Six Easy Steps to Convert .EXE to .MSI

by Josh Biggs in Tech on 8th September 2022

Application engineers are often tasked with repackaging EXE to the Microsoft Software installer (MSI) which is often used to install applications in the background minimizing disturbances to end users. 

The question that arises is how is this accomplished. This guide will run through creating MSI from EXE, capturing modified permissions for all relevant aspects of the process.

Although different products do things slightly differently to convert exe to MSI files, the principles are the same.  

Step 1 – Capture the Installation File

To begin the capture process, do the following:

  • Open product
  • Select Package Virtualize in the Lifecycle Stage tab
  • And Repackage Locally from the TASK tab.

Step 2 – Avoid ‘System Noise’ at the Environmental Stage

‘System Noise’ can be an issue but this can be avoided by carrying out the following:

  • Stop running non-essential services by clicking the Stop All button.
  • Click Next

Step 3 – Choose How to Capture During the Setting Stage

Use the exclusion filters to prevent unnecessary resources from becoming an issue by ticking the checkboxes. 

In the Capturing method section choose one of the following:

  • Monitoring – This is a fast installation process.
  • Snapshotting Method – This is a much slower process and captures pre and post-snapshots and compares them. It is used for installations that are huge or need restarts to install.

Step 4 – Select the Installation Processing Mode

Once you’re through the Settings stage you should now select the installation processing mode to continue the process. You have two choices:

  • Automated Mode – Use this mode if you are happy for the wizard to run Source installation with Arguments included between pre and post-install scans. The post-install scans only begin once the run source installation has finished.
  • Manual Mode – Use this mode if you want to install apps, change their settings, and make capturing possible by changing the system settings. Unlike Automatic Mode, the wizard will pause to allow you to make the necessary changes before continuing with the capture and installation.

The default is Automatic Mode. If using this mode select the installer file and click Open. A series of dialogue boxes open, follow these to completion.

However, it is not uncommon that embedded MSI installers that were hidden may now be visible. If this is the case it is best practice to cancel the process and switch to an MSI Editor. You’ll find the MSI files copied to the project folder.

If Manual Mode is selected, open the apps once the pre-install scan has finished and or make system changes as needed. Once done check the “I have finished the installation” box, and click Continue. While the process finishes, you are now free to filter captured data and create the project.

Step 5 Capturing

Here, check the “Copy the captured files to the project folder” and “Open the created project for editing” checkboxes, and click Finish.

By default, the captured project will be open for editing.

Step 6 – Editing and Refine

Now the package is in the editing phase you can use it to make changes to the file system and registry. You should find you have options to make changes to permissions and other MSI settings.

You’ll see you have three tabs including Files tab, Registry tab, and Settings tab. It is here you can review and exclude as needed.

For more information see Microsoft.com.

Categories: Tech