Some software programs are unpacked to both an msi and an exe setup file. If you are an end user you may wonder which -- or both? -- to execute to install the application properly.
Chance is that you tried both ways at least once and noticed that clicking the msi or the exe setup file will both install the application properly. The setup.exe that you encounter in lots of software distributions is called a bootstrapper.
This setup.exe file will check if the computer system is capable of running the software program; If it is, it will initiate msiexec.exe which will launch the installation using the msi file.
Users who double-click on the msi file directly will also install the application but with the possibility that it will not run properly on the computer system.
Take a computer program that requires the Microsoft .net Framework 3.5 for example. If that version of the Framework is not installed on the system, you may end up with a program that is not working properly on the PC due to the missing dependency. If you would have launched the setup.exe file instead, the program would have informed you about it, or installed the missing dependency directly on your computer so that the installed program would work just fine on it afterwards.
If you install the program using the msi file the installation will usually go through without issues either, but in the end, you may run into problems from applications that just wont start up at all to crashes or warning messages.
Rule of thumb: Unless you know what you are doing, it is recommended to use the setup.exe file whenever you have the choice between a setup.exe or an .msi file after you unpack a software installer on your system.
There are even some msi setup files out there that will not perform the installation upon execution but request an installation using the setup.exe file instead to ensure that all necessary components are installed.
Files with the msi or msp extension are Windows Installer Package files. You can read up on those files on Wikipedia if you are interested in finding out more about their capabilities.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.