Stubborn InstallShield Package: MSIexec -Embedding?


Long time reader, first time poster.

I work with application packaging and am currently working on an application that has me stumped.  The vendor provided a setup.exe file which is an Installshield exe, but running it from command line with "/?" gets me nothing, just launches the installer.  It also appears that there is no silent switch, at least not that I can find.  I know that Installshield packages typically are either the "wrap the MSI" type or the more traditional "/f1 /f2" type. I've done dozens of both of those and I know my way around them, but this package appears to be neither. Running the exe from command line with /r and -r did not get me an .iss file (I tried both).  Running the installer manually and looking in %temp% while it was open showed a handful of files named MSI****.tmp with the **** seeming to be a randomly generated 4-character mix of numbers and letters (looked like no letters went farther in the alphabet than "F" so I assume it is hex).  I opened Task Manager while I ran the exe and noticed it did not create a process named after the exe, but seemed to launch directly into an instance of msiexec. I cannot open the exe with Orca (obviously) or Installshield 2013 (AdminStudio).  I used SysInternals Process Explorer to take a look at the process and it looks like it's launching Msiexec with an argument of "-Embedding <32-character-hex-string> C"

The uninstall key in the registry shows that the install location was the temp directory and the uninstall string is a standard MSI uninstall command.

Only thing I can think is that they're somehow piecing apart the MSI in the temp directory and piecing it back together as they install.

I haven't ever seen anything like this and Googling has netted me essentially nothing.  The vendor's documentation seems to be geared towards a manual install which unfortunately is not really an option.  I'm aware of tools like the AdminStudio Repackager but I always try to use the vendor's unadulterated package wherever possible.

Packaging on and packaging for Windows 8.1 x64.


1 Comment   [ + ] Show comment
  • You can try by enabling logging, might get more info.
    Windows Installer Logging


    REG_SZ = vicewarmup


    REG_DWORD = 3 - pratikpawar 8 years ago

Answers (3)

Answer Summary:
Posted by: bosstones 8 years ago
White Belt

Top Answer

Thanks all.  It ended up that I was able to get an MSI from the vendor...apparently my company is not the first one to inquire about a silent install solution.
Posted by: anonymous_9363 8 years ago
Red Belt
MSIExec -embedding [GUID] is simply the thread executing a Custom action so I'd wager that your vendor is using IS function calls for the installation.

The MSI must be being extracted somewhere so, if there are no dialogs being presented - our normal advice is to get to the 'Welcome' screen and then search for the MSI - I'd suggest running the EXE and then kill it as soon as you see an additional msiexec.EXE instance. That prevents the set-up EXE from deleting the MSI and you can then set off in search of it.
Posted by: WhitzEnd 8 years ago
7th Degree Black Belt
You can also try 7zip.  It will allow you to browse the contents of a lot of EXEs.  I have used it several times to pull an MSI out of the EXE.  (For instance, Java has been using EXE mostly these days.  But the MSI that you used to be able to directly download, is still inside the EXE)
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