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I have a third party ActiveX Control that I want to package up in a msi so it can be deployed and registered via Group Policy. The goal being I don't want the end user to have to click through and install the ActiveX control in IE. I have the Cab file which contains (2) ocx files, (1) inf file, and (1) dll. How do I know get these installed and registered as an ActiveX in IE?

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What you really need for this is a well-cleaned up capture of what happens when an admin user installs the ActiveX control using a setup capture tool. It involves a file installed to "Downloaded Program Files" and a few IE settings that are crucial, unless this has changed in newer versions of Windows. – Stein Åsmul May 12 '14 at 23:13
Just adding a link to an article on stackoverflow on the topic of packaging ActiveX controls – Stein Åsmul Apr 28 '15 at 8:35

What you're asking for is completely feasible. The "how" you do it, basically, is to learn to use an MSI authoring tool, determine where the files need to go on the hard drive, determine what needs to go into the registry, and build an MSI file that does what you want.

Personally, I use the Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolkit to build MSI files.

  • There is an absolutely wonderful WiX tutorial maintained by Gábor DEÁK JAHN. If you're looking to build a silent installer w/ no UI then there is a lot of this tutorial that you don't really need to learn, but it's still great stuff.

  • Although it applies to WiX 2.0 (which isn't the current version, but is still available and works just fine), this WiX tutoial does a pretty good job.

There are a lot of third-party graphical MSI builders out there, too. They break down into snapshot-based and non-snapshot-based.

The snapshot-based package builders suffer from the problem of picking up unrelated changes to the snapshot computer during software installation and can create really messy packages. I will sometimes use a snapshot tool to get a "feel" for what an installer does, but I always build my production packages by-hand.

The non-snapshot-based systems are usually just graphical IDEs for the MSI schema (and some general WiX XML source files that are "compiled" with WiX), allowing you to drag and drop, etc, to create packages.

Whtever you do, gaining some knowledge about how the Windows Installer works will give you the best chance of building good packages. Microsoft's documentation is a bit dense, but there's a lot of good stuff in there. In the end, I've found that trial-and-error has been the best way to get familiar with the nuances of Windows Installer.

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Second tutorial link is broken. Perhaps try CodeProject, a quick introduction to MSI with Wix. Or try this stackoverflow overview. – Stein Åsmul Apr 28 '15 at 9:33

I have successfully done this a few times using the following steps:

  1. Extract all files from the cab into a new folder
  2. Open a command prompt and cd into that directory
  3. Run heat like so:

    "c:\Program Files (x86)\Wix Toolset v3.9\bin\heat.exe" dir . -cg CoreCmpGroup -gg -template fragment out.wxs

  4. Then use the out.wxs in your project. All COM registrations etc. will be done magically for you. :)

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Worked out great for me. There is room for a good UI around wix. I don't mind XML when necessary for editing, but learning the first time is painful. – Brad Bruce Jul 18 at 15:31

I haven't tried this, but I would have concerns about how an automated deployment of an ActiveX control would interact with Internet Explorer security. My gut feeling is "not very well". I'd be more inclined to configure policies to trust either the site using the control (if you're satisfied that it's safe to do so) or the control itself (which could be a little fiddly) and let the control come down in the normal manner.

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@mh: Nah-- it'll work fine. All an ActiveX installer does is place files on the hard drive and register them into the registry. I've automated exactly what the poster is talking about in the past. (It's exactly what the redistributable versions of things like the Flash Player installer do.) – Evan Anderson Feb 12 '10 at 20:01
Ah, that's cool then. I'll withdraw my reservations. – Le Comte du Merde-fou Feb 12 '10 at 20:03

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