The new Windows Installer is a new technology from Microsoft, allowing you to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) by providing an efficient way to install, maintain and remove applications. By now, you will probably have noticed setup programs using the .msi extension, which uses this technology. In essence, this file is a compiled database that stores the setup information, dialogs to use and the compressed binary files to be installed. When opened, the Windows Installer automatically reads the file, and initializes the setup program. Because Windows Installer provides common functions, such as copying, registering, or almost anything else needed, individual setup programs using the Windows Installer can be much smaller. However, it does require the Windows Installer to be already installed on the machine. This is already installed on Windows 2000 and Windows ME, and is available for Windows 95, 98 and NT via a service pack or download from the Microsoft site.

Office 2000 is one example of a program that uses the new Windows Installer technology, and provides several very useful features standard to Windows Installer including on-demand feature installation, application self-repair and installation rollback capabilities.

In this article, I will show you how to use two products... the Visual Studio Installer, a free program from Microsoft for creating simple Windows Installer installations.