to open the integrated Help file, which can provide you with more details.

Product Facts

Did you know that MSI Package Builder uses innovation technology that allows capturing installation data on the fly?

Did you know that 'Live Monitoring' technology has an extremely capture performance because based on Kernel Mode Drivers instead of comparing huge volumes of data?

Awards and Recognition
EMCO RSS EMCO on Facebook EMCO on Twitter EMCO on YouTube