Friday, October 29, 2010

Find all possible parameters for an MSI package installation using msiexec

While working on a library of powershell scripts to do unattended installations of BizTalk applications (and all adjacent files and packages) I needed to find out how to specify the settings for an MSI package in order to do a complete unattended install of it using msiexec.exe.

The MSI I was working with was a setup package for a WCF service. Since this installs to the IIS, both website, virtual directory as well as application pool is needed to be specified during the installation. The question is, what are the correct parameter switches for setting these?

Simple enough, these can be found by doing an install of the MSI and logging a verbose output to file. First, run msiexec with logging enabled:

msiexec /I package.msi /L*V installationlog.txt

Then look in the logfile for the text PROPERTY CHANGE. In the following example, the virtual directory is set using the property TARGETVDIR which then also can be used as a parameter to the msiexec command to set the property from outside the GUI:

Action start 15:41:42: WEBCA_TARGETVDIR.
MSI (c) (F4:8C) [15:41:42:943]: Note: 1: 2235 2: 3: ExtendedType 4: SELECT `Action`,`Type`,`Source`,`Target`, NULL, `ExtendedType` FROM `CustomAction` WHERE `Action` = 'WEBCA_TARGETVDIR'
MSI (c) (F4:8C) [15:41:42:943]: PROPERTY CHANGE: Adding TARGETVDIR property. Its value is 'MyWcfServiceLibrary'.
Action ended 15:41:42: WEBCA_TARGETVDIR. Return value 1.
MSI (c) (F4:8C) [15:41:42:943]: Doing action: WEBCA_SetTARGETSITE
Action 15:41:42: WEBCA_SetTARGETSITE.
Action start 15:41:42: WEBCA_SetTARGETSITE.

Note that the custom parameters are not to be set as normal switches with a leading slash /. In my case, the command will look like this:

msiexec /I package.msi /qb TARGETSITE="/LM/W3SVC/1" TARGET VDIR="MyWCFLibrary" TARGETAPPPOOL="BtsAppPoolC"

This will do a complete unattended install of the WCF service to IIS with basic UI and set the needed properties to my preferred values instead of the defaults.


  1. Hi Marcus, thank you very much for this post. I was struggling to find out the msiexec switches I need without having to resort to Orca or some other tool.
    Thank you again.

  2. Brilliant! Thank you so much. I needed to install an MSI package with a custom set of features selected/deselected, and I was able to retrieve the ADDLOCAL=xxx,yyy property from the log file.