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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Future of Software on Windows: What is an MSIX File?

A file with the .msix extension is a Windows application installer. Microsoft recently introduced MSIX as an alternative to EXE, MSI, and even AppX packages. Exercise caution and ensure you trust an MSIX file’s source before running it.

Windows Has Too Many Different Types of Installers

Currently, Windows has three common installer formats—MSI, EXE, and AppX. Each has different strengths and weaknesses.

MSI installers are best for simple, possibly unattended, installations. They use a basic install graphical user interface (GUI) that installs or uninstalls the program with no extras or options. At the very core, this installer is a compressed set of installer files containing all necessary data for the software. The install process won’t detect if the software already exists, or if any components are missing. It may overwrite any files in the install path. This simplicity means a silent, all-defaults install is a breeze for administrators to accomplish.

EXE installers are more versatile than MSI installers, but with the added capability comes complication. This installer can include options for languages, add-ons, detecting previous installations, and more. EXE installers allow for custom install paths and choosing which components to install. Developers can add their own branding to the GUI and incorporate language-specific terms of service or point to a webpage for a welcome message. But this, in turn, makes a silent unattended install much more difficult, and thus less useful in an enterprise situation.

AppX installers are used for Universal Windows Apps and share some of the benefits of MSI installers. They are simple, straight forward installers with few choices given to the end user. Additionally, they allow for an easier upgrade path from older versions of software to newer versions, and they allow for a cleaner uninstall. AppX installers also rely on container technology, so they are isolated from the rest of the operating system for security. Unfortunately, a program written for an MSI or EXE installer had to be rewritten or converted, perhaps with the help of tools, for the AppX package. And AppX packages can only be used with Windows 10, so older versions of Windows are out of luck.

MSIX Combines the Best Features of MSI and AppX

An MSIX file has the benefits of AppX while being similar to an MSI file. It is a straight forward installer that system administrators can even script for automatic, “unattended” installation. Additionally, it relies on container technology, which allows for smooth uninstalls and upgrades.

From a user perspective, an MSIX installs like an MSI file, but behind the scenes, it installs like an AppX file. Additionally, MSIX distribution outside the Microsoft Store is possible. And with this new process, it’s easier to bring older programs in and repackage them for MSIX.

MSIX Will Even Work on Windows 7, Linux, and More!

Read the remaining 10 paragraphs



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