After you have created your .NET program, the next step is deploying software to your users. An MSI package is an archive that contains all the software files. When a user double-clicks an MSI file, it triggers the Windows Installer service and a wizard helps the user install software on a computer.

Visual Studio .NET programming has an MSI creator, so you simply create an MSI project and add your installation files to the package. The MSI file can be uploaded to a web server or included on an installation DVD or CD.

How to Set Up MSI Packages

An MSI package is considered a project in Visual Studio. You can create the project within your current code project. Right-click your project name in Solution Explorer and select “New Project.” You can also create a new standalone project by clicking “New” in the Visual Studio menu and selecting “Project.”

  1. Click “Other Project Types” in the list of project types on the left side of the new window. Click “Setup and Deployment.” Click “Setup Project” to choose the project type.
  2. Type a name for the project solution in the text box. Click “Browse” to choose a directory for your project files.
  3. Finally, click “OK” to create your project. Notice on the right side of the window, Solution Explorer lists your installer package project name.

Visual Studio automates the process to create an MSI package on your development computer. The project is empty, so you must add all of your program files to the package.

Copy and paste your files into the MSI package directory. Some developers create an MSI package for each software revision version, so a new package project is created for each software deployment.

Other Software Deployment Software

If you don’t have Visual Studio, other software deployment software systems are available. Wise for Windows Installer is another common third party application that lets you deploy software and package installation files. Wise deployment has been available for years, and it is one of the most trusted applications for software deployment packaging.

Advanced Installer is another third party application available online. The software boasts that you can create MSI packages in minutes. However, large software projects take a while longer to generate the right code.

Creating an MSI package makes it easier for your users to install software on a Windows computer. The MSI file extension is automatically recognized by Windows, so users just need to double-click the file to apply your software to their computers.