What does it mean to repackage EXE installation to MSI?
From the technical point of view it means that executable installation file is transformed by some way into Windows Installer package MSI file, that is able to perform same installation actions as the original EXE installation. Produced MSI package can be used instead of original EXE installation in tools that support MSI packages only, for example, for remote software deployment through Group Policy. Such repackaging can be performed in automatic or semi-automatic mode by special tools repackaging tools.
Can I repackage any EXE installation into MSI?
No, unfortunately installation repackaging isn't straightforward process and the final result depends on many factors: operations performed by original installation, used repackaging tool, repackaging environment, etc. But using professional repackaging tool you will be able to successfully convert most of installations to MSI format.
Should I use repackaging for simple installations only?
Even large and complex tools, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Suite and other can be repackaged successfully with professional repackaging tools. Of course, if you convert to MSI a simple installation, you have higher chances to complete it successfully, because it supposed to be simple and have lower chances to include installation operations that aren't supported by used repackaging tool.
What are known limitations for repackaging?
Microsoft has an article, that explains potential risks of installation repackaging. On practice, most of these risks can be sucesfully prevented by best repackaging tools. But still there are some things that you need to remember when you make repackaging. On the low level repackaging is a transformation of installation changes, captured on the particular system into MSI package that can be installed to another system. In most cases changes related with Windows security can't be replicated to another system (computer), so repackaging of installations that modify security settings in system, install complex drivers or modify system files can be unsuccessful. Fortunately, only about 5% of all available installations need to apply such changes.
What is the best available repackaging tool?
There are few options available on market. Installation software vendors have some kind of repackaging support in the installation editing software. Most of these solutions use Snapshot Comparison method for changes capturing. The only tool that uses advanced Real-Time Monitoring of changes is EMCO MSI Package Builder. It is a dedicated tool for installation repackaging, that is referred by many sources as the most feature-reach solution now.
I tried to repackage an installation, but with no success. What should I do?
In most cases repackage failures can be caused by your environment. It's important to follow best practices and make capturing on the clean OS installation (for example, in VMWare image). Every time when you need to repeat capturing you need to restore your environment in its clean state. Also it's recommended to make capturing on the same platform where you plan to deploy produced MSI package. For example, if you need to distribute installation to Windows 7 x64 it's recommended to make capturing on Windows 7 x64 also.