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Being able to automate software installations is one of the most important skills a systems administrator can learn. This toolset can let you build a standardized environment that is both easy for you to maintain and painless for your staff to use. A native Microsoft environment does not include all the tools needed for automation. In this guide, we will look at why you need an MSI packager and how EMCO MSI Package Builder can streamline your installations.
Do you really need an MSI builder? ^
In some ways, Windows 10 made application installation and maintenance more difficult. Microsoft designed certain OS settings for control from a mobile device while others remain configurable in Group Policy.
Pinning applications to the Start menu or taskbar is still more difficult than it should be. Application installations come in legacy formats, EXEs, MSIs, virtual, or Modern apps. Suffice it to say, software management is difficult. It's even more difficult without the right tools.
If you are working in a native Microsoft environment, you do not have all of the tools for package building, and only Orca for basic MSI editing. Microsoft provides the deployment mechanism through Group Policy (for just MSIs) or SCCM (for any installation type).
MSIs are your most powerful deployment type as they support standard commands, are capable of repairing themselves, and are deployable without additional software. You can even use them for OS and user configuration. For example, you can build an MSI to deploy fonts, push out drivers, or pin items to the taskbar or Start menu.
If you still install software manually because it is too difficult to deploy, or you find yourself making the same configurations on your computers, you really need an MSI packager.
What's new in EMCO MSI Package Builder 7? ^
EMCO MSI Package Builder 7 now comes in three editions: a professional edition, an enterprise edition, and the new architect edition. All three versions include an intuitive visual MSI editor and an easy-to-use live monitoring repackager.
The live monitoring repackager makes application packaging easy. Open the Repackaging Wizard in the program and select an installation you need to repackage. The program will start monitoring automatically and will run the setup program. After you finish the installation, the package builder will automatically stop monitoring and generate an MSI. Everything works automatically and you only need to go through the steps of the original installation and select the required options.
This update makes this process ever better. Monitoring is now faster and more detailed (specifically with driver packaging). The wizard even builds in many safety checks to ensure you only capture the files from your installation.
If you find you need to build more complex packages or do conversions, you will probably need the enterprise edition, as it includes more of the monitoring tools. These tools allow you to customize services, manage application drivers, and modify environment variables.
The enterprise edition will also allow for installation wrapping. With this, you can package prerequisite software into a single application bundle. This can prevent installation failures due to missing components. These bundles, along with pre-/post-execution actions, now support execution context customization. This prevents User Account Control (UAC) prompts from coming up during installation.
EMCO designed the new architect edition for IT professionals needing to manage nearly any application deployment type. It includes a very big upgrade for software conversion. This edition supports App-V installations and conversions. App-V, part of the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP), allows an application to run within a virtual environment on a machine.
It has two big advantages. First, it abstracts application dependencies from the operating system. Second, it provides a great deal of backward compatibility for older applications. EMCO MSI Package Builder will allow you to apply the application model of App-V. In fact, you can convert any of your existing packages into an App-V package and use any of the monitoring wizards to do so!
To me, a great feature in this update is the ability to customize the taskbar or Start menu through a package. You can capture this information during the post-monitoring process or add it manually to the package. This can be useful for organizations needing custom default Start menus for users or departments.
Along that same line, the visual editor now supports security permission layering. After creating a package, you can granularly revise registry and file permissions before creating your software package. These two new features mean that you can create a new MSI and have it contain all the additional configuration you would put into a Group Policy Object (GPO).
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When you find yourself manually installing software or making configuration changes by hand, you need to learn how to package up software with an MSI builder. If you are interested in EMCO MSI Package Builder, you can download a trial copy for any of the three versions here.