[wix-users] Using the same installer for manual and administrative installs, allowing custom installdir overwrite.

Stefan Strijker s.strijker at voortman.net
Wed Feb 3 06:06:33 PST 2021


I have got some software that is distributed trough an MSI installer. Everything seems to be working out fine as long as this installer is manually run. For testing purposes however, I am trying to run the same installer inside of our testing framework during setup, using msiexec

string targetDirectory = @"C:\git\00_DATA\; // For testing purposes
string arguments = "/qn /a \"" + msiFile + "\" TARGETDIR=\"" + targetDirectory + "\" /l*V \"" + logLocation + "\"";
Process process = Process.Start("msiexec", arguments);

The MSI installer looks roughly like this:
Product Id="*" Name="$(var.productName)" Language="1033" Version="$(var.productVersion)" Manufacturer="$(var.companyName)" UpgradeCode="$(var.productUpgradeCode)">
    <!--package requires installer 400 (4.0. included from vista and up). install on machine scope-->
    <Package Id="*" InstallerVersion="400" Compressed="yes" InstallScope="perMachine" />

    <!--Require administartor access rights-->
    <Condition Message="You need to be an administrator to install $(var.productName).">

    <!--Check if this is an update-->
    <MajorUpgrade AllowSameVersionUpgrades="yes" Disallow="yes" DowngradeErrorMessage="A later version of the package is already installed. Setup will now exit." DisallowUpgradeErrorMessage="Please uninstall the  package using the control panel before installing a newer version."/>

    <!--Enforce all resources to be dumped into a cab file, enabled very light compression to save on speed but take easy shortcuts to make it a little smaller-->
   <Media Id="1" Cabinet="data.cab" EmbedCab="yes" CompressionLevel="mszip"/>

    <!--Directory structure for installation, root-->
    <Directory Id="TARGETDIR" Name="SourceDir">
      <Directory Id="$(var.programFolder)">
        <Directory Id="$(var.companyName)" Name="$(var.companyName)">
          <Directory Id="INSTALLDIR" Name="$(var.ProductName)">

            <!--Add installation directory as component. This way it will clean up all of the module in one go, instead of having to set a delete on every single file-->
            <Component Id="INSTALLDIR_comp" Guid="920C1EF1-DFAA-43FB-84A6-FA50EC0AD661">
                <Permission User="Users" GenericAll="yes" />


    <!--Feaatures are 'what to install'. Only support a full install for now-->
    <Feature Id="Complete" Title="$(var.productName)" Description="Full installation" Display="expand" Level="1" ConfigurableDirectory="INSTALLDIR">
      <ComponentRef Id="INSTALLDIR_comp"/>
      <ComponentRef Id="Product_Component"/>
      <ComponentGroupRef Id="INSTALLDIR_comp"/>

    <!--Set pictures, banners ect for screen-->
    <WixVariable Id="WixUIBannerBmp" Value="banner.bmp" />
    <WixVariable Id="WixUIDialogBmp" Value="dialog.bmp"/>

    <!--Set programs and installer icon-->
    <Icon Id="installer_icon" SourceFile="installer.ico"/>
    <Property Id="ARPPRODUCTICON" Value="installer_icon"/>

    <!--Property with installation folder location (from and to ui)-->
    <Property Id="WIXUI_INSTALLDIR">INSTALLDIR</Property>

    <!-- Variable with the location of the license -->
    <WixVariable Id="WixUILicenseRtf" Value="license.rtf" />

      <UIRef Id="WixUI_InstallDir" />
      <UIRef Id="WixUI_ErrorProgressText" />

When manually ran the installdir dialog allows me to overwrite the INSTALDIR just fine, providing the
programfiles/<companyname>/<productname> location as a default.

When ran trough msiexec however, INSTALLDIR doesnt seem to be working as a valid parameter, causing me to not be able to overwrite it causing it to always end up in the default location: programfiles/<companyname>/<productname>

As an alternative I have received the suggestion to replace the <Directory> bit with the following:
<!-- Set the installdir after the launchconditions, we have to this otherwise the installdir has subdirs when doing an administrative install (no launch conditions event in administrative install).-->
<SetProperty Id="INSTALLDIR" After="LaunchConditions" Value="[$(var.programFolder)]\$(var.companyName)\$(var.productName)"/>

<!--Directory structure for installation, root-->
<Directory Id="TARGETDIR" Name="SourceDir">
<Directory Id="$(var.programFolder)">
<Directory Id="INSTALLDIR">

This fixes the issues I have with msiexec, allowing me to specify the location to install with the TARGETDIR parameter. However, the wix_UI bit no longer seems to overwrite anything in manual instalation with this change.

After having struggled with this for a full day trying out different solutions (adding custom parameter to overwrite installdir in a customaction and other attempts), I figured I should go to the great internet and ask for help :)

Can anyone here point me in the right direction and give me some guidance ? Or even provide a working example/snippet that allows me to use 1 and the same installer for manual use + msiexec usage, while still being able to provide a default location in case nothing is specified in parameters.

Stefan Strijker

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