Choosing a Windows Installer Deployment Tool

Visual Studio 2010

You can use one of several different deployment tools to create a Windows Installer file (.msi).

The following table compares the features of Windows Installer Setup Projects, InstallShield 2010 Limited Edition, and the Windows Installer XML Toolset.

Feature

Visual Studio Setup and Deployment Projects

InstallShield 2010 Limited Edition

Windows Installer XML Toolset

Integrate with Visual Studio

Yes

Yes

Yes

Use designers to customize the installer

Yes

Yes

No

Generate .msi file

Yes

Yes

Yes

Target multiple versions of the .NET Framework

Yes

Yes

Yes

Configure Windows services

Yes

Yes

Yes

Configure user groups and accounts

No

No

Yes

Configure properties for Internet Information Services (IIS)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Create new Web sites

No

No

Yes

Install and configure IIS certificates

No

No

Yes

Install and configure SQL databases

No

No

Yes

Modify XML files

No

No

Yes

Install prerequisites

Yes

Yes

No

Customize the Setup UI

Yes

Yes

MSI UI only

Integrate with MSBuild

No

Yes

Yes

Manage custom actions

Yes

Yes

Yes

Support major upgrades

Yes

Yes

Yes

Support minor upgrades and patching

No

No

Yes

Migrate Setup projects

N/A

Yes

Yes1

Notes

1. To convert Setup projects, you can use dark.exe to decompile the output .msi file to create a .wxs file. Create a new Windows Installer project, and open the .wxs file.

The InstallShield 2010 Limited Edition (ISLE) is a free version of InstallShield for Visual Studio developers and replaces the functionality in the Visual Studio setup and deployment project templates.

You can use an importing tool to convert Setup projects to an ISLE project. In Visual Studio 2010, create a new InstallShield LE project from the New Project dialog box. Then, click Visual Studio Deployment Project Import Wizard on the InstallShield LE menu.

Obtaining InstallShield 2010 Limited Edition

You must register to download the InstallShield 2010 Limited Edition. After you complete the following procedure, you can see the InstallShield Limited Edition Project template in Visual Studio 2010.

  1. On the File menu, point to New, and then click Project.

  2. Expand the Other Project Types node.

  3. Expand the Setup and Deployment node.

  4. Click InstallShield LE.

  5. Click Enable InstallShield Limited Edition, and then click OK.

  6. Click Download Now.

NoteNote

You must register by using your e-mail address before downloading the product.

To unlock all the features of InstallShield 2010, you can pay to upgrade to the full version of InstallShield.

You can create and manage deployment projects by using the Windows Installer XML Toolset 3.5, an open-source project that supports the full feature set of the Windows Installer SDK (MSI SDK).

The following table lists the Windows Installer XML project templates and their functionality.

Project Type

Description

Setup Project

Create a Windows Installer file (.msi).

Merge Module Project

Create a Windows Installer merge module file (.msm), whose content can be merged into multiple Windows Installer projects.

Setup Library Project

Create a Windows Installer XML library (.wixlib), which can be shared across different packages based on the Windows Installer XML toolset.

Obtaining the Windows Installer XML Toolset

Download the Windows Installer XML toolset from Windows Installer XML toolset, and then you can use Visual Studio and the toolset together to create Windows Installer files (.msi).

You can use the setup and deployment project templates to create a Windows Installer file to deploy your application. The Visual Studio setup and deployment project templates offer limited functionality of the Windows Installer SDK. To modify the Windows Installer file (.msi) beyond what Visual Studio offers in the UI, you can use Orca.exe to open and edit the MSI database. For more information, see Orca.exe (Windows).

Caution noteCaution

Future versions of Visual Studio will not include the Visual Studio Installer project templates. To preserve existing customer investments in Visual Studio Installer projects, Microsoft will continue to support the Visual Studio Installer projects that shipped with Visual Studio 2010 per the product life-cycle strategy. For more information, see Expanded Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy for Business & Development Products.

The following table lists the project templates and their functionality.

Project Type

Description

Setup Project

Builds an installer for a Windows-based application. The files for a Setup project are installed into the Program Files directory on end-user computers.

Web Setup Project

Builds an installer for a Web application. The files for a Web Setup Project are installed into a Virtual Root directory on Web servers.

Merge Module Project

Packages components that can be shared by multiple Windows-based applications. Merge Module projects let you package files or components into a single module, which makes the module easier to share. The resulting .msm files can be included in any other deployment project.

Setup Wizard

Walks the developer through the process of creating a Setup or Web Setup project.

CAB Project

Creates a CAB file for downloading to an earlier Web browser. You can use CAB projects to package ActiveX components that can be downloaded from a Web server to a Web browser.

Obtaining the Setup and Deployment Projects

The setup and deployment project templates are available in Visual Studio Professional, Visual Studio Premium, and Visual Studio Ultimate. These project templates are not available separately to install into the Visual Studio Express Editions.

You can see the templates and the wizard in the New Project dialog box. Expand the Other Project Types node, select the Setup and Deployment Projects node, and then click Visual Studio Installer.

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