Some vendors provide distributions of their programs only in the EXE file format. Such installation EXE file is convenient to use when you need to manually install software on a small number of computers. But if you need to deploy new software on the number of computers in the Active Directory domain using GPO, you won’t be able to use such an EXE file, because you can install only MSI packages through GPO. In this case, you will have to use alternative ways to deploy software on a computers (for example, see an article https://theitbros.com/pdq-deploy/), or you can try to convert EXE to MSI format.
Today there are a lot of different commercial products that allow you to convert any EXE file into an MSI installation package, but all of these programs are paid. We will try to use only available free utilities.
Converting EXE to MSI package
We will need:
- EXE to MSI Converter freeware (http://www.exetomsi.com/freeware)—used to convert exe to msi;
- Orca.exe tool (ORCA MSI Editor Standalone)—needed to edit the MSI parameters so that it is successfully installed via a GPO.
In this example, we will try to convert the EXE installation file of the Google Chrome browser to the MSI format.
- Download Google Chrome Full Standalone Offline Installer (ChromeStandaloneSetup64.exe);
- Run Exe to MSI Converter, specify the path to the ChromeStandaloneSetup64.exe file, specify /silent /install in the command line parameters (these keys ensure that Chrome is installed in silent mode) and click the Build MSI button;
- A new file chromestandalonesetup64.msi will appear in the directory with the original exe file;
- Unfortunately, the resulting MSI is not suitable for deployment through GPO. The fact is that the developers of the utility specifically made it so that the file was generated not by the MSI standards (pushing you to buy a license for the Pro version). But we will fix it;
- Run orca and select generated MSI file;
- In the list of tables on the left, select Property. Note the ProductCode and UpgradeCode properties. According to the MSI standards, these two fields must be unique for each product, but the EXE to MSI Converter utility always uses the same values;
- To generate a random key, select in the top menu View > Summary Information. Click the New GUID button and copy the new value of the PackageCode field;
- Paste the value into the ProductCode field. Do the same for the properties UpgradeCode and PackageCode;
- In the Summary Information window, change the value of the Title and other fields to Google Chrome;
- In the Property table, change the ProductName to Google Chrome. You can also replace text in the fields ARPCONTACT, Manufacturer and ProductVersion;
- Now you need to verify the MSI package. Select Tools > Validate, disable the Show INFO Messages option and click Go;
- Many errors will appear for the presence/absence of some tables and properties in the MSI package parameters;
- It is easiest to copy the missing _Validation, AdminExecuteSequence, AdminUISequence and AdvtExecuteSequence tables from any other small full-fledged MSI file (for example, 7zip x64.msi). For this, the Orca utility has the functions to Export/Import of the MSI settings into a text file;
- After you have added the tables, validate the MSI package once again. If errors remain, correct them (it is possible to delete the extra fields marked in red);
- Save changes to the MSI file.
Now you can use this MSI file to install the software over GPO or SCCM.