I'm looking at deploying some software via GPSI and the current version of the software is distributed as a .exe so I need to convert it to an MSI file.

furthermore, why does MS still distribute some of its software (WMI Tools) as .exe

8 Answers 8


The type of tool you're looking for is called an Application Repackaging tool. The process would include capturing an installation (take a machine snapshot, run your installation and make customisations, then run a second snapshot to calculate the differences) then compiling the captured data into MSI format.

The following are some free tools to perform these tasks, in order:

  1. AppDeploy Repackager: Use this to capture your installation and create an MSI from the captured data. If your app is reasonably simple then this may be all you need.
  2. Microsoft Orca: Use this to edit the MSI that has been created with AppDeploy Repackager. You will need to know how MSI's work to really make the most of Orca. Microsoft's Installer Database Reference is the definitive source for information on MSI contents.

As for your second question: You will find that sometimes vendors will supply an MSI wrapped in an executable, so if you run the .exe you might be able to dig out the MSI from a temp directory.

  • great summary. Off topic, but important anyways, I can understand a vendor... Microsoft being excluded. It's their format, they should be using it :) I wouldn't expect a ford car salesman to be driving a Saab its bad for business.
    – GNUix
    Jun 9, 2009 at 2:41
  • I can't speak for Microsoft, but wrapping the MSI in an EXE is one possibility anyway, sometimes this is done for security reasons so that you can't open the MSI, because MSI's are readable databases that can be opened by anyone with tools like Orca. Jun 9, 2009 at 2:44
  • 5
    @duffbeer703: slamming the ORCA tool without at least mentioning a viable alternative isn't really adding value to the discussion. Jun 9, 2009 at 5:03
  • Orca's been great for editing of installer options, but I certainly wouldn't use it for the full packaging job! Jun 9, 2009 at 7:26
  • 3
    @mh: My recommendation in the answer was to use it to EDIT the MSI which had previously been created by AppDeploy Repackager, not to create it from scratch. Jun 9, 2009 at 8:35

I've used Advanced Installer and AppDeploy Repackager and have gotten good results.


Check out WinINSTALL LE:


You have to install the program, and it will watch what happens and create an MSI installer. I usually make my installs on a clean VM so that it doesn't catch background activities of programs I usually use.

  • Used this, it's a pretty fantastic tool. If it can successfully package Oracle client software, it has to have something going for it. Jun 9, 2009 at 7:27

Heh, I'll try and answer my own question.. I'm also going to look at The AppDeploy Repackager. It looks like it will do pretty much the same thing as Joseph mentioned. I'll see which one does the job with less stress on my part :)


It's not free but if you have any Visual Studio licenses, that has a great MSI packager available in it.

  • Would this be InstallShield limited edition?
    – jxramos
    Feb 14, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    No; IIRC that came with older versions of Visual Studio (e.g. VS6), but VS 2008 (which was current at the time I wrote this answer) had a "Setup Project" template in it which was what I was referring to: msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/19x10e5c(v=vs.100).aspx - seems to be also in 2010 but I don't know about more recent versions; this answer was written in mid-2009, after all. Feb 14, 2017 at 20:25

IMO WiX may be the best way, since repackager working with snapshots tend to record unrelated changes, as far as you don't spend some time setting exclusions...

Using the Wixtool makes the creation of an MSI quite convenient instead of writing lots of xml containers ;)


Microsoft's Windows Installer XML toolkit (WiX).

  • From the 10 second overview, it looks like a great package for deploying applications I develop, but doesn't look like I can simply wrap a .exe installer into an MSI file -- but I will dig deeper
    – GNUix
    Jun 9, 2009 at 2:24
  • Ah sorry, I didn't realise on first reading that you were after a repackager. Damn my Answer trigger-finger! ;)
    – moobaa
    Jun 9, 2009 at 3:22

I copy here two lists from a couple of webpages I found.

A long list of deployment software, including repackagers, with descriptions added: http://www.installsite.org/pages/en/tt_corp.htm
Here I copy only the names mentioned in this webpage:

  • AdminStudio
  • Advanced Installer Architect
  • AppDeploy Repackager
  • Asdis
  • CapaInstaller ezMSI
  • BMC Software
  • MSI Package Builder
  • NetInstall
  • Network Software Scanner
  • Packaging Robot
  • Prism
  • Radia
  • RayPack
  • Real Packaging
  • RemoteExec
  • Remote Installer
  • Smart Packager

One more list from: http://www.interfacett.com/blogs/exe-msi-deploy-exe-based-installer-microsoft-world/
Probably not all of them are repackagers.

  • WinInstall
  • wItem Installer (also called Installer2Go)
  • VMWare ThinApp
  • EXE to MSI Converter (exetomsi.com)
  • AppDeploy repackager
  • Exemsi MSI Wrapper (exemsi.com)
  • Advanced Installer (advancedinstaller.com)

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