Thoughts about setup and deployment issues, WiX, XNA, the .NET Framework and Visual Studio
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I received a couple of interesting questions about custom actions in response to one of my previous blog entries. So I wanted to explain a little bit more about what is going on behind the scenes. I'm sure many of you have noticed that when a setup is in progress, there are multiple msiexec processes running on your system. You can use a process viewer such as tlist.exe or tasklist.exe to list the msiexec processes that are running on the system along with their command line parameters. Here are the various types of msiexec processes along with example command lines to help you distinguish between them:
It can be useful to know which msiexec process is which in case you have a custom action that is not working correctly and you want to kill the custom action process but not the overall setup process.
In addition, here are some documents that have been published on MSDN about writing, securing and debugging custom actions that may be useful:
I hope that this info is useful to those of you interesting in writing and debugging setup packages. Please let me know if you have additional questions about how Windows Installer works behind the scenes and I will try to answer them in future blog posts.
Trying to figure out how to support silent installs with custom actions that normally would pop-up a dialog this article was of great help. What I ended up doing is to specify in the dotNet setup project /uilevel=[UILevel] as customdataaction retrieving this in my custom installer class. Inspecting the other items of the context I wonder though under which conditions the logfile property is set. In my scenarios it is always empty, even if I explicitly specify a file using msiexec's /L argument. Any ideas?
Hi Cirpka - I don't know of a way to check the logging level from within a custom action. What scenario are you thinking of where you want to check that property? There is some helpful information about sending messages to Windows Installer at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/msi/setup/sending_messages_to_windows_installer_using_msiprocessmessage.asp. The info in that MSDN article is applicable to custom action logging in addition to other scenarios, so hopefully it will help for the scenario you are thinking of.
Try System.Diagnostics.Debugger.Break() where you want your customer action breaks. That should get you automatically attached to the installer process.
Hi John - This API will work if your custom action is written in managed code, but you won't be able to do that for a native code custom action. There is some information about another option for debugging custom actions in the blog post at blogs.msdn.com/.../388739.aspx as well.
Was is a MSI is it used to write a custom made software program?
Hi Teresa - You can see more information about Windows Installer and .msi files at msdn.microsoft.com/.../cc185688(v=vs.85).aspx.