Application repackaging – Active Setup & Windows Installer Repair

If you repackage or deploy applications you need to know about Active Setup and Windows Installer Repair

The best methods are documented first, but also other alternative ways.

Method I

Active Setup Method:

This is one of the best practices in MSI Packaging which uses the native Active Setup behavior of Windows and Windows Installer HKCU keys repair techniques.

One should follow these specific steps while using this method:

  1. Make sure all HKCU keys in the MSI Package that we are creating are under structured component names like CurrentUser, CurrentUser1, etc.
  2. The Package author should be able to judge and set the key path for that Component properly.
  3. As per Microsoft Component guidelines, make sure the components containing HKCU keys are as few in count as possible, for example only one component (CurrentUser) with all HKCU keys with best key path set is the best practice.
  4. Create the following registry keys under the main hive:
  1. HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftActive SetupInstalled Components{GUID of the MSI}
  2. ComponentID=PackageName_ComponentName
  3. StubPath=[SystemFolder]msiexec.exe /fu {Product Code of the MSI} /q
  4. Version=ProductVersion

The principle of Active Setup behavior is when a new user logs on for the first time, then the Active Setup will perform a checksum between HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftActive SetupInstalled Components{GUID of the MSI} and HKCUSoftwareMicrosoftActive SetupInstalled Components{GUID of the MSI}; and if the GUID is not present under HKCU, then it performs all actions which are under that main hive (StubPath, Version) and populates the GUID under HKCU. The main Advantage of Active Setup is it performs an action only once per User with the Checksum behavior by matching the entries under HKLM and HKCU.

Method II

Active Setup Method:

This method can be used for both MSIs and Non-MSIs

Create a silent SMS script or Wise Script (for eg:-Script.exe) which will create the needed HKCU registry entries for the application. Then place that EXE in the Application [INSTALLDIR] in your MSI Pkg or Executable binary memory.

Then create the following additional registry entries in the MSI Package or within the Script whichever is applicable:

HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftActive SetupInstalled Components{GUID or AppName}





The Active Setup performs the regular checksum (comparison of entries under) HKLM and HKCU and if the respective unique GUID or AppName is not present under HKCU hive, then it will perform all actions (StubPath, Version) and populates the GUID or AppName under HKCU hive too. This is only once per user — for the first time — to populate HKCU hive.

Method I and method II use the Active Setup feature, and One should understand the advantages of one over the other. Method I requires source resiliency to populate HKCU keys, where as method II does not require this as the Script.exe does everything.

Method I and method II can be used in any scenarios like if Advertised entry points are present or NOT present.

Method III

Windows Installer repair method

Typically the body of the script will be;

Check for the existence of a Flag key under
HKCUSoftwareCompany NameApplications{ProductName][productversion]

If the key exists then quit else initiate the Windows Installer repair to populate HKCU keys:

Msiexec /fu {Product Code of the MSI} /q


And edit and create registry key (Basically a Flag Key which can be any key which your firm adopts)
* XYZ= Name of the organization Company
And keep this script exe in HKLMSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun.

One should keep in mind that the /p switch can also be used to repair files (populate) user-specific data (Profile data) with the following syntax:

Msiexec /fup {Product Code Of the MSI) /q


Method IV

Silent empty exe with valid shortcut:

Create a silent empty exe and its Advertised shortcut and place both of them in the Application [INSTALLDIR]. And use them as entry points to trigger healing to populate HKCU keys.

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