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I'm often tasked to examine MSI installation logs in order to find why some installation fails. But such logs are VERY large and has hundred of strings with "error" text in them. Moreover, it's a lot of steps logged that are unclear what they are doing, and sometimes an error in operation "calculating cost" says nothing about error origins since where is no info what "calculating cost" is expected to do.

Is it a good manual available that explains all MSI actions that are performed during installation? Ideally with a short hints how they will look in log file

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Not sure about a guide but this page lists a utility called WiLogUtl.exe, or the Windows Installer Verbose Log Analyzer. This page gives information about some version limitations and a workarounds with the tool. Finally this page lists some other resources that may be useful. Personally I find them extremely difficult to decode.

The last link offers this advice

Return Values After each action the Installer will record the 'return value' in the log. This is an indicator of the success or otherwise of the action. Possible values are:

Value Meaning

  • 0 Action was invoked, but did not run (not necessarily a bad thing, maybe there was nothing for it to do)
  • 1 Action was a success
  • 2 Action was cancelled by user
  • 3 An unrecoverable error has occurred
  • 4 The installation was suspended awaiting a reboot
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how about a utility like View Verbose MSI Log

alt text
(source: dennisbareis.com)

at least it show the errors coloured ... it might help :)

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