Installation repackaging is a method of installation transformation from one format to another. This method is used by repackaging tools to transform EXE installations to MSI packages. As far as original setup in EXE format is just a binary file, it isn't possible to extract data from it to produce MSI package. Repackaging tools are able to track file system and registry changes performed on the manual installation of the original EXE setup and use captured information to generate MSI. Produced MSI package contains all settings preconfigured during the manual installations and it can be deployed in a silent mode on a local or remote PCs.
EXE to MSI Repackaging in a Nutshell
Any installation package includes a list of actions that should be performed in scope of installation. For example, it can include files and directories creation, registry keys modification, DLLs registration and similar operations. In EXE installations these operations are encoded in the binary executable file, so it isn't possible to extract them somehow and convert to another format. But it's possible to track file system and registry changes applied by EXE installation in order to reproduce them.
EXE to MSI repackaging tools use special technologies to track changes performed by original installation in order to use it for MSI generation. The repackaging procedure requires you to follow installation steps, select required options, enter registration information and other data to complete the installation. All changes you made will cause changes on the file system and registry. In particular, application files will be created in the installation directory, DLLs will be registered in the system registry and so on. Any customization applied during setup will cause corresponding changes - for example, if you select to install additional components, they will be copied to the installation folder.
File system and Windows registry changes are monitored by EXE to MSI repackaging tools to detect modifications applied by a repackaged installation. Once it's completed, a repackaging tool has a list of changes that are used as input data for MSI generation. All next steps to create MSI often can be completed automatically by EXE to MSI repackager.
Comparison of EXE to MSI Repackaging Technologies
There are two types of repackaging technology used by repackaging tools available today. These methods have known advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to understand the difference: