MSI, short for Microsoft Installer, is a format and technology introduced with Office 2000 to make application delivery more efficient. MSI packaging is therefore about converting installers to use Windows Installer and also adapting the installation for those who already use it.
MSI packages are in some ways the default choice for deploying applications. This is certainly not the only option and there are some applications that are not supported by MSI packages.
What awaits you in this article:
What advantages does MSI packaging offer?
MSI is perhaps the most popular packaging format. It has fairly consistent standards for how developers deploy packages unattended with custom settings. Since most are familiar with MSI, it’s easy to find support, and the package itself supports multiple versions of Windows – not to mention it’s widely accepted by major deployment systems across various sectors and industries. Management is simple and makes sharing and updating easier.
Ultimately, MSI is cost and time efficient due to its customization, support, and convenience for developers.
However, in 2018, Microsoft announced a new universal packaging format: MSIX. What is MSIX and is it better than MSI?
What is MSIX?
MSIX was introduced by Microsoft in 2018 as a Windows 10 apps package format, but later added support for desktop, mobile and other Windows 10 devices. It’s not quite as widely used as MSI yet, but many believe it will soon overtake it.
Since it is still in its infancy, it has some extremely impressive aspects, but also some strange imperfections.
Advantages of MSIX
The advantages of MSIX include simplified and clean uninstallation for users who do not need to use complex scripts. There is a strong enterprise storage space optimization scheme that prevents file duplication between apps. Although there may be a platform that manages shared files between apps, there are clean uninstalls.
In terms of network size, streaming installs and app updates are a big advantage as MSIX files reduce the impact on network bandwidth. MSIX apps also do not run natively in the operating system, but in a container. When MSIX apps exist in a virtual application container, you can achieve better isolation between the operating system and the app. However, this also has its downsides, as you will see below.
Limitations of MSIX
However, MSIX may be too young to fully take over and replace MSI – or perhaps never will, as its limitations are likely permanent. There are currently significant restrictions on changes at the lower level of the system. For example, no drivers can be installed, which is a major limitation for many applications.
The second major limitation is that it cannot run apps that require administrator access. Again, a deal-breaker for many developers.
Despite many limitations, many of which are not “fixed” as they are central to the OS app department, companies are still adopting this new way of packaging and publishing applications. More often, however, companies turn to packaging suites that offer comprehensive support and automate a large part of the packaging processes. When the suites work with both MSI and MSIX, the differences and choices between them become a little less daunting.