Generally, developers prefer to present Windows software with its own setup wizard, instead of packing it as self-extracting archives or a compressed .zip file. When setting up the installer for your newest program (or a software update), you will require an installer application to pack (and then correctly install) your Windows software. After thoroughly researching among the wide variety of software installer apps available, we managed to compile for you a list of the best software installer tools for Windows.
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6 Best Software Installer Tools For Windows
Used by most of the top software development companies in the industry, InstallShield has built its reputation as the standard software installer tool for Windows. InstallShield’s intuitive user interface gives developers the possibility of setting up MSI and .exe installers, while also allowing them to build both Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and WSA installation packages.
Among its many features, InstallShield lets you virtualize your applications with only a minimal amount of scripting required and offers extensive support for multiple Windows versions (7, 8, and 10). It also allows creators to develop beautiful installation suites using Microsoft Visual Studio. Its latest edition even has a feature to include custom Start screen tiles on Windows 10 installers.
InstallShield comes in three versions (Express, Professional, and Premier). However, its only drawback is that none of these are free. In fact, InstallShield is considered to be an expensive tool. But, although being expensive, it is also true that InstallShield provides devs with a wide selection of tools to build their installer packages.
Instead of using a Graphic User Interface (GUI), the Nullsoft Scriptable Installer System works more as a compiler for a series of installer scripts. But the fact of not having a GUI does not deter its ability to set up some really advanced installer packages with the bare minimum system requirements.
NSIS also lets you use many forms of compression (although we recommend using LZMA because it doesn’t require implementing self-extracting archive models). Another advantage of NSIS is its plugin system, which allows developers to extend and enhance their installer’s UI by using various Delphi, C, or C++ plugins. Powerful yet consuming very few system resources – it is no wonder why Nullsoft Scriptable Installer System has become one of the best budget software installer tools for Windows.
User friendly yet very professional, Actual Installer might be the perfect tool you need to pack and deploy all your Windows-based software. With Actual Installer, manual learning and scripting are a thing of the past. Instead, simply fill out all the provided forms, then attach your program’s files, and you’re good to go. Available both in Free Trial and a Paid Full-featured PRO version, this tool will allow you to easily create and distribute reliable installation packages in almost no time at all.
Actual Installer features include multi-language installation, system specs checking (to verify compliance with the program’s requirements), Activex components, fonts, and screensavers registration. It also allows executing custom commands. All of these features are very easy to configure. This makes compiling your program into a compact executable file a task of mere seconds.
4. WiX Toolset
The two main things WiX Toolset has “going for it” are that it is Free, and second, WiX is officially supported by Microsoft. Nonetheless, like NSIS, WiX Toolset doesn’t have a GUI and, it creates .exe and MSI installers through a compilation of command lines.
With its broad set of tools, WiX allows creators to compile setup bundles. And its compiler extensions let you generate IIS websites or add SQL databases. All in all, this is a tool for the expert developer. However, you can find extensive help and tutorials on their website.
A script editor based on syntax highlighting with a more simple GUI than InstallShield, innoSETUP might very well be its most logical and budget alternative. With innoSETUP, developers can create .exe files (perfect for web distribution), custom installers, Start screen icons, as well as INI and registry entries. It also supports disk spanning, digitally signed installs (and uninstalls), and high compatibility with Windows-based platforms (going so far back as Win 2000).
InstallAware has become another budget alternative to InstallShield. Its easy-to-use GUI allows drag-and-drop commands and many visual widgets that make it the perfect tool for novice devs.
Available in up to five versions, InstallAware truly is one of the more versatile software installer tools for Windows. There is even a free version that includes Visual Studio integration. It is the first Software Installer tool supporting the Redstone ecosystem, meaning that your apps can be pinned to Windows 10 Start screen and taskbar. InstallAware implements the latest software development technology in a way that sets it apart from other software installer tools for Windows.
- InstantInstall: lets you set up faster installers.
- Hybrid installation: switches from Native Code to Windows Installer at runtime.
- WebAware technology: for smaller installer files sizes.
There are times (like when you have a freshly installed Windows version) when you need to install multiple apps, and you don’t feel like doing it one by one. This is where Npackd comes into play, as this is an application that allows you to automatically install multiple programs without human assistance, according to your previously set parameters. This small but powerful tool allows the installation of numerous software packages in a way that’s fast and hassle-free. You can download new programs from Npackd’s list or install them from files on your device’s local storage. But that is not all! Npackd also serves to update or uninstall multiple programs at the same time. Finally, it lets the user check individual progress by using multiple windows.
And there you have it, our top picks for the best software installer tools for Windows. Know another tool that was not listed here? Please make sure to express your opinion down in the comments section. Until next time!